Roberto Alvarez Gonzalez is currently the Assistant Principal Piccolo and Flute section member of the Singapore Symphony. Born in Asturias, Spain, he began his musical education there and later studied in the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. His upcoming concert, LA NOCHE, features 21st Century works for flute and harp by Spanish and Singaporean composers and takes place on the 19th of September at the Esplanade Recital Studio.
(This interview was conducted in August 2011 by Cheryl Lim)
Could you share with us 5 interesting/good-to-know facts about Asturias? How was growing up there like?
Asturias is a region in the North of Spain. It’s surrounded by mountains, which makes the weather not as many of you would have in mind when you think about my country. It is a cloudy place and it uses to rain quite often.
The traditional music in Asturias is quite far from flamenco. You will find bagpipes and Irish-like music there. Overall Asturias is quite far from the image of Spain that many people has.
In Asturias you won´t find “Singapore-like” cities. My town (Aviles) is the third biggest one in the region, and there are 80,000 inhabitants.
The countryside is very beautiful in Asturias. I like the fact that there’re mountains and beaches so near each other.
The traditional drink in Asturias is sidra (cider). It got a little bit of alcohol, and it is served in a very peculiar way: the server holds up the heavy green glass bottle high and the glass down and begins pouring. This aerates the cider and improves the taste.
As the weather is never too hot, the typical food tends to be a bit heavy, like fabada (white beans with meat). You would find this dish in every restaurant.
What are your favourite foods here since you came to Singapore and/or what do you like to cook?
I was very surprised about the food variety in Singapore. One of the first dishes I tried here, and it remains one of my favourites is Fried Kway Teow. Normally I tend to cook Spanish food. My tortila gets better every time!!!!!
How were your musical experiences like in Spain and in the UK? Which teachers/performers in particular inspire you?
I had the chance to be a freelancer in Asturias Symphony Orchestra (OSPA) before finishing my studies. That gave me much experience in orchestra playing. Also in this orchestra I was sharing the stage with my teachers Myra and Peter Pearse, which is always both a pleasure and a challenge. Myra and Peter were and still are big influences in my playing. They were my teachers in Asturias since I decided to go into music more seriously.
Peter Lloyd, Richard Davis and Patricia Morris were also highly influential in my time in the Royal Northern College of Music. Also Wissam Boustany and Paul Edmund-Davies. Jacques Zoon, Pahud, Timothy Hutchins, Rampal, Bennett are always good to listent to.
Tell us about the instrument models you currently own?
I play on a Powell flute with a great Lafin headjoint and a fantastic Keefe piccolo.
What are your current favourite pieces? Any other kinds of music you enjoy?
I enjoy listening and playing all kinds of classical music. I love playing new music, and always try to be in touch with composers. But to go back to Bach is always inspirational.
In the orchestra, Stravinsky, Bartok, Hindemith and Shostakovich are some of my personal favourites. Apart from classical music, I enjoy celtic/Irish music very much.
When is your next performance? Could you share with us about your choice of repertoire in that programme?
LA NOCHE, 21st Century Music for Flute and Harp. It is a great project with harpist Katryna Tan. It is both a recital and a recording of world premieres by Singapore and Spanish composers. The pieces were written especially for us by Ho Chee Kong, Chen Zhangyi, Maria Dolores Malumbres, Miguel Prida, Robert Casteels, Ignacio Rodriguez Guerra, Fernando Agueria and Jorge Muñiz.
The concert will be on the 19th of September at 7.30pm in Recital Studio in Esplanade.
What other hobbies/interests do you enjoy?
I enjoy very much going to the cinema, travelling around Asia and reading. Science-fiction and Russian literature are some of my current favourites.
Any advice for flute and piccolo students here?
The advice I would give to new musicians is to go for it with all your energy if you really like music.