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The Mandolin in Spain : with Carlos Blanco Ruiz

Born in San Asensio, La Rioja (Spain) in 1970, Carlos Blanco Ruiz is guitarist, composer, conductor and musicologist.

As guitarist he offers numerous concerts as soloist, with orchestra and especially with plucked instruments orchestras and chamber groups: Nacional Ensamble and Orquesta de Plectro Roberto Grandío, mandolin and guitar duo with German player Carla M. Huber, guitar duo with Francisco Sagredo, in duo with composer Yasuo Kuwahara and mandolinist Ayako Yokota-Shibata. Nowadays.
He is conductor in La Orden de la Terraza (plucked orchestra) and he has played with them in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Hungary, Russia, Canada, Colombia and Japan.

His music has been broadcasted by Radio Clásica (RNE), Televisión Española (TVE), Radio Nacional from Argentina, or Emisora del Sur from Uruguay, among other media.
He recorded many CDs as soloist and as conductor.

As Musicologist he has written some research works, publishing Francisco Calleja (1891-1950): Música original para guitarra (Critical Edition, 2005), Las claves de la Música de Mª Dolores Malumbres (2009), “Historia del Festival de Plectro de La Rioja: una referencia internacional” (2011) with Instituto de Estudios Riojanos (IER). In 2017 he publishes Integral de la obra para guitarra de Antonio Chover Salom. Biografía, edición crítica y grabación (book and CD) as request from Ayto. de Tavernes de la Valldigna and Diputación de Valencia.
His compositions are published by Editorial ConTrastes-Rioja, Joachim-Trekel-MusikVerlag and Ediciones
He’s been “Guitar Tutor” and conductor several times for the EGMYO (European Guitar and Mandolin Youth Orchestra).
Currently he’s Guitar Teacher at Conservatorio Profesional de Música de La Rioja in Logroño.


How did you meet the mandolin ?

Mandolin is a close instrument with bandurria, the main plectrum instrument in Spain. Anyway, at Conservatory we teach both bandurria and mandolin, so I'm in touch with both of them.
My first meeting was with La Orden de la Terraza, Plucked Instruments Orchestra, in 1994.

How is your activity organized around the mandolin ?

I'm, from 16 years ago, the conductor in La Orden de la Terraza. I do all the arrangements for them and also for the Plectrum and Guitar Orchestra in Logroño's Conservatory. There, I play bandurria tenor (like mandola in bandurria's family). I've composed several pieces for plectrum orchestra, also for plectrum chamber groups and for solo mandolin. Most of them are published by Trekel (Germany) or by MundoPlectro (Spain). Finally, I'm part of ConTrastes, Cultural Association to promote the plectrum and guitar music. We organize a lot of concerts every year and every two year we organize the Festival Internacional de Plectro de La Rioja (in 2018 was held the 46th edition)

Can you tell us about the history of the mandolin in your country ?

Mandolin is not the main plucked instrument in Spain, although it's played from XIXth Century. Nowadays in Conservatory we learn both instruments, bandurria and mandolin, at the same time. Everybody can play both instruments. This situation allows people to continue their studies abroad in order to improve their skills. Before that, only Pedro Chamorro could learn mandolin in Luxemburg and Germany. He brought again the interest for the mandolin, the techniques and the repertoires.

How has the mandolin and its repertoire evolved in your country ?

I think the Festival Internacional de Plectro de La Rioja was the "guilty". It was born in 1967 and it allowed to discover groups, orchestras and soloist along the 70's and 80's that changed the mentality in people in Spain. We lived for more than 40 year under a dictatorship and the plectrum music from all over the world was a fresh air in our music lives.
After that, Pedro Chamorro was the leader in this new idea to open mind and ears to the mandolin and the use of techniques to our bandurria family. His pupils have spread this mandolin "fever" in Spain.

What is the position of the mandolin currently in your country ?

As I told you, it's not the main plucked instrument, but there are some Conservatory students that feel closer to mandolin than to bandurria. We play a lot of repertoire for mandolin at Conservatories and also in concerts with orchestras and chamber groups.

What is the most played repertoire in your country ?

It depends on the place you look at. Most Orchestras play arrangements (popular music, zarzuela, classical hits) but some of us are more interested in new repertoires, mainly original music for mandolin (or plucked instruments) but we cannot forget the legacy from our ancient musicians. Common matter to everybody in Spain is the Spanish Music from XIX and XX Centuries.

Where is the mandolin taught ?

These are the official places for teaching mandolin in Spain.
There are also private schools and non-offical academies.

1.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música 'Arturo Soria'.  Madrid
2.  Conservatorio Profesional de Alcázar de San Juan-Campo de Criptana. Campo de Criptana(Ciudad Real)  
3.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música 'Pablo Sorozábal'. Puertollano  (Ciudad Real)
4.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música 'García Matos' Plasencia (Cáceres)
5.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Meliana.  Meliana  (Valencia)
6.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música de La Rioja. Logroño  (La Rioja)
7.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Tarazona. Tarazona (Áragón)
8.  Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Zaragoza. Zaragoza (Aragón)
9.  Conservatorio Profesional de Huesca. Huesca (Aragón)
10. Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Sabiñánigo. Sabiánigo-Huesca (Aragón)
11. Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Murcia. Murcia
12. Conservatorio Superior de Música de Murcia “M. Massotti Littel”.  Murcia
13.  Conservatorio Superior de Música de Aragón. Zaragoza
14. Conservatorio Profesional de Música “Guitarrista José Tomás”. Alicante

Main non-official Schools of music:
-    Escuela Municipal de Música de Ávila
-    Escuela Municipal de Música de Nájera
-    EMM Campo de Criptana
-    Universidad Popular de Albacete
-    Escuela Municipal de Música "Vicente Fontán" de Marcilla.
-    Escuela Municipal de Música "Fernando Calahorra" de Villafranca.
-    Escuela Municipal de Música de Arganda del Rey

If you had to choose a word that represents or defines the mandolin, which would it be ?