40 questions

In December 2017 I answered the Musikeon version of the so-called Proust Questionnaire. It was a nice way to talk about very different things, from tigers and archeology to Borges and Star Wars. Here are the questions and my answers.


  1. An adjective that best defines your character? Enthusiastic. This, at least, is what they say about me.
  2. What quality do you most appreciate in a person? The passion they put into what they do is what I love.
  3. What do you expect from your friends? That they should want to get across the passion they feel for what they do.
  4. You couldn’t live without…Having projects ahead that no one else has conceived in the same way.
  5. Your main fault? Unpunctuality.
  6. Your ideal of happiness? That what I do for pleasure brings joy to others and helps make their lives richer.
  7. What would be your greatest tragedy? Losing one my children.
  8. As a boy, what did you want to be? As a very small boy, nothing in particular. Later, an archeologist.
  9. And now, if you weren’t a musician, what would you like to be? An archeologist, exactly, although today my interests would have a far more anthropological focus than what I imagined when I was young. And for a while now I can also see myself as an astrophysicist: looking at the sky, dreaming about outer space, and knowing what to ask it. I could give my life over to that.
  10. Your favourite colour? I tend to like the variants of more common colours when they verge towards others: vermillion, turquoise, lime green.
  11. Your favourite animal? Felines, in general, and the tiger in particular. But I like to look at animals, not touch them: I don’t need too much physical interaction with them, as opposed to how I feel about people.
  12. Your favourite city? One in which I don’t have to live my whole life and which will keep me surprised day after day. If I have to choose from those I know, and for widely different reasons, I would say New York, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Cairo, and Barcelona.
  13. Your ideal landscape? Waking up in the Dolomites, preferably in a spot I have never visited.
  14. What place do you dream of visiting one day? Outer space. Literally: to see the earth from outside and without gravity.
  15. What place would you always go back to if you could? A great many. To begin with, a certain unforgettable landscape: my beloved Dolomites, of course, but also Lake Pichola in Udaipur, the summit of Pão de Açúcar, the Yellowstone Park geysers, an infinite number of spots in Iceland, Elephantine Island with the desert just behind it looking from the shores of the Nile in Aswan. Then, always, the Library of Congress. And to the arms of Silvia, my partner (it sounds a bit corny but it’s a fact).
  16. Three musicians without whom the world would be worse off? ¿Three who are alive? Frederic Rzewski, Brad Mehldau, David Ortolá.
  17. A work of music you never tire of hearing? It depends on what era and, very much so, on the performance and recording. Over recent weeks, Schumann Violin Concerto as played by Patricia Kopatchinskaja.
  18. A special song for you (and don’t say why)? “Abendstern” by Schubert.
  19. A musical instrument (not your own)? Alto Flute.
  20. A writer and a book? Jorge Luis Borges. “Ocean Sea” by Alessandro Baricco.
  21. A painter and a painting? Claude Monet. “Study after Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X” by Francis Bacon.
  22. A film. “Moulin Rouge” by Baz Luhrmann.
  23. A sport. Hiking.
  24. Car, bike, or public transport? Car or public transport, depending on the place and the quality of the transport.
  25. Favourite food and drink? My mama’s home-made sweet tortellini, and fresh mango juice (and fresh fruit juices in general)…but separately, of course!
  26. Do you cook regularly? Yes.
  27. What name do you like the most? Gaia. If I’d had a daughter I’d like her to have been called this.
  28. What is the habit of others you most detest? Belittling someone, on a small or grand scale, especially when it is an expression of scorn based on difference.
  29. What defect do you most easily tolerate? Mine, firstly: unpunctuality.
  30. Your fictional hero or heroine? Yoda.
  31. Your real-life hero or heroine? People like Oscar Camps (the founder of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms) who sacrifices everything to do what he believes in. And his family, who support him.
  32. In which city do you imagine yourself living? Many. The important thing for me is with whom and doing what. If I have to choose one, then it’s New York. At least for a while.
  33. Would you have like to have lived in another era? No. I’d just like my era to better than it is.
  34. What musical event would you have liked to be present at? The December 22 concert in 1808 in the Theater an der Wien, the day Beethoven premiered his 5th and 6th Symphonies, improvised and played a version of his 4th Concerto that I believe was unthinkably different to how we imagine this work today. But I would like to be at that concert not as a Viennese person from 1808 but being what I am today, a musician and musicologist of the 21st century. To be able to compare those performances with all that we have done later with those scores, that would be quite amazing!
  35. Which musician from the past would you have liked to know? Those whose personal qualities fascinate me and at the same time leave me questioning before which I would like to have an idea of my own. Beatriz de Dia, for example, or Josquin Desprez. And also Barbara Strozzi, and no doubt Haydn, who seems to me the most sympathetic guy of all Western music. Maria Szymanowska and Louise Farrenc. Brahms, without a doubt. And then, already entering the twentieth century, Cowell and Hindemith.
  36. 24 hours with…? Many people, known to me and not. Among those I know, perhaps Krystian Zimerman. Among those I don’t, at this moment in time, Lita Cabellut.
  37. What musician of the past would you have liked to know? Many. But, above all, I would like to know people whose existence at this moment I am ignorant of. There are people whose names and music don’t even reach us. Silvia and I, for example, met Ustad Niyaz Khan in Jodhpur, India, in 2005; what we saw and experienced there, in the antithesis of the star system, is the type of experience I would like to repeat above all else.
  38. How would you like to die? With the feeling of having done everything I wanted to do. Something that undoubtedly will not occur because my projects grow with the years in both number and size.
  39. What is your current state of mind, right now? Determined and looking forward to the year that awaits me.
  40. ¿Do you have a motto or a favourite saying? “The more you know, the closer you are to magic”. The actor José Sacristán said that in one of the most beautiful scenes of a film I am infinitely fond of, “Un lugar en el mundo” (“A Place in the World”, 1992) directed by Adolfo Aristarain.