Rock Star Classic
International classical guitar sensation Milos Karadaglic talks to Coral Drouyn on the eve of his Australian tour.
“I was nearly eight and the war was going on all around us. Montenegro was my home and I didn’t know what would happen to us. We’ve been caught up in Balkan wars more than once in history. I didn’t know anything about classical music, but then I found an old guitar – it was a mess and unsuitable – but I could find my way around it, make tunes on it and I thought ‘when the war is over, maybe I can be someone, maybe a rock star.”
Milos Karadaglic has a speaking voice like warm honey. It goes with his film star good looks. Together they make the perfect blueprint for a ‘Rock Star’. And indeed he is, if status is the yardstick. But it’s the classical guitar, not a Fender Stratocaster, that has given him such status; the most talked about and biggest selling classical guitarist in many decades. He is just what classical music needs at a time when young people are swamped with disposable “music”, and his following embraces all age groups and nurtures their love of classical music. In their war-torn tiny country, Milos’ parents recognised that he had some talent and quickly enrolled him in music school, but the only guitar class available was classical, highly disciplined, and not the cool course the 8 year old Milos had envisaged at all.
“I didn’t want to practise scales for hours on end. I didn’t want to grow my fingernails. I didn’t want the tops of my fingers to constantly hurt. It didn’t seem glamorous to me at all. I told my father No, I didn’t want to do it. My father was very wise, he said to me that the teachers thought I had real musical talent, that it would be a pity to waste it. But I really wasn’t listening.” Milos is open and honest as he explains how his career almost ended before it got started. “But then my father said, ‘okay – I can’t make you practise, I can’t make you study, but I just want you to listen to something’. And he put on a record of Andre Segovia. I had never heard anything so beautiful, so passionate, so romantic. It was music that soared and I thought to myself ‘If I could do that - play like that – and touch people like he is touching me, I would be crazy not to do it.”
It was a turning point for Milos. Before he even reached his teens he had given guitar recitals all over the country and outgrown his teachers, even travelling to Belgrade for more advanced lessons. At 15 he heard that the best place to study was London’s Royal Academy of Music and, by the time he was barely 16 in 2000 he had applied for a scholarship and been granted it. Moving to London, he tells me, was both the happiest and saddest part of his life. Leaving his parents and brother behind was overwhelmingly difficult for him. Fortunately he spoke some English, and there was always the music to embrace him and keep him going. “I went to concerts, not just guitar but all music. I discovered Beethoven and Mozart and Brahms. Such melodies and I would try to adapt them to the guitar. I never knew there was so much music. I loved going to the Royal Albert Hall.”
Milos played The Royal Albert Hall recently, a sell out concert in the very place he had visited in his days as a poor student. He graduated from the Royal Academy in 2004 but then went on to study for a masters’ degree in performance. He won every Prize in music he was eligible for. In 2011 he released his first album which became a best-seller worldwide. When he’s not on tour, Milos practises for 7 hours a day to keep his fingers supple. On concert nights he cuts the practise down to 3 hours. It’s been a heady journey and a far cry from the regimen of a traditional “Rock Star” but Milos has no regrets. “Yes, I guess I am a “Rock Star” in the classical world, but it isn’t that which drives me. The guitar is my love, my passion. Playing is what I live for, everything else is a bonus. Just like the emotion I experienced when I first heard that Segovia record, if I can influence one young person to say “Wow, I want to do that”, then I’ve honoured my talent and it’s all worthwhile.”
Milos will be performing in capital cities on the following dates.
Brisbane: Nov 22, 8pm - QPAC
Sydney: Nov 24, 8pm – City Recital Hall
Adelaide: Nov 28, 8pm – Adelaide Town Hall
Melbourne Dec 1st 8pm - The Recital Centre.
Perth: Dec 3, 8pm – Perth Concert Hall
Photographs - Margaret Malandruccol / Deutsche Grammophon