The orchestra, with Gil de Gálvez in the foreground, in a photo taken for their 25th anniversary. / JUAN DE LA CHICA

Concerto Málaga, 25 years on: a tour, new premises and Grammy hopes

This string orchestra, created by a group of young friends, continues to promote Hispanic music with a busy programme of concerts and records

CRISTINA PINTO MALAGA.

When José Manuel Gil de Gálvez is asked about the origins of Concerto Málaga, his mind takes him directly back to that group of young students who embarked on a new adventure in 1996. It could have turned out to be just a crazy idea, but it ended up becoming a string orchestra of national and international importance.

Gil de Gálvez, who is the president and leader of Concerto Málaga, was only 16 when he came up with the idea, as he studied at the music conservatory in Granada.

"We were a bit unorthodox at the beginning and then it became a sort of Quixotic madness. Later on, though, the foundations were in place and now we're where we are, with long experience behind us and the future looking bright," he said.

This season marks the orchestra's 25th anniversary, and those teenagers whose musical curiosity led them to take over the legacy of the greatest Spanish composers have demonstrated their Hispanic roots all over the world.

"We always knew where we wanted to go and we got there. We were very young when we started, but we had very clear ideas. The orchestra has always been a solid core which has evolved over time, but the people involved in Concerto Málaga have always been very dedicated," said Gil de Gálvez.

The musicians

He is the principal violinist and the leader of the orchestra, but some of the others have also been there from the start: Marina Picazo (violin), Víctor Yélamo (cello) and Carlos Picazo (viola). Juan Pablo Gamarro (harpsichord) and violinist Alejandro Manzano joined 20 years ago, and for the past 15 years violinists Carlo Allegri, Javier Navascués and Mireia Pérez, viola player José Ignacio Sanz de Galdeano, cellist Inés Suárez and double bass player Janis Steinbergs, have also been members.

"The most important thing about us is that we specialise in Hispanic music and composers. For us this project was something very natural, just an aspect of our lives," said Gil de Gálvez.

These musicians combine teaching in conservatories, schools and universities with the concerts, events and everyday work associated with the orchestra. What's the secret to keeping going?

"Talent applied with perseverance, that's the key," said Gil de Gálvez. The orchestra has always been very active, performing over 500 recitals in such emblematic venues as the Berliner Philharmonie, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Seoul Arts Center and the New York Center for the Performing Arts.

But looking at the more recent past, in July 2021 they laid the first stone for one of their biggest projects yet: the construction of their own premises in Teatinos. This initiative, which is led by the Fundación Hispania Música - the parent company of Concerto Málaga - with an approximate budget of one million euros, will be one of the biggest milestones for the orchestra and it is due to be finished this year. "With the centre we're building in Malaga we want to make sure that talent doesn't go elsewhere, that local people who are good musicians can find a place where they are welcome and have the chance to develop," explained Gil de Gálvez.

The building

The future headquarters, say sources at the Fundación Hispania Música, will have "a large rehearsal room and recording studio, an archive and library for the foundation, and a training and education wing".

The works are due to begin soon. "The construction will only take about ten months, so it will be quite quick," said Gil de Gálvez.

Aside from their construction project, the musicians have plans to make the most of this silver anniversary. Their forthcoming tour is called the 25th Anniversary Five Continents Tour, and it will remain true to the orchestra's policy of playing Spanish chamber music.

"We started by going back to Africa, to Tunisia, and we're now organising concerts in America, Europe and Asia for later this year and in 2023," said Gil de Gálvez. In Malaga city, as part of the Four Seasons cycle, they will be performing on 6 March (25th Anniversary), 2 May (Our Classics) and 19 July (Sounds of the Mediterranean).

Going for a Grammy

If José Manuel Gil de Gálvez is asked about special moments during these 25 years, he says there is one in particular that he will never forget.

"When you see your name on the screen in Las Vegas, at the Grammy Awards... from that moment you see things in a different way. Not because of ambition, but because you become aware of the work we have done, of what it has taken to get this far and that you are being recognised from so far away," he said, referring to their nomination in 2018.

This year they are setting to work with enthusiasm and are preparing several records for the awards. "As well as having signed to do recordings for names like Belsuono Strings Record and Decca, we are releasing two new records onto the market which feature the works of Spanish composers such as Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Turina, among others," said Gil de Gálvez.

"We are now at a point where we can really get the most out of our music, with a new headquarters, an institution which is completely ours, and from which we will be reaching out to the world. The thing about music is that it hates time being wasted!" he said.