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Music Is Nonstop for Pepe Romero

Guitarist Pepe Romero first performed in Los Angeles more than 25 years ago. The flamenco enthusiast, then 16 and appearing with his father and two brothers, impressed listeners with his rapid-fire right hand, command over rhythmic subtleties and natural tendency to steal the show.

At least one thing seems unchanged since then: Pepe still has a long career in front of him filled with nonstop music making.

“I have been very busy with touring, teaching, premiering new works, recording, concertizing, transcribing and preparing music. . . . It’s a never-ending thing,” Romero said by phone from his hotel in the Netherlands. “But I never get tired of it.”

For the past week, Romero has been working in Utrecht, Holland, on a new recording of flamenco music for Philips to be released next year.

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“It’s a record of traditional flamenco music, plain and simple. There are two types of flamenco: traditional flamenco and a new wave of flamenco music, which is inspired by music of the popular and rock fields. My record is of the traditional flamenco music from Andalusia by the old masters.”

Another recording--due to be released by Christmas--includes several selections to be performed by Romero in a solo recital at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena Saturday. Among these selections will be Villa-Lobos’ “Populaire Bresilienne,” the Five Preludes and the First Etude.

“There were originally six Preludes by Villa-Lobos,” said Romero, “but the sixth one is now lost. The composer recommended that his own Etude No. 1 be played as a substitute. That’s the way I recorded it, and I like to perform it that way, too.”

In 1958, the Malaga-born Romero family--father Celedonio, mother Angelita and their three sons, Celin, Pepe and Angel--arrived in the United States after struggling a long time in Franco’s Spain to leave the country for foreign concert engagements.

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Since then, the Romero guitar quartet--"Los Romeros"-- have been dubbed “the Royal Family of the Guitar” and Celedonio, Celin, Pepe and Angel are considered by some to be among the world’s foremost classical guitarists.

Pepe’s approach to the guitar, in contrast with his brothers’ and father’s style, opts more for intellectual introspectiveness mixed with concern for musicology and accuracy.

Another of Romero’s passions is transcribing piano music for guitar, especially music by Spanish composers such as Albeniz. Romero’s many hours in the library have also uncovered forgotten masterpieces originally written for guitar.

“I have been very much involved in bringing a lot of forgotten music back into the concert hall--especially music from the 19th Century,” he said. “That was the time when guitar virtuosos such as (Italian composer Mauro) Giuliani thrived in musical centers like Vienna. It was a very rich period for the guitar.”

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As a teacher, Romero has published a method book for guitar students, but prefers meeting his students face to face.

“I can’t tell you exactly how many students I have--there are just too many. I have students in San Diego, Salzburg. . . . Well, everywhere I go, I usually end up teaching as well as performing. Therefore, my students are scattered all over the world.”

At present, the Romeros reside in Del Mar. When asked if he ever considers living anywhere else, Pepe Romero is adamant:"I love Southern California very, very much. After traveling everywhere in the world, I don’t know of a better place to live, to work--anything. I’m making it my permanent home.”


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