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From Lizst to Radiohead and Mozart to Yes

Daniel Fichera performs at a solo concert.
Daniel Fichera performs at a solo concert. / SUR
  • Daniel fichera, professional pianist

  • The musician is bringing the concept of adapting rock songs for classical music to the Axarquía

Daniel Fichera is a professional pianist originally from Michigan in the USA. He and his partner have lived in the Axarquía for 12 years. When they bought their first Spanish property in Chilches, Daniel, 58, says that the house was initially supposed to be “just for vacations” but he confesses that as time went by he “started to think more and more” about his time in Spain than in the USA. Eventually the couple made the east of Malaga their permanent home and now reside in Benajarafe.

Although Daniel grew up in Michigan and started playing the piano at the age of five, he spent many years living in New York, where he attended the city's music conservatory, studying classical music and training as a professional pianist. He says he mainly accompanied opera singers while living in NYC. The musician says of his move to Spain in terms of his career: “Here I have had more opportunity to play solo.”

Daniel Fichera is a well-known name in Almuñécar, Nerja and Torrox and has also performed at the Malaga music conservatory among other venues. He has also travelled back to the USA to perform there since he has been living in Malaga.

Rock music for piano

Daniel doesn't just perform classical pieces, however, and his forthcoming autumn concerts are set to reveal a new angle to his work; a coming together of classical and rock music. It's already “a thing” as Daniel explains, in the USA and Europe and this year in Malaga there have been concerts of rock music performed by symphonies.

Choirs and orchestras have long performed tributes to groups such as The Beatles and Queen, but newer bands and heavier styles are being adapted for what are traditionally seen as classical musical audiences and settings. While the piano is certainly no stranger to rock and pop music, perhaps the idea of entire rock songs performed solely on the piano is a newer concept.

Earlier this month at a concert in Nerja Daniel performed three songs by British alternative rock band Radiohead, at the cultural centre: True Love Waits, Exit Music (for a film) and You. After the concert Daniel said, “I think the Radiohead was taken very seriously and got a very good response.”

In fact fans of Radiohead will know that the band's guitarist and keyboardist, Jonny Greenwood, has a long history with classical music and has composed for and worked with the London Sinfonietta, been composer-in-residence to the BBC Concert Orchestra, for whom he wrote Popcorn Superhet Receiver in 2005, and won a prize at the British Composer Awards in 2006.

Another rock band that has inspired Daniel over the years and that he is now embracing through the piano is English progressive rock group, Yes , who formed in the late 1960s. “I probably went to see them 20 times,” Daniel confesses.

Some adaptations of rock music for classical are similar in length to full symphonies and can last around 10 minutes, like in the case of the Yes pieces. However, the pianist explains that the Radiohead numbers last around three or four minutes, making them closer in length to the average rock or pop song.

Difficult to memorise

Daniel says that rock pieces are, “very hard to memorise and play”, and that the compositions are “some of the hardest things” he has ever learned. However, the pianist adds that it's nice to think that he is “broadening the audience of bands like Radiohead”.

He practices at home on his Steinway B, which he says he bought in 1992 while he was living in New York and one month before his debut at the city's famous Carnegie Hall. It travelled with him to Spain when he moved here permanently in 2005. “I went into debt to get it,” Daniel says, but adds that the investment “has paid off” and in fact he will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2018.

Forthcoming concerts

The next concert Daniel will be giving, which will feature a combination of classical pieces as well as Radiohead and Yes, in what is billed as “An Eclectic Mix of Jazz, Progressive Rock and Classical Music” is on Sunday 19 November, 7pm, at the Molino de Cajiz and he has more dates “in the pipeline”.