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Ángel Padilla, a Musician Committed to His Work and Society

By Sandra Ríos

Ángel Padilla, a native of Mexico City and one of the greatest harpists worldwide, will offer a concert to benefit La Biblioteca on Saturday, February 21, at Teatro Las Trojes of the Centro Cultural Santa María del Obraje at 6pm.

We did a short interview to learn more about his career and the instrument that he plays.

Sandra Ríos: How did you decide to study harp?

Ángel Padilla: Actually it was an accident. My older brothers started to play the piano very young. When they were old enough to join the Conservatorio Nacional de Música, the degree course in piano was saturated. Then my dad, who is a doctor and a frustrated musician, saw the list of instrumental studies. Learning the harp was available, he got us to study it in order to reach the piano, as you have to take piano as a secondary instrument. My two brothers began, and then I followed. I finally studied playing the harp for my degree.

SR: Where did you formally study for the degree in harp?

ÁP: I studied very little in Mexico, actually. That was because the school for the study of the harp in Mexico at that time was not very good. (Now it has attained a good level.) I began my formal career at the Royal College of Music in London and later studied at Indiana University, which has a very important school of music.

SR: How many years have you been playing the harp, and what are the main places where you have presented concerts?

ÁP: I started at five years old, and I have played worldwide both in recitals and concerts, and as a soloist with an orchestra. My first major concert was before the Queen Mother of England, and there were many very important musicians present, such as Rostropovich and Lutoslawski. I then played as a soloist with the London Sinfonietta. In Mexico, I’ve played with all the major orchestras, including the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México. In America, I played as soloist with the Concertante di Chicago, and I have played in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, including Jordan and Egypt, China, Guatemala, Brazil, and Argentina. I just returned from Colombia, and in August I will go to Costa Rica.

SR: Tell us a little about the instrument you play.

ÁP: I play the grand concert harp. It has nothing to do with the Paraguayan harp or the jarocha harp. The string tension is several tons, so it is an instrument that has to be strongly built. It has a very sophisticated mechanism, with seven pedals and a pedal for each note of the musical scale. They give pressure to the strings. The grand concert harp has 47 strings that correspond to the white keys of the piano, and I play with only four fingers.

SR: Could you tell us some of the most important awards you have received?

ÁP: In England, I got the Ian Fleming and the Sir Malcolm Sargent awards; in Spain I got the Andrés Segovia and José Miguel Ruiz Morales prizes, and the Eleanor Fell in America; I think these are the most relevant. I am also on the board of the World Harp Concert Congress.

SR: What are you going to play in San Miguel on February 21?

ÁP: I start in the 16th century and end in the 20th century. I will perform works by Isaac Albeniz; poetic waltzes of Enrique Granados; a couple of Spanish sonatas, one by Mateo Albeniz and another by Soler that are very similar to Scarlatti, as he was in Spain for a long time and was a very important influence there. I will play two other works of the 16th and 17th centuries that are original to the harp of that era. Everything I am presenting is part of a CD that has not come out yet. I recorded it here in San Miguel de Allende.

SR: Why have you chosen to play this concert to benefit La Biblioteca?

ÁP: I decided to do this concert because I believe in La Biblioteca’s projects. It has done a great job for many years. La Biblioteca gives great benefits to the Mexican community with workshops for children and music lessons. People have thought that the Biblioteca is a meeting place for Americans, and they support it by consuming coffee or buying some things. They actually contribute to our society. So when I was asked to do this concert to benefit La Biblioteca, I gladly accepted.

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