Angel Luis Castaño began studying classical accordion in Irun (Guipúzcoa) with Agustín Santano. Later he studied following various courses with masters such as P. Busseuil, F. Lips and M. Rantanen, then studying at the Conservatory of Music in Paris and at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, with the master Mogens Ellegaard.
In December 2007, Castaño was the first Spanish accordionist to be invited as a performer at the Festival Bayan and Bayanistas in Moscow, directed by Friedrich Lips.
It carries out its activities as a soloist with orchestras and chamber ensembles such as the Orquesta Sinfónica de Valencia, the Orquesta de Cuerda Andrés Segovia, the Orquesta Nacional de Indonesia, Grupo el Círculo, La Orquesta Camerata de Salamanca, Ciudad de Segovia and Ensemble with conductors such as Gerard Caussé, Joan Cervero, Fabian Panisello and Jose Luis Temes. He has also played with the Plural Ensemble of Madrid and the Proyecto Guerrero, as well as with the Trio Arbós, the Cuarteto Assai and the Cuarteto Aragon.
He was Professor of Acordeón at the Conservatory of Irun since 1992 al1993; Acordeón Professor and Deputy Director of the Conservatory of Segovia from 1993 to 2003, Professor of Acordeón at the Conservatorio Superior de Música in Zaragoza (Aragon), from 2003 to 2013 and currently teaches at the Conservatorio Profesional de Música in Madrid.
When did you start play accordion and why?
I started the accordion when I was 5 years old. Even before I was very interested in music… I was playing “music” with all kind of objects in my parents´ house. At that time my parents decided to offer me a saxophone and a percussion battery… they didn´t know what they were doing :) After weeks of non stop playing those toy instruments, they thought that I should organize those sounds someway. So, my parents (who had no idea of classical music) decided to bring me to music studies to the nearest teacher of music of my house. And that was an accordion teacher. It could have been piano, violin or guitar… but it was accordion.
So, it was not my decission to start playing the accordion, but now I am happy that this teacher (Agustin Santano) was living 200 meters from my house.
What is the image of your instrument in your country? Is it related to a modern or classical instrument?
We could say that since the nineties of last century (so, about 25 years ago), the image of the classical accordion has been growing non stop in Spain. At that time accordion was not known at all by composers… but in this moment the image is completely different. In those years I have created more than 50 new works for accordion. Specially for solo accordion, but also for chamber and with orchestras. My relation with composers as Cesar Camarero, David del Puerto, Jesus Torres, Patrick Busseuil, Josep Soler and many others has been quite productive. This information can be checked in my website www.alcastano.com.
I was probably the first accordionist in my country to do this job, but nowadays there some accordionists doing also this important work. For them, it is probably easier now, because when you are a pionner you must open the doors, and it is not always easy. I am happy that after 25 years of work in this sense, the image has changed so much.
Maybe in the question there was also a sugerence for popular accordion. For sure there is an important image of the accordion in Spain as a folk instrument, but I think in the same level as everywhere… I consider that my instrument is the “classical accordion”, so I don´t use to mention popular accordion when I speak about my instrument.
Did you ever work on traditional music of your country with the aim to connect that heritage with new compositions?
Well, I am not a composer, even if sometimes composers consider me as a recomposer…
I have specially worked with composers of avantgard music, but there are someones as Claudio Prieto for example that wrote Sonata nº 15 for accordion, where he uses someway the traditional music from Spain for this Sonata. But in general, let´s say that this subject hast not been my leitmotiv.
Could you talk us about your experiences in teaching?
That is long subject now… I have been teaching last 22 years. In 1993 I got a position as functionary teacher for Spanish Ministery of Education, and since them I have been teaching in Conservatories in Segovia, CSMA in Zaragoza and now in Conservatory in Madrid. I was teaching 10 years at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Zaragoza, but you probably know also something in Italy about this terrible crisis we are having. This is affecting everywhere and musical education is also under this situation in our country. The administration decided to have a half part teacher for this conservatory and, being a functionary full time, I decided to return to my post in Madrid.
I have being also teaching in master classes in many countries and specially during 5 years for the Asturias Prince Foundation in Oviedo…
How work in teaching reconcile with the work as a musician and performer? Are these fields separated or influences each other?
I think they can be complementary activities. Of course if the concert activity is very big, your activity as educator can be too irregular, what it is not good, specially for children in half degree conservatories. This is not influenting so much when you teach in superior level.
About my experience, I have always had that feeling of needing to teach. I like to teach and I feel that students that work or have worked with me know it. When I was a young student I saw all the difficulties that one student can have… so, I always think, why not to help them as much as I can to make their life a little easier?
I also consider that the educators must teach to students from the experience. It is, and it has always been, very important that the student can see that his teacher is able to play sometimes… not always as a concert player, of course. For me, a teacher that has not had experience as a player, can´t teach in the same level. And this, I must say, it is still too usual in the accordion world. A pity!
In wich projects are you working now?
Beyond my new activity teaching in Madrid conservatory, I continue my activity as a performer. I recently recorded a duo CD with Mika Väyrynen, edited by the Finnish Accordion Institute of Ikaalinen. This has been a beautiful project, and made with a friend, what elevates even more the interest of the activity. Not easy speaking about logistics, but we wanted to do something together before we are too old, and too comfortable.
In 2013 I also edited my second CD with Spanish contemporary music for accordion. All the pieces were dedicated to me, as in the first volume. This CD includes works for solo accordion by Claudio Prieto, Tomás Marco, Enrique Igoa, Carlos Perón, Garcia Laborda and David del Puerto.
In two or three months will appear a new CD with composer and guitarist David del Puerto, with two important works premiered by our ensemble rejoice! : Caro Domenico (premiered at the Istituto Italiano de la Cultura de Madrid) and Carmen Replay (premiered together with Companía Nacional de Danza, this work was a comission of the Royal Theater of Madrid).
This article is available also in: Italian