Francisco Barbosa Artist Interview
Where are you from, and how has your home origin influenced your career?
I´m from a little village in the North of Portugal called "Amares". I wasn't born in a huge city surrounded by big concert halls or an opera house. But on the other hand, I was raised in a house surrounded by a little farm and close to a marching band school, that allowed me to know lots of instruments and to listen to the flute very early when I was just 6 years old. Living in a little village was beautiful. I got in touch with nature, listened to the birds, got inspired by all the green areas around me, always in a peaceful environment, and without neighbors, which allowed me to practice without time restrictions. I had to travel to the closest city often to listen to concerts of course, but I was very lucky that my parents always supported me and took me.
What is your most memorable moment from music conservatory?
I have so many! I remember when I played C. Debussy"Prélude à l'après-midi d'un Faune" for the first time in Lisbon, as a student. It was in "Centro Cultural de Belém", one of the most important concert halls in Portugal. I remember when I was on stage, just before starting I was so nervous, but the conductor looked at me and gently smiled. I don´t know what happened but I got so calm and everything went so well. The funniest one, I would say it was already in Madrid, at "Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofia", at the end of a school orchestra rehearsal. We were playing J. Brahms " Academic Festival Overture" with Juanjo Mena. At the end of one rehearsal, I was already cleaning my flute and suddenly Maestro Mena walks in my direction and says - "You know, I really love your playing and your flute sound. I´m really happy to listen to you", takes a breath and finishes - "But look at me!" and laughs. At that time I got so scared, but now I laugh so much in that episode! I learned a lot from that moment, that´s for sure. In Madrid, I had the opportunity of playing as a soloist with the school orchestra, which was marvelous at that moment. I was lucky to learn with Professor Jacques Zoon and chamber music with Klaus Thunemann, Gustavo Nuñez, Radovan Vlatkovic, Hansjorg Schellenberger, etc. I could tell so many memorable moments, I had a great time as a student.
What is your most memorable moment from being a flute professor?
I was never full-time teaching but I teach private lessons and masterclasses. I would say that all the time I see a student improving, it is memorable for me. It is my goal. Some of the students I keep in contact and still help, listening to recordings, helping with ways to practice, etc. I´m so happy when they tell me they got a place in a good conservatory or youth orchestra! I learn a lot from the students too. It is a beautiful moment of sharing and exploring what we most love to do! I´m remembering now a little funny moment on a masterclass in Portugal. We were working on our famous flute solo on Mendelssohn " A Midsummer Night's Dream". The student told me that she had to cut a note to breathe or to breathe in a totally no sense place. I told her that we would do 3 simple exercises and she would do it without breathing and with a better tone quality on the articulation. She did it and she played it so nicely in 5 minutes. And then she looked at me and yelled - "Oh, it is possible to do!". We all laugh so much in the room. But that moment made my day. I helped a student to improve, even in just a little thing. Teaching is something I want to dedicate a bit more in the future. I really love to see how the flute world is developing and improving. We have so many wonderful flute players around the World!
Which orchestras have you played with? Which was your favorite and why?
Until my job now, I had the opportunity of playing with a few orchestras as a guest player. "Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa", "Orquestra de Câmara Portuguesa" and "Orquestra de Guimarães" in Portugal, and then I collaborated in England, Spain, Belgium with many others. I can´t say I have a favorite one. All of them were my favorite because I learned so much! I met so many wonderful musicians and conductors that helped me to improve as a flutist. I could say that Madrid Festival Orchestra fulfilled my heart. So many good friends there! But the ensemble I owe more, that place where I learned more about orchestra playing, music, intonation, etc was the "Klaue" Woodwind Quintet. I know it probably sounds weird, it is not an orchestra. But I worked with 4 friends that taught me so much about their instruments, how to mix the sound with them, to tune, the balance, etc. In the end, those 4 instruments are the closest ones we often have to play with, at the orchestra. So everything was so much easier after that experience!
What is your favorite piece from the flute repertoire and why?
This is the hardest question. I have so many! I would say C. Debussy Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp. I´m in love with the way Debussy treats the flute since I was a kid. The colors he brings with this 3 instruments, the way the flute comes in his music, the exotic ambiance his harmonies show us...every time I play it or I listen to it, I can see the nature, smell the flowers, touch the sky and imagine I´m painting, not playing. It is divine.
What was the highlight of your musical career?
It is very difficult to choose one. Winning my orchestra´s audition was very important to me. It was a new step to learn and improve with new musicians, allowing me to do what I most love to do, to be often on stage playing! Recording my first Album was challenging and very important for me too. I learned a lot from all the practicing and research I did on W.A. Mozart music! It changed me as a musician, giving me new ideas and a new perspective about art. When I was a student I had 2 highlight moments I can share when I got a place at Juilliard School and at Reina Sofia. Those moments were very important at that time to have options to keep growing as a musician. But as I always say, the highlight is every single concert night. That´s where the magic happens and what makes everything worth it.
What musical projects do you have coming up?
Due to the situation we live in, right now I´m working on my agenda for the next season. I had to postpone masterclasses in Portugal, Belgium, Spain, USA, and the Dominican Republic to next year and I´m checking orchestra season too with my colleagues. I have an invitation to teach as a guest flute professor in Europe and the USA, and of course, I have to make some decisions, that will be out soon. But next season brings a really exciting moment for me - my Carnegie Hall debut concert! It is a dream come true and I believe it is my highlight of the season! I´ll be performing at this wonderful concert hall on 27th January with a lovely repertoire that includes Mozart, Dvorak, and I will premier a solo piece from my friend Pablo Diaz, written especially for this moment.
How are you spending your time in quarantine?
The situation we are living in is terrible. First of all, my thoughts are with the victims of this pandemic and their families. Being closed home is not easy and we know it is all we can do for now. Respecting that and following that rule, I´m taking most of my time to practice flute. I´ve been able to work on many aspects of my tone, intonation, and articulation that I could not do so often during orchestra weeks with less time to practice. Since I have lots of free time now, I´m focusing on little details on my flute paying to improve and give the best I can to the audience and to help my colleagues, when we get back on stage. I´m also reading new repertoire and "visiting" again J. Andersen Etudes! After that, I take some time to cook, that I love too, and to watch the classics of the cinema that I missed!