Simon Ghraichy, the acclaimed Mexican-French-Lebanese-Jewish concert pianist and recording artist, returns tomorrow night October 14 at 7:30PM to Carnegie Hall to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. While in New York he has conducted a series of workshops for young NYC musicians honoring great Hispanic composers.
The program, is titled “My Hispanic Heritage,” celebrates Latin American composers (Ernesto Lecuona, Arturo Márquez), Spanish composers (Isaac Albeniz, Manuel de Falla), and non-Spanish/non-Latino composers who drew inspiration from Hispanic culture (French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel). The presenter for “My Hispanic Heritage” is New York Concert Artists.
T2C had a chance to talk to this wonderful performer.
T2C: Welcome back. How did this concert come into being?
Simon Ghraichy: Its always a pleasure to be back in New York. I did my debut last year at Weil Hall at Carnegie Hall, so it is exciting to Zankel Hall, which is a bigger venue. Last year New York Concert Artists saw me and invited me back and I am thrilled.
T2C: How does this concert differ from last years?
Simon Ghraichy: My debut last year had to do with the release of my CD, which was dedicated to Franz Liszt a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Liszt’s birthday. This year my concert is dedicated to Spanish composers. It is Hispanic National Heritage, so I have dedicated this concert to my Spanish heritage. It has been exciting because I did Master classes with Brooklyn Music School. I found that schools ignore how much music plays in their background. When children know the beautiful music from their own Spanish composers and their heritage, they become proud and learn more. I have invited one student to join me on stage to make their Carnegie Hall debut at the October 14th program. When touring, I enjoy the opportunity to work with younger musicians, particularly in New York where there is such beautiful cultural diversity. The Brooklyn Music School is a unique and special place because it introduces young musicians, many Hispanic and from low-income families, to the arts. I want these kids to know that not only is classical music something that is accessible to them, but that it is very much a part of their cultural and musical tradition. I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with one of these students for a very special encore at Carnegie Hall.
T2C: What is your background?
Simon Ghraichy: Mexican, French, Lebanese, Jewish… my heritage can be traced to so many cultures. My Latin American roots have always had a particular resonance for me, from the cultural heritage passed along from my Mexican mother. Especially through music. On my frequent visits to Latin America, I discovered beautiful, warm and sparkling culture that influenced on my temperament and my vision as a musician. Having grown up in Paris, I had never been exposed to the treasure trove of musical gems that came from South America and the Hispanic world. My Hispanic heritage is a true pride for me. I am proud of my diverse heritage and have a special place in my heart for each element.
T2C: What is your favorite song in this concert?
Simon Ghraichy: The song I am keeping for the end. It is called Denzon #2 by Arturo Marquez. It was originally written for 18 piece orchestra, but the arrangement I am playing by the composer contains all the sounds of the orchestra. It also has the popular elements of today’s music. It’s like a trip to Mexico. It is incredibly playful and makes you want to dance.
T2C: What are your favorite pieces to play?
Simon Ghraichy: All of them. They are all a part of me. I can refer to myself in all music. I special part of me is the Latino side as I am playing pieces from Mexico I connect with my mother. There is a piece by an Andalusia composer that sounds very Arabic connecting me to my Lebanese culture. The last piece, which we talked about, is the most emotionally and technically fulfilling.
T2C: What is next for you?
Simon Ghraichy: I just signed an exclusive contract with Universal Music / Deutsche Grammophon France. My next CD will be released March 2017 and it like my concert will be fully dedicated to Hispanic classical composers. My CD’s are all available online from iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify.
T2C: What would you like our audiences to know about you?
Simon Ghraichy: This city looks a lot like me and I look forward to coming back and back again. I play for the people. It a city that makes everybody dream. I would love them to hear my music, because it says a lot about my influences and me. I invite them to follow my social media and learn more about me.