Interview: The Classical Guitar of Judicael Perroy

By: Brad Conroy

JudicaelOneFrench classical guitarist, Judicael Perroy,  blends fine technique with nuanced performances that audiences around the globe have found both compelling and exciting. His international reputation as a gifted musician and brilliant performer continues to grow.

Receiving his Licence de Concert from Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where he studied with the renowned Alberto Ponce, Perroy went on to win the prestigious first prize at the Guitar Foundation of America International Competition in 1997. This acclaim, no doubt, introduced this fine player to the world and opened the door to international success.

Perroy has been lauded as an inspirational teacher as he conducts numerous master-classes each year at universities and festivals while also attracting students from around the world. Since 2004 he has been the Professor of guitar at the Ecole Nationale de Musique d’Aulnay-sous-Bois, Paris, France.

Guitar International sat down with Judicael at the International Guitar Festival in Brno, Czech Republic, where he offered up some insights into his career, how he records and his practicing regimen.

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Brad Conroy:  How did you get started with the guitar?

Judicael Perroy: I started the guitar when I was six or seven, basically, because my dad was playing and listening to a lot of classical guitar, and one day he pushed me towards learning the guitar, as opposed to beginning with piano or violin, and within a few months. I liked it.

Brad:  Did you ever get into modern electric styles or jazz?

Judicael Perroy: I never did, I never tried, and I never really listened. I am one of the very few guitarists who, even when I was a kid; was more interested in classical guitar than rock guitar.

Brad: What were you listening to growing up?

Judicael Perroy: I would say from seven to thirteen, I was listening to just the classical guitar greats like John Williams. When I reached fourteen, this is when I began to listen to a lot of classical piano music, and now in my house I have around 2,000 piano CDs. I am really interested in the imagination and interpretation, and this is such a big part of the piano repertoire. I can identify more pianists than I could guitarists just by listening, because I am more familiar with those recordings.

Brad:  Has there been any guitarist who has inspired your incredible Bach interpretations?

Judicael Perroy:I don’t really know enough of the players to say that I like this one or that one. It isn’t the one I like the most, but I was intrigued a bit by the way Paul Galbraith was playing Bach. When I listen to Bach I prefer to hear it on the keyboard, so I do not really know how all the guitarists are performing it these days.

Brady: Do you think it is necessary to study at a university in order to become a concert classical guitarist?

JPerroyDVDJudicael Perroy:  I think having a diploma is very nice if you want to find a good teaching position, and perhaps in terms of having the knowledge that you gain from studying, but every person is the exception. In terms of being a good musician however, there are no rules.

When Evgeny Kissin was twelve years old I am sure he didn’t know all that much, but he was already performing at a very virtuosic level. I think that talent and hard work are more important.

Brad: Are you an improviser or composer?

Judicael Perroy: I don’t improvise and have never really studied it either. I was always more interested in interpretation. I wish I could compose, but I can’t say that I do.

I think that one of the problems new music is facing is that there aren’t many truly great composer performers. There is a separation between the two, and not just for guitar, but with a lot of the instruments – you know, in piano, violin, and orchestra. I think that the last very famous composer, who was a player, I guess, was Rachmaninoff.

There are a lot of players who compose, but it is usually obvious that they excel at one or the other. As for me, I hope that I have some talent to play, but I’m quite sure that I don’t have the talent to compose, so I don’t compose.

Brad:  Tell us why you use two foot-stools?

Judicael Perroy: Ahhh, it’s just because in my house, I’m very used to playing on the sofa; I don’t need any footstool. So I use two to make it feel like I am on the couch not using any. I do this pretty often, except when the chair is very low.

Brad: How do you feel about those gadgets that suction on?

Judicael Perroy:  I hear that they are good for the back, but I don’t use one of those. I think it is a personal thing, in a way to me you lose a connection to the instrument with one of those, but I never tell someone that they should do what I do. I have nothing against it, and if it helps you play better and feel better then you definitely should use one.

Brad: You play with really long nails.

Judicael Perroy: Yeah, they are long; it’s not on purpose. I think it is because of the guitar I am using. I didn’t have this long of nails when I won the GFA, but after I started playing my current guitar they just kept getting longer. It isn’t really a conscious thing, but I am lucky that my nails are naturally strong too.

Brad: What is some of your favorite repertoire to play?

Judicael Perroy: Oh, there are many things, but I would say that I like the music of Ponce a lot right now, and will be something that I will be performing a lot of in next year. But of course, there is Dowland, Bach, and Takemitsu – I mean, those are the guys.

Brad: Have you been to Brno [Czech Republic] before?

Judicael Perroy: No, but I like the city and the festival so far.

Brad: What do you like about these festivals? [Brno International Guitar Festival]

Judicael Perroy: I really like them because it is a great mixture of people, cultures, and there are a lot of good students that I meet who eventually come to Paris and study with me at the conservatory. I have met many of my students at festivals like this. Then, of course, there are all of the master-classes, concerts, and seeing new places always makes these festivals a great experience.

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Brad: What kind of chamber music projects are you working on?

Judicael Perroy:  Recently, I have been playing with this very good cellist, and next year I will be recording a CD with Patrick Gallois, the great French flute player.

Brad: What have been some of your favorite cities to perform in?

Judicael Perroy:: I like big cities. I’m from Paris, so, of course, I like big cities, because there is much more to do. I like to go to the museum and take in cultural and historical sights. It is difficult to say where my favorite city is, but I like European cities the most. In the U.S. it is a little more difficult for me because I can’t drive there. New York is amazing, and I am very excited that I will be on holiday there next week. I play a lot in Mexico, and German cities I like a lot, because they really appreciate classical music.

Brad: The rumor is that you don’t practice very much?

Judicael Perroy: My practice habits are very strange, and I don’t like to say too much. In fact, I don’t practice the guitar. With new pieces, I just learn the piece, but when I don’t do new pieces, I just don’t practice.

Brad: At all?

Judicael Perroy: No. I mean, in maybe two months I do 20 hours of guitar. Just before the concert tomorrow, with the new pieces, I just practice until I know the new piece, but when I know the piece, I just don’t practice.

There was a time back in ’93 where I practiced a lot, and another time in 2000 where for five months I was in the U.S. giving classes at Stetson University and I had a lot of free time, so I was practicing all day. Most of the time outside of those two brief periods, I just learn my pieces in two to three hours a day. But many days I practice much less than that.

I don’t know; sometimes you feel guilty. Of course, when I learn new pieces, I need to practice.

Brad: Did winning the GFA really help your career?

Judicael Perroy: In many ways it helped tremendously. I have done a lot less competitions than most of my colleagues though. I think I have done about five competitions, so it is very hard to say just how much it has helped.

Brad: Do you think they’re good to do, to turn music into a competition?

Judicael Perroy: Yeah, I mean, it’s okay. What other way is there to decide who is going to give the concerts? The winner of the competition is usually the one who was more beautiful, or the one who wanted it more. It is difficult, but it is like what we say in France about democracy, “It is the worst system, but it is better than the opposite”. 

Brad:  Any insights on how to record well, and handle being under the microscope?

Judicael Perroy: It can be very difficult to record well. Basically, you just have to be ready to play and be able to forget about the microphone. Remember the energy you get from performing in front of an audience, and try to capture that in the studio. It is easy to become boring, especially after you have done a few takes of the piece. You have to fight against that and continue to deliver the interpretation with the energy that you want.

Brad:  Other than music what are you interested in?

Judicael Perroy:I really like movies, even though I don’t go so often. I used to go and see old movies, recent movies, different European movies, American movies all of the time. I also like culture, history, and like to know about what is going on too, so I read a lot of newspapers.

Brad: What are some of the highlights from your career so far?

Judicael Perroy: Difficult to say. I guess the first concert that I gave abroad, which was a long time ago, and I always like when I play a concert in Paris, because I rarely play in my own city. Winning the prestigious GFA definitely play’s in, and I have to say that I am very lucky to be performing in amazing halls in all the best cities like Moscow, Amsterdam, or Seattle to name a few, I really like this.

Brad: So few people can have a career as a concert guitarist. What is the secret?

Judicael Perroy: Many things. I won’t say that being good enough is the only key. There are some very good players that don’t make a career and many not-so-good players making a career. It’s not the only thing, but sometimes luck is also very important.

It’s very strange. I think committing to it and putting it before many other things, if not everything is a big part too. I am sometimes away from home for a month or two at a time giving concerts and classes and going form one city to the next, and a lot of people don’t like that. So, I think sacrifice also plays a big part too.

Brad:  What can we look forward to in the coming year?

Judicael Perroy: Next year I have a tour in Japan which I am excited about, and will also be giving concerts in the U.S.  I will be in the U.S. from the end of February to the middle of May.  Other than that, and the CD that I will be working on. There are too many things that will be keeping me busy.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Interview: The Classical Guitar of Judicael Perroy | Guitars For Musicians (5 years ago)

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  2. Chad Becks (5 years ago)

    Interesting interview. I find his answers, at times, very vague and not useful for the average player. I would enjoy sitting and listening to him teach. I think it would be difficult to study the day to day tasks with such a virtuoso that has been doing it for so long. He is a great player for sure.