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Flamenco guitarist Grisha Goryachev shares his art: ‘I think of the guitar as a band or orchestra’

Grisha Goryachev hails from St. Petersburg, Russia. He's a flamenco guitar virtuoso who draws inspiration from his classical guitar roots.
Motohiro Asano
Grisha Goryachev hails from St. Petersburg, Russia. He's a flamenco guitar virtuoso who draws inspiration from his classical guitar roots.

Acclaimed flamenco guitarist Grisha Goryachev, performing this weekend in St. Louis, hails from St. Petersburg, Russia. In fact, he comes from a long line of guitar teachers: both his father and grandfather taught guitar lessons and passed their art down to Goryachev.

That all changed, however, when one of the all-time great flamenco guitarists, Paco de Lucía, visited the then-Soviet Union for the first time in 1986. Although he had been playing classical guitar for two years at that point, Goryachev returned to his father and told him he wanted to learn how to play flamenco guitar.

“I fell in love with the music and I cannot explain it to you but I feel so much emotion when I listen to it,” Goryachev told St. Louis on the Air contributing host Steve Potter on Friday’s program.

At the time, no one in Russia was playing in the flamenco style. Even Goryachev’s father was at a loss for where to start. They were able to get their hands on one flamenco method book and Goryachev learned to play every solo in it. What happened when he ran out of new songs to play from the songbook?

“It was the Soviet Union then, so I started using my ear to learn the compositions from recordings,” Goryachev said.

Now, Goryachev travels all over the world playing his unique blend of classical and flamenco guitar. He first visited St. Louis five years ago, also for the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society. This week, he’s been traveling to schools in north St. Louis County to share his music. On Saturday, he’ll play his second concert in St. Louis at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Goryachev shared two improvised flamenco guitar selections live. Listen here for a taste of his music:

“There are two styles: you can play flamenco or classical,” Goryachev said. “But it is more about the mindset. When you play classical music, you are very careful to play every note perfectly. And every note has to be there as the composer intended. In classical music, you cannot make a bad sound. It has to be clean. What I like to do, I like to experiment more and that’s why I chose flamenco. It gives you freedom to improvise. Because I studied classical, I can bring some of that mindset into Flamenco.”

"I think of the guitar as a band or orchestra."

Goryachev, in his unique hybrid of styles, uses classical dynamics and tone colors in his performances to make classical flamenco compositions his own. 

“First, I don’t copy the sound and the attack of the original guitarist, composer,” Goryachev said. “All the dynamics, all the lines, I play them in my own way. I don’t play it at the same tempo. I also use a variety of tonal covers to bring out different melodies. I think of the guitar as a band or orchestra so that I can imitate certain sounds on it so I don’t just have to sound like a guitar. At the same time, I can improvise. I change the rhythms around and sometimes add my own harmonies. I switch things around from time to time.”

Related Event

What: St. Louis Classical Guitar Society Presents Grisha Goryachev
When: Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108
More information.

What: Grisha Goryachev Master Class
When: Sunday, November 20 from 1-3 p.m.
Where: University of Missouri-St. Louis Music Building, Room 210
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.