The pianist Irene Alfageme tells us about her new job “Secret Notebooks”, songs of jesus legido

Irene Alfageme
He arrives with a firm and smiling step to the place where we have met. Irene Alfageme belongs to a generation of young performers who, no need for pump, more solidly he is building his piano career. She speaks passionately about her profession as a pianist and vocal repertoire teacher at the Escuela Superior de Canto de Madrid. Claimed by some of the most important leaders on the international scene as an accompanist pianist, just published a CD of songs by Jesús Legido, voiced by Raquel Lojendio. Today he speaks to us, among other things, of everything that has surrounded this work.
Brío Clásica: What does Jesus Legido have, besides being from Valladolid, so that it was the first object of his thesis and now he has recorded this CD?

Irene Alfageme: For me it was a surprise to meet his music, because I didn't know him. I met him at the rehearsal of his concert with the oboist Sebastián Gimeno and with the Castilla y León Symphony, they wanted to do a piano rehearsal and they called me. It was from there when I studied his work. By working with him, I was very attracted to his music and I asked him if by any chance he had a repertoire for voice and piano. My surprise was incredible when I saw that repertoire. In the first moment, when playing his works on the piano I thought, And that, why don't you play more? Why is it not known and is it not in concert halls? And that's when I jumped in and began to see the corpus and the color it had, the poets he chose and the worlds he described, i thought i wanted something else.

So, as I was very interested in the music of the 20th century and at school I work with the entire Spanish repertoire and how text and music merge, I decided that it would be the subject of my theses, which is based on the Spanish metric. And for that the songs of Jesús Legido are impressive. The respect they have for the text and how they develop their music through the poems.

Another element that attracted me is that he introduces reciting over music into many of the songs., that is to say, recites the poem and also uses different notation systems. Jesus told me that he was looking for contrast with the sung part. and this is very curious, because it is used relatively little in the Spanish song, but if it is used in melodramas. This interested me a lot and I started to investigate.. My surprise was to discover that there was a genre in the 19th century called Sinfo Mela and that it was very common in salon recitals.. For example, Albéniz's rhymes are a genre Sinfo Mela.

B.C: So, this CD is the final project of the thesis.

I.A: The CD is the final result of the thesis. I thought it was a shame that I couldn't materialize all that work. That's why I made a selection, I chose all the cycles that had never been recorded.

I think that the Spanish song is the great abandoned of Spanish musicology. There are very few works on Spanish music, and if you start looking for conscientious analysis, you can't find them. there my tutor, that is fantastic, ivan churches, I get along very well, especially helping me to establish the method and the model that I was going to analyze.

My ultimate goal with the thesis was the interpretation, is the interpretation, and that the result is applied as an analytical model to the entire repertoire that exists.

B.C: Tell us about Secret Notebooks, the CD you just released, And how was the selection of the works made?.

I.A: To make the selection I chose all the cycles that had never been recorded by Jesús Legido. A curiosity of this selection is that the "silent prayer", appearing on the cd, it was not in his catalog. I discovered her in 2015, Jesús had come to a recital at the Singing School to chat and share with the students. It was a beautiful meeting, and at the end he told me, how are you making me shuffle all the papers, I found this score from when I was studying with Montsalvatge. I never put it in the catalog, because he was not convinced of her. But when he heard her, he liked it and included it in the catalog and also on the CD.

The CD is structured around the theme of his songs, what are love, death and life, inspired by the poem by Miguel Hernández Three wounds. He arrived with three wounds that of life, the one of love, that of death.

If you analyze the theme of all the songs, of the 118 songs you have, You see that death is a very recurring theme in its first stage. As in the poems of Miguel Hernández.

Then he makes a song to life, because that's his music. And that's why "Soledades" appears at the end of the album., which is a song of love to life, to hope and its roots. That is why "Romances del Bajo Duero" appears, which is a cycle that he interpreted a lot in concerts, he is a very good pianist. They are beautiful songs, with a difficult piano, very virtuous, but it is the connection of all the anthologies, of all spanish songs. Seems like a transition to me, a wonderful harmonic elaboration that gives the work a sense and a line.

B.C: This work is voiced by the Canarian soprano Raquel Lojendio. Why did you think of her to record these songs by Legido??

I.A: Well, I was very clear, because they are songs that have a very complicated vocality, requires a voice that has a lot of body, with the ability to go up to the treble and down to the bass, you have to be serious.
We coincided in a piano rehearsal of a brief life and there I heard it. Especially, the way Raquel recites, how does the text treat, what a musician he is.

I remember calling her in full confinement of the pandemic and telling her: Raquel, I have this in my head, You dare? He said yes, and he came with me.

With her it's like playing on stage, we get along wonderfully. Being on stage with her is magical.

B.C: In addition to recording this work, you perform recitals as an accompanist pianist, What exactly is and what does the figure of accompanist pianist consist of??

I.A: I don't really like the word companion, It seems that you are a bit in the background, and it is a fundamental figure because it deals with chamber music.

The pianist is the mattress of the voice. You have to know the breath, be very intuitive and if something goes wrong, have resources to move forward. You are the travel companion. depending on what you do, does the sound fade or not. You are the main support.

B.C: And the figure of the repeater and repertoire? Because they are also very important figures and you hardly see their work.

I.A: The work is very different on stage or in rehearsals. The figure of the repertoire or vocal coach, is the one who musically works the repertoire with the singer, when preparing a recital or studying a character for an opera. In those moments you are his ears. Because they do not have the same perception from within that you can have. That way, Can you advise them on the phonetics of the text?, music, what can the director ask. You can present them with all the possible options they have.

Then there is the figure of the runner, that I also like a lot, but it is very ungrateful, because it is a very intense job that nobody recognizes you, except the companions who know what it is. It is a job that is not seen, but it's awesome. It is how I have learned the most from singers and great directors, because at certain times, you act as director.

B.C: an accompanist pianist, what qualities do you have to have?

I.A: The first, need to know many languages, italiano, French, English, German... That's the basics. You need a lot of knowledge of the repertoire, experience and a lot of empathy. and of course, piano wise a lot of knowledge and a very wide color palette, to always know how to work with different styles. And also a lot of patience with the singers (laughs). Many times you are a psychological support for them. Singers have very hard lives and many times you are a pillar for them. they ask you for advice, from a student to great singers.

It is a very important relationship that is established between the pianist and the singer., it is a relationship of trust, they trust you. And that sometimes we are very hard, because you have to be too. The figure of accompanying pianist is very generous, because success will later be taken by the singer, you don't take it. Normally, the best pianists are the ones who go unnoticed the most. If I had to define with one word what it is to be an accompanist pianist it would be generosity. It's playing for others, but giving everything you have.

B.C: Has ever come suddenly, to play with someone without being able to rehearse, as was?

I.A: Brian Terfel and Placido Domingo. So, with these two! (laughs). Test 5 minutes before start, and that's it! there is cold blood, professionalism. Trust and be flexible to what they propose. be brave and risk. You cannot show insecurity to the singer and you have to be very clear about what you are going to propose, that is the magic of music and with Terfel it was wonderful. I was in the National Auditorium performing a Flying Dutchman and he was the one who said he wanted me to be his accompanist in the recital. And that the text was in Welsh and I did not understand what was written, but then I already had a lot of experience.

B.C: So far we have talked about his work as an accompanist pianist, but he also performs solo recitals and with an orchestra. What is it like to play with an orchestra??

I.A: When you play with an orchestra everything is much more direct, you have to go to the limit behind them to finish together and play with the distances, because every instrument is different.

Playing with an orchestra is where I have made my color palette. I need the orchestra to give me feedback and keep looking for colors on my piano. For example, with Natalia Ensemble we made reductions of Mahler symphonies. There, my first sheet music was almost blank, and I was substituting the instruments that were not, violins or winds. I was looking for the sound, tried to imitate the pizzicato of the double bass with the reverberation, with the pedal. It's like dreaming of being a magician of sounds, try to make other sounds with the piano.

B.C: Are there many differences between accompanying a voice or accompanying an instrument??

I.A: there are differences, Clear, and it depends a lot on the instrument. For example, the flute is very similar to the voice, you have to breathe together and everything is very similar. But, for example, with the castanets, and I have a recital at the end of May with Tomás Martín, it's very different. To accompany the castanets I have to reinforce the percussion point of the piano. The castanets go clack! and it's clack! (laughs), and of course, I have to be much faster in attacks. And technically it is very difficult to follow a virtuosity like this. It is at a speed that does not allow you as much freedom as the voice allows you.. But it is a repertoire that works phenomenally with the public.

You also have to create new colors and make, for example, the legato that the castanets cannot do. It's a very difficult job, because at any moment there can be a desynchronization. but it works great.

B.C: Inside the piano accompaniment, Which pianists do you pay attention to and what are the criteria for assessing them??

I.A: I adore is Gerald Moore. For me it is the best. As a reference I also have Zanetti and Lavilla, and of course great current pianists. You trust their criteria and you also pay attention to the repertoire they have. But I usually look at both, because it's not just about the pianist, but of the product that both offer and the interpretation. For me Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber are wonderful, for that compenetration that they have. In these cases maybe I look a little more at the singer, depending on what you are looking for. But I always like to hear all the different versions I find.

B.C: Which singer would you like to accompany on the piano??

I.A: It would not be right to take Huber away from Gerhaher, but if i could take it off, with Gerhaher would make Schumann, but i think i would stay with huber. I would love to accompany Sophie Rennert, she is an Austrian mezzo with whom I met in Aix-en-Provence, wonderful! This is a wonderful generation of leaders.. I also met Lise Davidsen, we were all doing the Mozart residency. But if, I would love it with Sophie Rennert. I have to talk to her to make her a proposal (laughs). He is singing with Helmut Deutsch, At the leadership level, she is one of the best of her generation.. With her would Schubert, specifically in spring, then we would do Die junge Nonne, to contrast. It could also be Schumann, because everything he does he does well. With her I would jump into the pool. And if I could choose a place, It would be at the Palau de la Música, that is very magical.