“I am very much enjoying my brand new CC36 built by Felipe Conde… It’s very responsive, and with very little effort yields to timbric demans of volume producing very clear pianissimos and the expreme fortissimos without saturating or breaking the wave. A marvellous instrument!” -José Luís Merlín
With an extraordinary career spanning more than 50 years, guitarist, composer, arranger, teacher and creative visionary José Luis Merlin imagines dazzling musical works that celebrate both his classical background and his passion for folk music. Profoundly moved by visual art, dance, literature and film and also influenced by his Latin American, Ukrainian-Jewish and Spanish roots, his original pieces feature contemporary and traditional elements as well as diverse Argentinian rhythms, the haunting melodies of Eastern European folk songs and the resonant, romantic melodies of Western European classical music.
Often referred to as a “poet of the guitar,” Merlin’s guitar pours out magical, musical elegies about his own personal journey, which has been marked by moments of love, loss, longing, sorrow, joy and hope. Because his own story has also been colored by geographical upheaval, the refrain of the immigrant is a recurring theme in his music. Merlin’s contagious energy, enthusiasm for playing both chamber music and folk music and his fondness for collaborating with painters, photographers, dancers, actors, puppeteers, writers, filmmakers and a wide range of other artists inspire him to continue to evolve his craft and keep his mind open to life’s many possibilities.
Merlin has been a performer and composer as well as a researcher and teacher of instrumental technique since 1967. His study of guitar began with the prestigious Argentinian guitarist and composer Vicente Degese and continued with Abel Carlevaro and Leónidas Arnedo. His humanistic, personal approach to music and devotion to folk, contemporary and classical music has garnered admiration from folk and classical guitar legends, mentors and contemporaries such as Abel Carlevaro and Paco de Lucía. Merlin’s compositions are at the core of the most distinguished conservatory and university programs in the world, including the Royal Conservatory of Music in Spain, London, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, the Shanghai Music Conservatory and many more. They are also being performed and recorded by eminent artists including Jasón Vieux, Eric Cabalo, Lisa Schroeder and David Tannenbaum (USA), Yang Xuefei (China), Antigoni Goni (Greece), Etienne Plasman (Luxembourg), Ana Archiles (Spain), Luis Andrés Campos Yépez (Ecuador), César Amaro (Uruguay), Eduardo Martín (Cuba), Alexandra Syniakova (Ukraine) and others.
As a gifted orchestrator and arranger, Merlin has created scores for films such as City of Your Final Destination. He also adapted Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orpheus and Euridice for “La Mar de Marionetas” (The Sea of Puppets) theater company as well as the music for “Agua” at the Expo Zaragoza. He has arranged and adapted works by Beethoven, Scarlatti and Bach and has set the poetry of Nicandro Pereyra and Antonio Esteban Agüero to music. Merlin also composed the music for the children’s songs album, Estaciones que Cantan. Canciones Infantiles with the poet Cristina Alvarez Puerto.
In addition, Merlin composed the music for the critically-acclaimed oratorio Travesía, with texts by José Tcherkasky. Merlin’s additional original compositions have received equally high praise. He has composed pieces for solo guitar, guitar and cello, guitar and string quartet, piano and voice and for many other ensembles, which have been published by GSP Publisher (USA), Chanterelle (Germany), Tuscany Publications and Shamrock (Austria).
A teacher for decades, Merlin was also co-founder and the first president of the Association Integración Guitarrística Argentina and the founder and director of the Centro de Estudios Musicales in Buenos Aires, a school of music for students of all levels. He was also the co-founder and first president of the “Club de la Guitarra” cultural association in El Escorial, Spain and the former artistic director and professor of Escuela TAI in the University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid.
Merlin has 30 international tours on his resume and has given more than 200 concerts in the United States alone and countless others in Mexico, Ireland, Spain, Argentina and Austria. He has also toured Canada, Cuba, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Brazil and Uruguay. He has played at the Centro Cultural de la Villa in Madrid, the United Nations in New York City, the Museums of Art in Dallas and Detroit, the Teatro Juan Bravo in Segovia, the Teatro Nacional Cervantes and the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires and has appeared on public radio and television in Ohio, Michigan, Oregon, California and Texas as well as on the international Deutsche Welle channel in Germany. In 2017 he has visited China for the first time with two concerts and a series of masterclasses.
José Luis Merlin has played as a soloist with the Symphonies of Rosario and San Juan in Argentina and has performed chamber music with Frolov Chamber Orchestra, Cuarteto Sudamericano, Buenos Aires, Sudamérica, Sudamericano, Musicámera, del Plata, and the Grupo Merlin.
In September 2014, the city legislature of Buenos Aires declared Merlin “Distinguished Personality of the Culture of the City of Buenos Aires.”
In 2018 José Luis starts his second tour trough Spain with a renowned Argentinian actor Héctor Alterio. The poetic recital is called “Como Hace 3000 Años”. During the performance Héctor Alterio recites his favorite selection of poems by Leon Felipe and Antonio Estéban Agüero meanwhile José Luis Merlin improvises in a sensible manner on the music of Spanish composers as well as playing lot of his own pieces. This recital is managed by Lastra Producciones.