My letter ‘a l’amiable’
to Roland Dyens
What can I say? Deep sadness: the artiste ‘sans frontière’ is gone…
I feel lucky to have met Roland and I feel lucky that I have his music.
I first met him in 2002, at a festival in Stetson, Florida. He was very busy, spending a lot of time in his hotel room working, composing, telephoning etc. (his prolific productivity came at a price!). I was then preparing the ’Homage to Villa Lobos’ for a new CD (although in the end I didn’t record the piece) and we spent much time together, as he showed me things, correcting and talking about aspects of the piece. Following the details marked on the score was so important, every single ‘comma’ mattered, all the fingerings – I remember we had a mini-debate on this point! Some years later, when one of my pupils was working on the ‘Libra Sonatine’, he patiently replied in great detail to all of my questions about it.
On another festival occasion, when we were participating in a round table, his topic was ‘silence’, I found this surprising and fascinating, since his music is mostly exuberant! Years later, was it around 2013(?), in a festival, over a drink, we chatted about his youngest daughter, fatherhood then and now, about the challenges with a career: how proud he was to show me his family photos! And how surprised I was to discover a new side to his personality.
He was eminently helpful as a colleague, replying to e-mails almost before they were sent! I remember a long telephone conversation, while he gave me an abundance of practical tips and tricks for dealing with the intricacies of US immigration formalities, authorities and visas etc, when the whole thing had become so ridiculously complex that I no longer wished to travel there. I followed his advice, and all worked smoothly!
And as Jury member, Roland taught me a lesson: ‘Who did you vote for first place?‘’ I asked him, after the deliberations but before the announcement of the results (it was really very tricky that year – a GFA final). “We will not talk about it until the results have been made public.” he replied. Later on, he approached me and we discussed it; we had, after all, both voted for the same contestant.
2002 at Florida (Stetson)
In point of fact, Roland and I ‘knew’ each other in the 1990s, when we shared the same agent in Denmark (Svend Wholert, who was rather a good friend). For a short period, Roland and I had tours on alternate years: we both stayed in the same house but in different years! This meant that when I was there I heard and learned many things about Roland from Svend and his companion Inga. Consequently when we first met we both felt as if we had known each other for a long time!
Roland loved puns and word-play, (for example, Libra sonatine, became Eleftheria Sonatine). He was fun, witty, warm and generous. He began all his e-mails to me with “Kalimera Eleftheria”, scattered them with Greek words and some ’endaxi’ and signed “Rolanako”. Except for his last email of 2 August 2016, where he was just “Roland”.
Roland wanted to make a connection not only with his ‘sound universe’, the new language and effects that he introduced to the classical guitar world but also as a warm human being in rapport with everyone who crossed his path.
A Danish friend told me that when he approached Roland after a concert with a copy of the "Night and Day" CD and a request for a signature, Roland asked him where he came from. "Denmark", stammered my friend; “and your name?” asked Roland. He then inscribed the cover of the CD: "Til X med kys og kram. Roland Dyens" (“To X with hugs and kisses. RD”!).
He was affectionate and tender, a charismatic performer, uniquely imaginative; his performances were magical, captivating the audience , drawing them into empathy; his pianissimo playing in particular was so lovely. ‘Tango en Skai’: a palpable hit – and, of course, he never missed an opportunity for improvising on it. I witnessed this on two occasions: when my pupil Gareth Holwill played it for him, and when Arnaud Dumond performed it as an encore in his concert. And how I love Roland’s Latin-flavoured pieces, his arrangements of French songs and his jazz numbers.
Dearest magician and poet of the guitar, I will miss you for ever but at least, even if my eyes are full of tears, I have your music.