An Interview with Charles Mokotoff, Part two

The first portion of this interview can be found here. You can view Charles’ new CD on his CD Baby Page.


How did you go about picking pieces for the record? There’s a piece on there that’s written and dedicated to you, can you tell us a bit about it?

Most of those tracks are from my NY recital. I was hell bent, at the time, to not try to make a living playing the Segovia repertoire. This may or may not have been a good idea. But when I debuted, I put together an all 20th Century program. I just wanted to do something different.

For example, I had a correspondence going with Nikita Koshkin way before he became famous and still have a number of his early works in manuscript. I premiered his work The Porcelain Tower in 1989 or so, and also was the first one to play The Usher Waltz here in the US (at least that is what he told me at the time). I was also big on Bream’s repertoire and of course played the Walton Bagatelles and other famous works he commissioned. So my idea for repertoire back then was to play accessible, yet modern music for the guitar, no transcriptions. I did end up with the Tedesco Capriccio because I just loved that piece and thought it the greatest opening work, dramatic, lyrical, everything you want in a guitar solo. The rest of it just flowed. The Sakura Variations are everyone’s favorite and the Rodrigo pieces always intrigued me.

I met Bill Coble in Boston around 1981 I think, and he was just chomping at the bit to write a guitar solo. We worked very closely on this piece, he is so intense and amazingly talented, music just pours out of him. I have to say, if you want to take your playing up a few notches, work with a talented composer like Bill. For example: “can you make that trill just about 10% faster?” Get the idea? I really wanted to make the guitar do what he was trying to portray. What an amazing and worthwhile experience to have done that. Maybe someday one of us can get him to write another!

What are your future plans in the guitar world? Will you be releasing any more recordings?

I can’t bite off too much more in the guitar world these days; I’m a single Dad with young kids and a full time job. But I have been able to keep this going very well as a dedicated hobby. Perhaps in a few years I can give more time to it. But for now, it stays fun, and I am thankful for the practice I did years ago that led to the refined technique I enjoy so much these days. I really do sound better and better. There aren’t a whole lot of things great about getting older, but this, the ability to interpret music naturally, to build on the diligence of my youth and to understand how to practice is, for sure, one wonderful thing about maturing.

I already started to do some recording of how I sound now in preparation for a new CD hopefully in 2009. It is more of a guitar recital album, not a specific era or composer. Lots of transcriptions this time around!

Do you have any tips for our readers?

You have to love practicing, I really look forward to my time with the guitar, I never feel like it is a chore. Be inspired by the greats, not just Segovia, but also others e.g., Pablo Cassals (“of course I continue to play and to practice, I would do so if I lived another 100 years…”), Rubinstein, Heifitz, others. You can listen and see these geniuses on YouTube. I got more out of Horowitz playing Scarlatti than anything I could hear of a guitarist. Explore the more remote works in our repertoire but stay in touch with our roots. It is amazing that here in 2008 many of my audiences are hearing, for example, Leyenda for the first time! Don’t dismiss the Segovia repertoire, there is a good reason this music is called classic.

Any final thoughts?

Thanks for this opportunity to tell the world a little about myself. I have been inspired by many of the wonderful musicians and artists I have met throughout my life. I hope that I might, in some small way, inspire others to stay dedicated to music and the guitar. As Bream said in A Life on the Road, when talking about Segovia’s “threads of guitar poetry”: “…and it is the constant reminder of such a thread in this, the noisiest and most violent century in history, that I believe to be Segovia’s greatest achievement.” What an amazing opportunity some of us have to be playing music on the guitar with all that is happening around us. All of us benefit by remembering how fortunate we are to be the beneficiaries of the work of Segovia and the other greats. The baton has been passed to us, now lets see how much further we can take it.

Posted on in Interviews with Classical Guitarists


  • Karl Wengenroth
    Karl Wengenroth

    Dear Chuck,

    I am sure you do not hear that much these days, do you?

    I’ve never had the chance to attend any of your performances and since I only have dial-up I have never really heard your work that is on your website. However, I will try to stop in to hear you when you are in Montgomery, I think on or about the 19th of May later this spring.

    Eve sent me a couple of links but I have not been able to view them with the snail connection I have. I am sure that live will be much better anyway.

    Nice interview.