“It’s important to me that I not only support historic guitar concertos like those by Rodrigo and Villa-Lobos, but that I encourage composers to write new ones. This album is a fairy-tale come true – there’s nothing in this world that could inspire me more than these two concertos.” MILOŠ on The Moon & The Forest
A melody is thrown back and forth between guitar and orchestra; eventually it is intercepted by strings and percussion. The pulsing rhythms in the final movement of Joby Talbot’s guitar concerto Ink Dark Moon race towards a thrilling conclusion. At the centre of this colourful eight-movement work is a virtuosic guitar part requiring an intrepid soloist. It fits MILOŠ like a glove.
“I cried when I first heard the concerto,” admits the guitarist. “The harmonies melt and change shape and become something completely unexpected. The final result is exactly how I imagined a Joby Talbot guitar concerto would be!”
MILOŠ became mesmerised by Talbot’s imaginative soundworld after hearing the composer’s ballet Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House in 2011. “Parts of the score sounded like nothing I have ever heard before,” says MILOŠ, who left his native Montenegro to study in the UK when he was a teenager. “I adore living in London – when you come from a small place like Montenegro, to be surrounded by so much art and culture is a dream. There is an incredible sense of energy and delicacy to Joby’s music that I knew would be perfect for the guitar.”
MILOŠ knows the requirements for guitar concertante works better than most. The Montenegrin has performed Rodrigo’s beloved concerto around the world, and his 2014 recording with the London Philharmonic and Yannick Nézet-Séguin received widespread acclaim. But, as much as he adores these works, MILOŠ – full name Miloš Karadaglić – is passionate about creating new music.
“The orchestration is often thinner in the older concertos,” he explains. “I really wanted a piece where the orchestra and guitar bounce off of each other. I feel that Joby really did that.” The piece was first performed at the BBC Proms in 2018 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, where MILOŠ had given a landmark solo recital back in 2012.
The guitarist’s virtuosity is also at the heart of Howard Shore’s concerto The Forest, the second main work on the new recording The Moon & The Forest. Commissioning is most successful when there is a symbiotic relationship between musician and composer, and, after asking Shore to write a work for him, MILOŠ was delighted to learn that “he was a fan of me, just as I was of him.” The resulting concerto celebrates the guitar’s lyricism, with sweeping brushstrokes and expansive melodies, perfectly suited to the distinctive timbre of MILOŠ’s 2007 Greg Smallman guitar.
“New music tends to be too easy or unplayable; it’s rarely in the middle,” laughs MILOŠ. “With The Forest, Howard got it just right.” The Forest was premiered in 2019 with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, in the ensemble’s home venue in Ottawa, Canada.
The Moon & The Forest is MILOŠ’s sixth studio recording and marks the guitarist’s ten-year anniversary with Universal Music. When he released his debut album The Guitar in 2011, classical guitar music was considered something of a rarity. (There were just two other guitarists on the same course as MILOŠ at the Royal Academy of Music.) Over the past decade, the instrument’s popularity has exploded thanks to the guitarist’s pioneering approach. Aspiring guitarists can even learn from the maestro himself through Schott’s Play Guitar with MILOŠ series.
“As a guitarist it’s hard not to dip your toe into lots of different genres as the instrument is so versatile,” says MILOŠ, who, as well as supporting classical guitar also performs arrangements of pop songs. The Voice of the Guitar tour integrated music by Bach, The Beatles and Paul Simon, while MILOŠ’s fifth studio album The Sound of Silence included music by Radiohead and Moody Blues. This was released hot on the heels of a 2016 cross-genre album Blackbird – The Beatles Album, which features duets with Gregory Porter, Tori Amos, Steven Isserlis and Anoushka Shankar.
“I think it’s important to allow yourself to be adventurous,” the guitarist explains. “Different repertoire has been important to me at different stages of my life. However, my deepest connection will always be to classical music.”
By demonstration, The Forest & The Moon includes two short solo pieces, intended to feel like encores after the concertos. Both the version of Einaudi’s Full Moon and Schumann’s Träumerei (from Kinderszenen) are new arrangements by Michael Lewin. “Any transcription is only worth doing if you are able to add a new element rather than taking away – simplifying music is not an option,” says MILOŠ. “Luckily, with six strings and nineteen frets there are so many different ways of playing – the possibilities are endless.”