The Katona Twins will be playing at this year’s Wimbledon International Music Festival in a programme featuring “The Guitar and the Spanish Civil War” with Narrator. I was lucky enough to squeeze an interview out of them despite their busy schedule!
For Whom the Bell Tolls
THE KATONA TWINS
The Guitar and the Spanish Civil War
Thur 20 Nov 7.45pm
Official Link: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk
Granados, Albeniz, Turina, De Falla, Rodrigo… and Bach. The music of Spain, interwoven with the writings of international reporters, prose writers and poets – Lorca, Hemmingway, Orwell, Spender, Hernadez, Neruda…The Olivier-award winning Henry Goodman has now been confirmed as the narrator in this programme, and has provided a quote detailing his involvement: “I want to do this because the material is so important & I want to support the festival. I will prepare the extracts and mix the dramatic savage truth, the Spanish, USA, and English accents with the lyrical and dignified passionate delivery that these fine authors require.”
If you’re not familiar with their work check out this promo video. They are eclectic but at home with classical or crossover work:
Interview with Zoltan Katona
by Bradford Werner, Sept 2014
Bradford Werner: In the fall The Katona Twins will be performing at Wimbledon International Music Festival. Sounds like an excellent programme of Spanish music interwoven with the poems and prose of famous international writers who responded to the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War. How did this project come about?
Zoltan Katona: We play a lot of Spanish music, as the guitar has a tradition in Spain. So when Anthony Wilkinson asked us if we would play at the Wimbledon festival I sent him a couple of our CDs . After listening to the CDs he came up with the exciting idea of combining prose with music.
BW: What pairings of music and writings did you select? How did you match the authors and composers?
ZK: The authors were selected and put together by Anthony and we tried to fit the music to the writings. There is a wide range of international poets and writers from Hemingway, Lee, Read to Manuel Altolaguirre and there are even some Spanish folk songs and poetry of soldiers included. We mainly chose Spanish composers like de Falla, Rodrigo, Albeniz or composers with a strong affinity to Spain.
BW: Your most recent release Guitar Freaks has repertoire ranging from Queen to the Beatles and definitely emphasizes your versatility as a duo. How has the experience of being top classical artists compare to your cross-over and popular projects?
ZK: In 2009 we were asked to play at the European Night of he Proms, which is unlike its British counterpart and follows the theme “pop meets classic”. It was an eye-opener for us and we had a wonderful time making arrangements and playing in a stadium for a huge audience. This experience planted the seed of recording a CD with a non-classical repertoire. Some might think that recording or playing arrangements of more popular tunes is a step in the wrong direction. For us it was a very important decision and changed our playing and style. Now we play many classical pieces standing, which allows us to communicate with our audience and adds an extra dimension to our playing. We had made many arrangements of baroque, classical and Spanish music before but if you make a arrangement of a pop or rock song you have to be a bit more inventive. You become not only an arranger but a composer too. Playing an instrumental version of a song where we don’t have the lyrics and can not repeat the same tune over and over again. We had to come up with introductions, solos, change the key to make the piece interesting. There are a couple of our own compositions on this CD as well, which would have been difficult to fit on a classical disc.
BW: Growing up and playing in a duo together, you two have likely seen some great times and some challenges. What has been one of your favourite music experiences so far? What has been one of the biggest challenges?
ZK: The biggest challenge of playing in an ensemble is to stay together for a long period of time. There are plenty of great chamber groups who suddenly split up, just when they were becoming good. No one wants to play the second violin in a duo, especially when you play with your twin brother. We both have strong ideas, how to play a piece and it is not always easy to agree on interpretation. Our advantage is that we know each other rather well and we are used to arguments. Until now we have always managed to solve any problems and, even after an argument, the next day we meet again and all is forgotten.
BW: What teachers or mentors would you say had the biggest influence on you as artists?
ZK: We were lucky and had some great teachers while we were studying. In Hungary we had Ede Roth (he was our third teacher) a wonderful musician whose enthusiasm and energy is infectious. It was at that time that we decided to become musicians. We had many teachers after him, who all helped us in becoming the guitarist we are today. Thanks to youtube, nowadays it is much easier to see great musicians than just a couple of years ago and the learning process never stops.
BW: What advice would you give to young guitarists studying to become performers?
ZK: My advice to young players is to learn from each other especially from different styles. So look around and see what other musicians do. Guitar is an instrument which is still developing, as it is a very versatile instrument with no stylistic restrictions. Compared to other instruments the guitar is cheap and guitarists are not afraid to experiment, for example using the body of the guitar as a percussion instrument.