presents the 14th annual
Cleveland International
Classical Guitar Festival
Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1, 2014
in cooperation with the
Cleveland Institute of Music
Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival (formerly Classical Guitar Weekend) - Reviews

2013 Classical Guitar Weekend Review
From - May 29, 2013:

Classical Guitar Weekend at CIM — Five solo recitals (May 23-25)
by Daniel Hathaway, James Flood & Mike Telin

Though packed with lectures, panel discussions, exhibits and master classes, Classical Guitar Weekend, sponsored by Guitars International, centers around a series of solo recitals by international artists. This year’s fetival — the thirteenth — featured Cleveland’s own Jason Vieaux, assisted by three instrumentalists from the Cleveland Institute of Music, the debut of Korean guitarist Jiyeon Kim, the American artist Colin Davin, the Belgian guitarist Raphaëlla Smits in her fourth appearance at the festival, and British-born artist Jonathan Leathwood. The five players offered the Mixon Hall audiences a wide range of repertory to ponder and enjoy.

Jason Vieaux

Representing the host of Classical Guitar Weekend, Cleveland Institute of Music guitar professor Jason Vieaux sometimes caps off the weekend’s activities, but this time was the headliner for Thursday evening’s opening concert. After playing a sweet and beautifully layered performance of Fernando Sor’s Bagatellle, op. 44, no. 3, Vieaux told the audience that he had decided to revisit repertory he had played over the years at Classical Guitar Weekend, after working on some of the pieces on the program with students and recalling how much he liked them.

Manuel Ponce’s sunny Sonatina Meridional followed. Campo featured rhythmic flair, suppleness and clear articulation, while Copla was soulful and Fiesta full of color contrasts.

Vieaux continued his program with Sor’s Fantaisie élégiaque, op. 59, a memorial to the composer’s student, Charlotte Beslay. The introduction, an ornate and expressive recitative and aria with operatic roots, led to a reverent, sad Marche Funèbre which Vieaux played at an exquisitely measured pace. His concentration and intensity obviously inspired the audience, who hung on every expressive note.

After intermission, Vieaux was joined by violinist Jinjoo Cho and cellist Melissa Kraut for Piazzolla’s Oblivion. An elaborate guitar cadenza set up a fine performance of this well-known nuevo tango work which needed just a bit more sultry, mercurial passion to sound truly Argentine. Niccolò Paganini’s delightful Terzetto Concertante brought Kraut back to the stage along with violist Jeffrey Irvine. Though marred by intonation problems in the strings and a few unlucky page turns, the Paganini and the Piazzolla revealed Jason Vieaux to be a first-class chamber musician — a role more guitarists should explore. His big moment in the Trio of the Menuetto was delicious. —D.H.

Jiyeon Kim

Korean-born Jiyeon Kim, a former student of Jason Vieaux at CIM and now continuing studies with him at Curtis, made her concert debut on Friday afternoon with a fascinating program almost equally divided between the usual classical guitar suspects and some surprises. Kim began with an improvisation on a Korean folk song, Arirang, which vacillated among a number of styles both Eastern and Western and sometimes had her busy playing with tuning pegs.

Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina, op. 52 began with a pleasant ramble in the country that morphed into a more dissonant, contemplative mood before returning to its original musical inspirations.

A new work, Riho Esko Maimets’s .:i:.:ili:.:i:. (pronounced eye-illy-eye) was described by its composer (who was in the audience) as a) evoking both the physical effort involved in climbing a mountain and the repose one feels on reaching the summit and b) “a percussion piece for the guitar.” The first part was indeed rhythmic and labored, with caesuras (rest stops?) every now and again alternating with slides. The second section was calm and pointillistic.

In other works by Ponce (Theme, variations and finale), Regondi (Introduction et Caprice), Tarrega (Lagrima, Adelita and La Alborada) and Mangoré (Un Sueño en la Floresta), Kim showed herself to be a rising artist with fine technique and an engaging stage presence. As she becomes more experienced, no doubt she’ll learn how to play with more presence in a large room. The audience gave her a warm reception and Kim responded with an assured performance of the first piece she had ever learned, Albeniz’s Asturias. —DH

Colin Davin

Now a resident of New York City, Cleveland native Colin Davin returned to his hometown to perform on Friday evening. Davin is in his twenties, and it is rare to have such a young guitarist achieve the level of sophistication and refinement that was on display throughout his distinguished program.

Opening the recital with his own transcription of the Violin Sonata no. 3, BWV 1005, Davin journeyed through the meditative opening Adagio with care and sensitivity, assuring that each section was given its own character. He handled the massive, 10-minute-long Fugue with perfection, executing its seemingly endless counterpoint with precision, musical intelligence and passion, and expertly delineating all its sections so that the audience’s mind was never allowed to wander.

Bach’s final movements for solo instrument usually feature a rush of merciless and unremitting sixteenth notes at a lively tempo. Davin met the challenge here with style and ease. Contrasting and deftly alternating between loud and soft dynamics, Davin delivered an exciting performance of the closing movement which almost had a “swing’ to it. He pulled key melodic notes out of the mix of fast sixteenths while skillfully allowing the remaining notes to serve their rhythmic and harmonic functions. At the conclusion of the Bach, and after the generous applause died down, Davin exclaimed “That’s hard!”

Joan Tower’s Clocks is full of colors and moods as it imitates a vast array of devices from the majestic clock tower to the tiny pocket watch. In order to aurally project images, one has to have not only a beautiful tone, but a fine control of tone colorings. Davin does this excellently, enlivening the listener’s imagination. In fact, the imagination is a driving force in Davin’s musical mission. Frequently he looks away from the instrument to seemingly gaze at an abstract scene from his imagination, as if to cajole his fingers into reproducing what he sees in his mind’s eye — and it works for him.

In the second half Davin gave a passionate premiere of Erin Rogers’s Another Sky, which was composed specifically for him. This was followed by another Bach work, the Cello Suite no. 6, BWV 1012. The Allemande was beautifully rendered at a slow tempo and tightly packed with lovely, well-shaped ornaments. The Courante danced and affected some compelling color contrasts. The folk-like Gavotte II was playful. Davin played the opening bars of the Gigue at a low dynamic level, a small example of the originality and boldness that characterized the evening. The remainder of the movement was a frolic as a gigue should be, and played with mastery.

Davin closed with a 20th century classic, Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland, op. 70, based on John Dowland’s lute-song Come, Heavy Sleep. Davin convincingly captured the various moods of each of the variations, playing pristine single lines, fast scales and cleanly executed repeated notes. The unforgettable eighth variation features a descending, foreboding bass line that is repetitive and unrelenting. Davin gradually built up this lengthy section with increasing intensity, then moved into the peaceful and unapologetically tonal final section (the actual theme) without veering from a soft dynamic level, another bold stroke that was accomplished to a beautiful and mesmerizing effect.

Davin responded to a standing ovation with two encores. With both his parents present, he first tenderly played his mother’s favorite, Augustin Barrios’s Julia Florida, and came out again to play an exciting kicker, his father’s favorite, Misionera (arranged by Jorge Morel). —JF

Raphaëlla Smits

Belgian guitarist Raphaëlla Smits chose a demanding and serious program for her Saturday afternoon recital: bookended with elegies by Sor and Mertz, the torso of the recital comprised two large works by J.S. Bach in her own transcriptions for solo guitar.

Sor’s Fantaisie élégiaque, op. 59 was still fresh in the ears of many from Jason Vieaux’s performance on Thursday, but Smits put her own distinctive mark on the work. Playing on a mellow Mirecourt instrument made in the 1830s and restored by Bernhard Kresse, she produced a complex sound abounding in color contrasts. Her Marche Funèbre was a relatively lively procession infused with layers of lyricism.

J.S. Bach’s Partita secunda for solo violin gave Smits further opportunities to demonstrate her mastery of color. The dreamy Allemande, rhythmic but supple Sarabande and introverted Sarabanda led to a clear, flowing and dextrous Giga. Then, as one of Bach’s most masterful afterthoughts, came the immense Ciaccona.

If you can forget you ever heard the Chaconne played on the violin, it makes a fine effect on the guitar in the right hands, and Smits’s were the right hands for the task. Beginning dead slow and solemnly, she paced its thirty permutations masterfully, fleetly fingering runs in its more active variations. So intensely did she engage the audience that a small memory slip had the effect of a transient earthquake, but she recovered her composure immediately.

Bach followed intermission as well (after a stage manager had reminded the audience about noise-making devices — possibly a cell phone had distracted Smits earlier). The cello suite BWV 1011 was delightful, its prelude special for Smits’s articulations and dialogues with herself in different voicings, its Gavottes en Rondeaux arresting for their wild middle section.

Smits inadvertently transposed her final pair of selections by Johann Kaspar Mertz, playing Le Romantique, Grand Fantaisie before the Elegy, but the new order of things seemed just right, and ending on an elegiac note was not a problem. She offered Sor’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart, op. 9 in response to applause that was as warm as her sound had been throughout this program. —DH

Jonathan Leathwood

During the final recital of the weekend, British guitarist Jonathan Leathwood offered up a fascinating mix of compositions that included music by composers whose lives were significantly impacted by the Spanish Civil War, along with works of Bach, Villa-Lobos and a premiere by British composer Stephen Goss.

The music of Bach made appearances during three of the five recitals during this year’s Classical Guitar Weekend, and it was interesting to hear how each performer approached the composer’s music. Leathwood gave a musically deliberate performance of the Lute Suite in E minor, BWV 996, playing with clear articulations during the Courante. His performance of the Sarabande was exquisite.

The first composers represented as part of the Spanish Civil War subtext were Manuel de Falla and Roberto Gerhard; the first went into exile in Argentina and the later to Cambridge, England. De Falla’s Homenaje: le Tombeau de Claude Debussy is a lovely tribute to the composer’s mentor, Debussy, and followed directly by Gerhard’s Fantasia, created the illusion of the shared tragedy caused by the war.

The back story of Sonatina after a Concerto by Stephen Goss may be more interesting then the work itself, at least in the composer’s arrangement for solo guitar. After completing the concerto, the composer arranged the middle and first movements for solo guitar and Leathwood asked him the do the same for the third and final movement. The movement titles, Circle Line after the London underground line of the same name, Marylebone Elegy, an homage to a young British guitarist who had recently died of leukemia, and Canary Wharf, an area of London located on the West India docks, all make interesting subjects. However, even in Leathwood’s extremely gifted hands the work feels somewhat incomplete and leaves one wanting to hear it performed as a concerto with orchestra.

Leathwood displayed his technical ability during studies #5, #8, and #10 from Villa-Lobos’s 12 Studies for Guitar, and during Catalonian guitarist, teacher and composer Miguel Llobet’s arrangements of Three Catalonian Folk Songs, Leathwood created sublime musical phrases; each song became a tone poem in miniature.

Shot and killed during the Spanish Civil War, composer Antonio José’s Sonata concluded the program. An episodic composition in four movements, the piece is full of rich harmonies that are, like the de Falla, influenced by the music of France, especially Ravel. Jonathan Leathwood made easy work of the opening Allegro moderato’s complex rhythms. He tossed off the Minueto with panache. The Pavana triste was passionate, and the final ended the sonata with flair.

Leathwood, acknowledging the appreciative ovation from the audience, treated them to a final hearing of the music of Bach. A fitting way to conclude his recital and the 2013 edition of Classical Guitar Weekend. —MT

2012 Classical Guitar Weekend Review:

Classical Guitar Weekend June 1-3, 2012 at the Cleveland Institute of Music
by James Flood, Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

The twelfth annual Classical Guitar Weekend was distinguished by four outstanding concerts by Pavel Steidl, Gaëlle Solal, SoloDuo and Jason Vieaux with soprano Jung Eun Oh; three excellent and informative lectures by luthier Bernhard Kresse, guitarist Jonathan Fitzgerald and record producer Alan Bise; and record audiences showed up for performances, talks and master classes over a three-day span from June 1-3 at the Cleveland Institute of Music. For the first time, Classical Guitar Weekend took on the air of a real festival chock full of delights for guitar enthusiasts as well as for music lovers in general, for which artistic director Armin Kelly deserves an up-front round of applause.

Recital by Pavel Steidl

Pavel Steidl chose his Friday evening program with a particular instrument in mind: a reproduction of a nineteenth century Stauffer instrument made by Bernhard Kresse. In an interview, Kresse contrasted it to the modern guitar as “the difference between a limousine and a sports car with the same engine.” Indeed, Steidl took us on a brisk and thrilling road trip through music by Johann Kaspar Mertz, Niccolò Paganini, J.S. Bach, Fernando Sor and Zani de Ferranti, showing us how well the smaller, peppier instrument responded in the areas of color, speed, articulation and ornamentation.

Pavel Steidl is an animated performer who uses his hands, his feet and his facial expressions as well as the guitar to put the essence of the music across. The Mertz pieces featured colorful harmonies, toccata-like gestures, lyrical stretches and cheerful, humorous moments that Steidl played brilliantly and footnoted with his body motions.

On the printed page, eight two-movement sonatas interleaved with two Ghiribizzi or sketches looked like a shopping list, but in Steidl's hands, each of Paganini's little pieces found its own attractive character. Steidl's dynamic extremes, endlessly varied articulations, playful rhythms, vast palette of colors, musical chuckles and shrugs, and pickups amusingly isolated from their downbeats kept everything fresh and new. When high notes seemed to suspend themselves in space, Steidl looked comically at the ceiling.

I overheard some chatter from my neighbors wondering if Steidl would extend his theatrics to Bach's famous Chaconne after intermission. Keeping a brisk, steady tempo throughout the variations, Steidl's performance was forthright and he let the eloquence of the music speak for itself without unnecessary gestures or interpretive impositions beyond well considered dynamic contrasts. The piece came off with a cohesion and inevitability that violinists would do well to imitate.

Five little minuets by Sor cleansed the palette before de Ferranti's Fantasie Caprice, an eventful, expressive piece with many vocal qualities. An instantaneous standing ovation followed, and Pavel Steidl gave the large audience two encores: a prelude by the wife of his teacher followed by a response of his own — an improvisatory, bluegrassy number with fancy picking, whistles and clicks that eventually vanished into silence. This was a concert that engaged the listener from beginning to end. —D.H.

Lecture by Bernhard Kresse

Bernhard Kresse, an architect turned luthier who plies his craft in Köln, Germany, gave us a fascinating look at the world of 19th century guitar making in Vienna as exemplified by the fortunes of Johann Georg Stauffer, whose fine romantic guitars and novel experiments have piqued the interest of builders ever since, and about whom a monumental new book has been recently published (it's gorgeous and commands a price of $300!) Kresse regaled us with stories about finding old instruments at flea markets and on eBay and detailed the research which led to the building of a Stauffer copy for Pavel Steidl, who was on hand to demonstrate its capabilities at closer range than we could hear them in Mixon Hall. —D.H.

Lecture by Jonathan Fitzgerald

CIM graduate Jonathan Fitzgerald neatly compressed a year's worth of lectures into a one-hour presentation entitled “Listening and Re-listening: Opening Your Ears to New Sounds”. His beautifully-organized PowerPoint presentation and audio clips took his audience through the various schools of post-tonal music of the past century and gave succinct advice about how both performers and audiences can get their ears around the unfamiliar: Listen and Re-listen! His comparison of unfamiliar music to acquired tastes in food and drink (think smoky, single-malt scotches, espresso and stinky blue cheeses) was priceless. —D.H.

Recital by Gaëlle Solal

Gaëlle Solal presented a brilliantly programmed and expertly performed recital on Saturday afternoon in Mixon Hall that was so full of spirit and energy that on a couple of occasions she literally skipped onto the stage. This exuberance, combined with her engaging commentary, added up to a most enjoyable afternoon.

Ms. Solal described her recital program as a labyrinth of stories that she hoped the audience would be surprised by as we traveled from Spain to Turkey and on to Brazil, a mix that is not usually mixable. Maybe she is right — at first glance, perhaps pairing the contemporary sounds of French composer Maurice Ohana with the classic Iberian sounds of Isaac Albeniz might seem strange, but in the hands of this very gifted French guitarist, Ms. Solal proved that opposites do indeed attract.

Ohana's 20 Avril (Planh) is an elegy to an enemy of the Franco regime who was executed in 1963. His Tiento is a contemporary take on the time-honored Folia. The first half also included Albéniz's Pavana Capricho and the well-known Torre Bermeja, both originally piano works. The set closed with José María Gallardo del Rey's flamenco-inspired Aires de Seville. The odd man out was the traditional Turkish tune, Drama Köprüsü, a mesmerizing piece describing a bandit characterized as “the Turkish Robin Hood.”

The second half was dedicated to Brazilian music arranged by the performer that in the end left you feeling like you had been at Ms. Solal's beach party. Not to say that any of this was bubble gum music — it was infectiously wonderful. Its three groups included 1) music of the composer-guitarist nicknamed Guinga, 2) Gismonti's Palhaço and Nazareth's Brejeiro, 3) Garoto's Jorge do Fusa and Lamentos do Morro with the delicate Gismonti tune Agua e vinho in between. The concert closed appropriately with an invitation to a party: Marco Pereira's Num pagode em Planaltina. This recital advanced the festival feel of Classical Guitar Weekend by incorporating an entirely different style of repertory.

Ms. Solal noted that it had taken her six years to make it to Cleveland after her first invitation. We hope she'll return soon! —M.T.

Recital by SoloDuo

Anyone who made it to the third recital of the Classical Guitar Weekend to hear the guitar duo SoloDuo likely would have considered themselves blessed to have attended an unforgettable performance. Comprised of guitarists Lorenzo Micheli (a world-class soloist in his own right) and Matteo Mela, SoloDuo poured forth music of passion, beauty, and refinement from start to finish.

It's hard to imagine duo-playing on any instrument getting any better than this. SoloDuo's magic is not due merely to two classical guitarists getting together because of their formidable playing skills, but rather, due to the unlikely occurrence that two accomplished musical soul-mates happened to have met. The best way to describe their ensemble is oneness of heart and mind. Micheli and Mela share a unique musical temperament and vision, and thoroughly know each other's playing. One gets the impression that these two don't merely learn scores on their own and then meet to rehearse, but that their rich and supremely unified interpretations are born through many hours playing together; that it is primarily a process of discovery within these many hours, patiently allowing their conceptions to emerge.

While their performance was heart-felt, almost spiritual, they fused this spontaneity with very clear decisions regarding tone, dynamics, phrasing, articulation, and the relative importance between parts in a given section. And these were executed with perfection, along with very clean playing in general. Gorgeous and sometimes magical tone-coloring, beautiful and sensitive shaping of lines, along with a wide pallet of emotions, filled the program. Another notable quality was their remarkable consistency in plucking strings at exactly the same time. Not an easy thing in guitar duets given the plucked string's quick attack and decay.

SoloDuo scattered throughout the program six of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's 24 prelude and fugues from the Les Guitares Bien Temperées, a kind of homage to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. A composition like this should help to raise awareness of the breadth of this composer who finds little recognition today outside of the guitar world. Their performance of a transcription of Debussy's universally-loved Clair de lune was thoroughly enchanting. Perhaps the most remarkable offering of the evening was their performance of the transcription of Bach's keyboard dance suite, French Suite No. 5, BWV 816. SoloDuo played breathlessly through the first 6 movements allowing a break between each movement of what seemed at the most one second. Their interpretation was intense and varied, lively and natural. Their concluding work, Giuliani's Variations Concertantes was met with an enthusiastic standing ovation, as was their encore of Piazzolla. —J.F.

Lecture by Alan Bise

As classical producer for Cleveland's Azica records, Alan Bise is in a unique position to talk about “The Recording Process: From Artistic Vision to Retail Sale,” a no-nonsense lecture that put real prices on every step of the way from concept to distribution but was also full of colorful anecdotes about the vagaries of finding recording venues and conducting sessions. Count on spending (or raising) about $15,000 if a CD is one of your dreams, and be very, very prepared when you step in front of the microphones. (On the way to Bise's lecture, we stopped to admire — but not touch — an exhibit of contemporary classical guitars from makers around the world from the sale collection of Guitars International). —D.H.

Recital by Jason Vieaux and Jung Eun Oh

As is customary, Classical Guitar Weekend ended with a recital by Cleveland's (and CIM's) own Jason Vieaux. Pride of place, but it can be a tough assignment to play at the end of a long weekend of guitar music. Vieaux dispelled the possibility of any musical fatigue with his decision to feature music by John Dowland and Benjamin Britten linked by Britten's Nocturnal, and to invite soprano Jung Eun Oh along for a set of Dowland lute songs as well as two groups of Britten songs.

Vieaux opened with a well-voiced, healthy-sounding performance of Dowland's seventh fantasia, then joined Oh in amiable readings of Can she excuse my wrongs; Flow, my tears; Come again, sweet love; and Come, heavy sleep.

The last Dowland song is the basis for Britten's Nocturnal, but the composer deconstructs it in eight variations before the whole song appears at the end. It's rather chilling music — musings about death from an insomniac — and Jason Vieaux played it with stunning expressiveness and a fine sense of pace.

After intermission, Vieaux and Oh teamed up again for Britten's Songs from the Chinese and six folk song arrangements, separated by two virile and colorful dances from a non-doleful Dowland, Queen Elizabeth's Galliard and My Lady Hunsdon's Alman.

Both Britten groups were delightful settings of bits of poetry, sometimes humorous, often epigrammatic, and redolent of the composer's skill at marrying diatonic tunes with quirky accompaniments. Some inspired chuckles and sometimes outright laughs from the audience. Ms. Oh sang them beautifully with an unerringly clear tone, though crisper diction would have helped the words to come across without having to consult the program insert.

Keep your eyes out for a recording of this repertory — we understand that Jason Vieaux is thinking Britten for his next CD project. —D.H.

2011 Classical Guitar Weekend Review:


Classical Guitar Weekend: Four Concerts (May 20-22, 2011)
by Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

The eleventh annual Classical Guitar Weekend, sponsored by Armin Kelly's Guitars International, brought five internationally recognized artists, guests, and a master luthier to the Cleveland Institute of Music from Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22. The featured artists gave individual recitals and master classes, and Geza Burghardt gave a lecture about the traditional Spanish Method of Guitar Construction. The weekend was educational - and entertaining - for the guitar professional and the guitar curious alike.

The well-attended recitals were held in Mixon Hall - a perfect venue for hearing classical guitar - and the repertory was well documented in extensive program notes written by five esteemed annotators: Sérgio Assad, Colin Davin, Erik Mann, Tom Poore and Asgerdur Sigurdardottir. We attended all four recitals and caught one of the masterclasses.

Irina Kulikova (Daniel Hathaway)

Russian guitarist Irina Kulikova's opening recital on Friday evening began with somewhat tentative performances of works by J.S. Bach, Fernando Sor and Johann Kaspar Mertz - as though Ms. Kulikova was still adjusting to the hall, but she rebounded after intermission with colorful and assured readings of three engaging works by Augustín Barrios Mangoré, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and José Maria Gallardo del Rey.

The recital was organized in strictly chronological order, beginning with a reworking of J.S. Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G which showed Ms. Kulikova to be an elegant player with a fine sense of rhythm and ornamentation but who might have taken a longer view of phrases - some notes in the melodic lines tended to disappear. Sor's Fantasia, op. 30 and Mertz's Fantasie Hongroise also needed more melodic shape, but the Mertz ended with a remarkable arpeggio that seized my attention.

After a long intermission, Ms. Kulikova seemed re-energized, giving us an agile performance of Mangoré's sentimental Vals, op. 8, no. 4 and a characterful version of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Sonata (Omaggio a Boccherini). Its charmingly neo-classical opening Allegro was followed by an Andantino featuring surprising changes of texture, a Minuet completely evocative of Spain and a toccata-like finale.

Before her final piece, Gallardo del Rey's California Suite, Ms. Kulikova spoke to the audience, noting that she had had a long plane trip and earlier had been completely concentrating on the music. She told the touching story of how the composer of the last work had given the young artist her first good guitar when he met her as a 12-year old in Russia and thus had made her career possible. The California Suite was a charming take on the baroque suite with a perpetual motion Prelude, a gorgeous Allemande, a brooding Sarabande and, rather than a gigue, a concluding waltz. She responded to warm applause with a curious little atmospheric piece (an Etude?) which nobody around us could identify.

Beijing Guitar Duo (Mike Telin)

The Beijing Guitar Duo's recital on Saturday afternoon was a musically stunning lesson in ensemble playing. Like concentric circles, Meng Su and Yameng Wang performed from a common center: articulations, tonal colors, crescendos, decrescendos, whether jointly or individually, were perfectly matched, and their intonation was impeccable.

Their performance from memory of J.S. Bach's Chaconne from the solo violin Partita in d minor, BWV 1004, arranged for two guitars by Ulrich Stacke from the Busoni piano transcription was intimate and brilliantly paced. In Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Sontina Canonica, Op. 196, the Duo brought out the interesting counterpoint beautifully. Sergio Assad's Maracaip, composed for and dedicated to the Beijing Guitar Duo, is written in two parts, Wistful Rider, based on a five-note motive, and Crab Walk, which depicts a crab walking on the beach based on a dance which has its origins in the northeast region of Brazil. Comprised of four dance movements, Radames Gnattali's Suite Retratos, originally written for mandolin, choro group and string orchestra, brought a beautiful recital to an elegant conclusion.

The middle portion of the afternoon allowed Meng Su and Yameng Wang to demonstrate their musical individuality. Ending the first half, Ms. Su's captivating performance of Sergio Assad's Aquarelle brought out the underlying Samba rhythms in magical fashion and Ms. Wang began the second half with Carlo Domeniconi's The Bridge of the Birds, which she performed with aplomb.

At the beginning stages of their professional careers, the Beijing Guitar Duo certainly has a very bright future ahead of them.

Zoran Dukic (Daniel Hathaway)

Croatian guitarist Zoran Dukic made a passionate splash at the beginning of his Saturday evening recital when he brought his big, singing tone and sense of color to Antonio José's Sonata, a four movement work with an arresting Pavana triste and toccata-like finale which ended in an impressive jangle of chords. In Miguel Llobet's four Catalan Folksongs, Mr. Dukic explored a wide range of dynamics and moods, and showed his mastery of the Spanish style in an eloquent performance of Manuel Ponce's Sonatina Meridional.

In the second half, Mr. Dukic took us into both familiar and uncharted territory with pieces by Atanas Ourkouzounov, Agustín Barrios Mangoré, Astor Piazzolla and Dusan Bogdanovic. Ourkouounov's Sonata No. 1 brought guitar percussion into play, while three pieces by Mangoré paid homage to Bach (the Preludio), folklorica (the Caazapá) and the art song (Choro de Saudade). Piazzolla's Invierno Porteño was characteristically dark and moody, his Adios Nonino flashy. Bogdanovic's Six Balkan Miniatures took Mr. Dukic into the tortured ethnic history of his home region - each piece was written to depict a province in war-torn Yugoslavia and Mr. Dukic brought out their individual characters with deep understanding and flair. Called back for an encore, he noted that perhaps there had been enough "heavy Balkan music," and gave the enthusiastic audience a dreamy, lutelike performance of the third movement of Bach's first violin sonata, structured as a long crescendo and decrescendo. Brilliant.

Jason Vieaux with Yolanda Kondonassis and Joan Kwuon (Mike Telin)

The concluding recital of the weekend was played by master musician Jason Vieaux, who was joined by two Cleveland Institute of Music colleagues, harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and violinist Joan Kwuon. Mr. Vieaux began the afternoon with Bach's Lute Suite in e, BWV 996. As we have come to expect from his performances, he interpreted the prelude and the succeeding dance movements exquisitely, allowing Bach's inner lines and harmonic progressions to sing out in all their eloquence. Ms. Kondonassis proved to be a first-class collaborator in Alan Hovhaness Spirit of Trees: Sonata for Harp and Guitar. The composer's repetitive style, learned from Oriental models, could in the hands of lesser artists become monotonous, but this performance put you into a trance you hoped would not end.

Following intermission, Mr. Vieaux played the world premiere of Dan Visconti's Devil's Strum, a bluesy and literally foot-stomping piece written for the performer, which utilizes extended techniques and like its dedicatee is full of musical personality. Mr. Vieaux captivated the packed house with his dramatic performance of the new work.

The concert concluded with Astor Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango, which traces the traditional music of Buenos Aires from its origins in the Bordello to the present day (or at least Piazzolla's day). Violinist Joan Kwuon made easy work of some difficult passages and captured the elusive Argentine spirit. Mr. Vieaux rewarded the audience's enthusiastic ovation with yet another expertly played tango.

A year after first hearing him, I continue to be impressed with Jason Vieauxs powers of communicating with an audience without saying a word. It's a quality that is inborn and can't be learned.

Published on May 24, 2011

2010 Classical Guitar Weekend Reviews:

A Musical Journey: Classical Guitar Weekend May, 2010


by John F. Dana

Two years ago it began snowing on Friday afternoon. It was late March. I was driving Jonathan Leathwood and 'cellist Rohan de Saram to a local church in Cleveland for their sound check, and the rental seemed to handle well enough. By 7:00 that evening it was coming down hard, but I felt confident we could make the hall; after the concert, well that's what cabs are for. By Saturday noon the snow was piling up at the rate of 2" an hour; we ended up breaking trail from Glidden House through knee-high snow carrying Nigel North's lutes and music to Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Fast forward to concert time: Elizabethan lute; intermission; Weiss and Bach on theorbo - all this against a three story backdrop of glass with the snow swirling wildly against the trees and shrubs. It was pure magic.

Back to Glidden House to park the lutes, music and concert duds, then next door for dinner. Despite the weather, the restaurant was humming; we brought some tables together and invited a lone diner to move her table over to join us. As it turns out she's a fan, had attended the concert, and considered the forced camaraderie "every concert goer's dream!." Nigel reminisced about being snowed in at a church in the English countryside for three days after a concert; Jonathan reminisced about having, as a youth, attended a concert by Nigel which cemented his determination to be a musician; and Rohan reminisced about being at CBS in Manhattan back in the 60's hanging out with Glen Gould.

Guitar Weekend ["GW"] now happens in late May, flowering shrubs not snow, but the magic remains and this three day festival is still "every concert goer's dream." Last May's GW brought together Nigel North, lute; Daniel Lippel, guitar with Tony Arnold, soprano; Duo Melis, guitars; and Jason Vieaux, who along with heading the CIM guitar department performs around 50 recitals a year. Also present was Andrea Tacchi, master luthier from Florence, Italy.

Much as last May's Dan Lippel concert was conceived as "an intensely personal musical journey," the GW selection committee consistently invites virtuoso musicians of the highest order to perform recitals which journey widely across our chosen instrument's vast musical landscape. Collegiality is crucial at GW: the performers remain for the entire weekend, giving master classes, attending each other's concerts, and joining each evening after the final recital with student participants for a shared dinner.

Some of last May's highlights included Nigel North playing a brilliant all Dowland recital. Fast forward two days to Nigel's master class with the lutenist insightfully coaching a CIM guitar student on how to inject more music into guitarist/composer Barrios's "La Catredal." As Nigel said, "Bach certainly didn't know Barrios, but Barrios knew Bach." The quintessential GW recipe: take one part virtuoso, add two giants of the repertoire, stir in a talented student at the beginning of his career, add a dollop of fascinated onlookers and shake vigorously.

Dan Lippel's guitars (a Stauffer reproduction by Bernhard Kresse and a contemporary instrument by Robert Ruck), with Tony Arnold's golden voice, presented an emotionally rich, extended song cycle combining Schubert works and contemporary songs by Peter Gilbert (a CIM alum.) and Judah Adashi (world premiere). Lippel also offered the world premiere of Vineet Shende's "Suite in Raag Maarva" (with the composer attending), combining Hindustani musical forms with traditional western classical music; sitar into guitar.

Duo Melis played an exciting, fast-paced concert ranging from Spanish to Argentine to Italian and French Baroque. The Duo is noteworthy for brilliantly executed passages, at remarkable speed and articulation, without sacrificing musicality for virtuosity. Their artfully synchronized playing, with gorgeous tone, brought extended ovations.

Attending GW master classes has proved invaluable. Two unanticipated benefits are getting to know the performers in a relaxed, interactive setting, and the students as they play a different piece in each master class. They are young, extremely talented musicians at the beginnings of their careers; their enthusiasm, at least, is catching, if not their growing virtuosity. Jason Vieaux' class deserves special mention, not just for his insightful teaching but for its ambitious real time audio video link with students at the Royal College of Music in London - an exciting experience and a real vision of how teaching at such a high level can be made more freely available.

Mixed in with all this guitar playing was Andrea Tacchi's artful and heartfelt discussion of guitar making. He began commuting yearly to Paris as a young man and was fortunate to be taken under the wing of Robert Bouchet. Andrea shared anecdotes (Bouchet, even in his 80's had a sharp wit and loved playing slight of hand magic card tricks), but he also shared the unanticipated concept that the Maestro's handwritten and illustrated "Cahiers d'Atelier" embody the only written account of the traditional Spanish method of making guitars. Andrea then described the development of his Coclea model, and various changes he has made in both design and order of assembly to reproduce better the sound he hears in his head. Echoes of Nigel North's advice: Tape your playing so that over time it grows to mirror more exactly what you hear in your mind's ear - Plato merging into Aristotle; the ideal becoming real in performed music.

Finally, to cap things off, a magnificent closing concert by Jason Vieaux on his well known Gernot Wagner guitar - one last standing ovation, gracious thank you by Jason to all and a surprise encore - a crowd-pleasing arrangement of Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood, performed on Tacchi's "Scrjabin" guitar, the poster child for GW 2010 with its intricately interwoven collage rosette, combining the past with the new in unexpected harmony.

Pure Magic indeed!


Concert Reports
Classical Guitar Weekend: Jason Vieaux at Kulas Hall (May 23, 2010)

by Mike Telin

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Guitars International, in cooperation with the Cleveland Institute of Music, presented the 10th annual Classical Guitar Weekend. For the 2010 edition, the organizers once again put together a lineup of outstanding performers and clinicians including Daniel Lippel, Duo Melis (Susana Prieto and Alexis Muzurkis) as well as Nigel North, renaissance lute, and for the first time had a luthier included as part of the activities in the person of Italian master guitar maker, Andrea Tacchi, who also presented a lecture on the evolution of the classical guitar. As always, the weekend's program contained well-written scholarly program notes for each recital. If you were a performer or simply a lover of the classical guitar, this would be the weekend for you. And not surprisingly, an extremely large and enthusiastic audience descended upon CIM's Kulas Hall on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 for the final concert of the weekend given by the extraordinary master of the instrument, Jason Vieaux.

Vieaux, who is also head of CIM's guitar department, possesses that rare gift of appearing to be completely at ease both as a performer, but also in the relaxed manner in which he addresses the audience. Following the long welcoming applause, Vieaux wasted no time getting down to musical business as he began the afternoon with the Grand Overture, Op 61 of nineteenth century guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani. Producing a large rich tone, clean technique and a variety of colors, Jason Vieaux made this spritely piece a great recital opener. Prior to beginning the Lute Suite #3 in a minor BWV 995, Vieaux explained that this piece was actually an adaptation of an adaptation, as it first appeared as the 5th unaccompanied cello suite, and was later arranged for lute. Vieaux' approach, though rhythmically straightforward, clearly acknowledged that this was a series of dances. He filled them with musical nuance. The Sarabande was stunningly beautiful. Concluding the first half of the program was the lyrical Juila Florida and the lively Vals, Op. 8, No 3 of Agustin Barrios. Vieaux paced both of the short works beautifully.

Following intermission came the baroque suite inspired Quatre Pieces Breves by Swiss composer Frank Martin. In the hands of a lesser artist, this piece could easily become episodic, but Vieaux' technique allowed him to make the difficult shifts that the piece demands without every losing sight of the musical line. Cuban composer Leo Brouwer's programmatic work, El Decameron Negro is based on a West African tale about a warrior who is expelled from his tribe for wanting to play the harp instead of fighting. In the end everything works out, and he is welcomed back and permitted to play the harp. Vieaux told the story while demonstrating the series of Leitmotivs that represent the work's characters and events so well that while listening to his performance I found myself visualizing the action. The final piece on the program was "Sevilla" from the Suite Española of Isaac Albeniz. Upon conclusion, Vieaux was greeted with a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience, who refused to leave until they had heard one more piece. Returning to the stage with a guitar built by Andrea Tacchi, we were treated to Vieaux' own arrangement of Duke Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood, a perfect ending to a wonderful afternoon of music making.


Concert Reports
Classical Guitar Weekend: lutenist Nigel North at Mixon Hall (May 21, 2010)

by Daniel Hathaway

The first of four artist recitals in last weekend's Classical Guitar Weekend -- presented by Guitars International in cooperation with the Cleveland Institute of Music -- brought not a guitarist but the lutenist Nigel North to the stage of Mixon Hall for an all John Dowland program.

One of the lovely aspects of a festival -- as this weekend surely was -- is the freedom both to explore a range of music based on a theme or to go deep into a certain topic, like the lute songs and solo works of an English composer who was almost exactly William Shakespeare's contemporary. Hearing twenty-six pieces by one composer on a single program might ordinarily send one screaming from the room, but in the case of Elizabethan music as varied in texture and sensibility as Dowland's, it becomes a rare kind of pleasure.

Mr. North, born and educated in England but currently teaching in the early music department at Indiana University, assembled a program of Almains, Lachrimae's, Galliards, Fancye's, Fantasies, In Nomine's, Corantos and songs, grouping them more or less continuously into sets. The performer, almost as soft spoken as his seven course Renaissance Lute (after an instrument from 1590), gave charming spontaneous verbal notes in addition to two full pages of written notes in the program book.

Lute concerts (like clavichord recitals) are problematic. One really should be hearing this music at a distance of no more than ten feet from the player; even in the fine acoustics of Mixon Hall, the sound of a lute is a distant experience. Given that Mr. North is a performer who brings great subtlety and nuance to this repertory, you miss a lot in a concert hall setting.

Nonetheless, and in spite of Dowland's reputation for musical melancholy, this program was full of things to admire and cherish. The Fantasie was rich with dialogues and contrasts, the "battle galliard" called The King of Denmark brought a bit of fury into the first half, and chromatic pieces broke the prevailing mood of dance music from time to time. Mr. North was completely in control of the technique and expressiveness this music requires.

Described in the notes as "a man with a rather difficult complaining character" who nonetheless was praised and honored by his contemporaries, Dowland left a rich legacy of Elizabethan music behind. Thanks to Classical Guitar Weekend for allowing us to immerse ourselves in so much of it in a single concert.
Classical Guitar Weekend May 21-23, 2010

by Dave Conti

The following review first appeared in unedited form on the Classical Guitar Forum - Tuesday, May 25, 2010. It is included here by kind permission of the author:

I went to the Classical Guitar Weekend in Cleveland, Ohio last weekend and all I can say is "wow." I got there on Friday night in time to see Nigel North on the lute play an all Dowland program in the Cleveland Institute of Music's wonderful new Mixon Hall, a great 250 seat acoustically great setting.

Now I love Dowland's work and North is truly first rate; he plays with just the flesh on his right hand and after I adjusted to the delicate sound of the lute it was fantastic. Everyone is always going on about louder and louder guitars but I can say that volume is not everything as his playing was captivating. I found myself being transported back 450 years to Dowland's time and the last piece he played was one of my favorites, "Forlorn Hope Fancy." He also had for sale a box set of 4 cd's of the complete lute music of Dowland for $25.00. This is over 4 hours of music and I considered it a steal and picked it up.

On Saturday morning I went to Andrea Tacchi's power point presentation on guitar lutherie. Now this might only be interesting to guitar geeks but I count myself as one and I found it fantastic. It was over 2 hours with the first hour being about his relationship with Robert Bouchet in Paris and the last hour about his shop in Florence. You could hear the passion he has for the guitar and his quest to continue to try to improve the sound and get it as close as possible to the one he "hears in his head."

Next up was a master class that was free to observers with Jason Vieaux, this was really cool as it was linked to the Royal College of Music in London where there was another Guitar teacher/player whose name escapes me but you could tell he was very, very good and an excellent instructor. They had four students play and the "master" in London would critique the students that played here and Mr. Vieaux would do the same for the students that played in London. This was very interesting and I see this approach being used more as internet connections get faster.

Now a word about Jason Vieaux, this man has a very engaging personality and the way he interacts with students was great. His passion for the guitar, like Andrea Tacchi, was evident. He has a lot of natural charisma and I can see him being able to take the guitar in America to a wide audience. I would love to see him do an album with Bela Fleck or Edgar Meyer and perform at some of the big festivals to showcase the guitar to a wide audience and take the classical guitar to the next level in public awareness since most people, let alone other "regular" guitar players don't know what a great instrument the classical guitar is. Getting to see Jason Vieaux play his Gernot Wagner double top up close in a small room was really neat. This guitar sounded fantastic but of course most of that is the guy behind the wheel. But when he dug in that double top was amazing - lots of tonal variation and dynamics and plenty of volume. He presented plenty of tips and just observing the class was worth the trip as I had plenty to practice when I got home. The students that played were all very good - they reminded me that my synapses respond a little slower than they used to as the students all picked up on suggestions very quickly. (I did grow up in the 70's !)

The last recital I saw was with Daniel Lippel and soprano Tony Arnold. I only got to stay for the first half as I had to high tale it back to Indy. Lippel played on his Robert Ruck guitar and a Bernhard Kresse 19th century Stauffer reproduction. These artists were again first rate musicians and I am sorry I couldn't stay for the second half. The program included Schubert lieder and other songs by Vineet Shende and Judah Adashi arranged in a large over arching song cycle.

The stuff I missed: Dan Lippel master class, Nigel North master class, Duo Melis master class and performance, Contemporary Guitar Exhibit and my biggest regret - not being able to see Vieaux perform. I always seem to miss him - as I was sick when he played in Bloomington not too long ago - but it gives me something to look forward to.

Kudos go to Armin Kelly and the staff at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I am going to block out the entire May weekend next year as there is too much stuff that is wonderful and lot's of it for free! If you are anywhere close make sure you mark Classical Guitar Weekend on your calendar.

Classical Guitar Weekend May 21-23, 2010

by Jim Doyle

This past weekend I traveled two hindred thirty-six miles to University Circle, where the Cleveland Institute of Music is located, to attend the 10th annual Classical Guitar Weekend. I was amidst 4 of the world's finest classical guitarists and top CIMu guitar students. I attended master classes,lectures and recitals during the entire weekend while absorbing some of the area's interesting local attractions. Staying at the Glidden House, which is located next to the CIM, allowed me to walk to all the events. As a result, I never had to start my car the entire weekend. It was very exciting to be around the plethora of students who are seriously studying guitar, and see how enthusiastic they are about their playing!

The weekend began Friday evening with a recital by lutenist Nigel North performing selected pieces by John Dowland. Nigel's playing was as sensitive as his teaching personality that I witnessed later in his master classes. He is passionate about musicianship, listening to the music and being sensitive to how the composers would have wanted their music to be played.

Daniel Lippel, guitarist, and Tony Arnold, soprano, treated the audience on Saturday afternoon to a duet of guitar and voice with music that I had never heard before. I especially liked the world premier of two Indian pieces, "Alap" and "Jhala," by composer Vineet Shende. The songs required in-performance tuning and retuning, and placement of items on the strings to mimic Indian instruments like the sitar.

Saturday evening, Duo Melis, Spanish Guitarist Susan Prieto and Greek Guitarist Alexis Muzurakis, impressed me with a duo recital which I will never forget! I have never in my life seen two guitarists in duet as responsive and connected as these two artists were. Even though there were two performers on stage, the impression was that they played as one instrument. I was on the edge of my seat the whole performance! Susana did something unique in performance that I have never seen before. She sat facing her duo partner instead of facing the audience, watching every move he made. The connectivity and sensitivity were astounding!

The final performance on Sunday afternoon with Jason Vieaux was worth the wait. His tone and calibre of playing is amazing! I had a chance to speak with his father during intermission. I asked him this question: "When Jason was growing up, did you ever think it would lead to this?" He said "absolutely not" and "in the beginning we didn't even know what the classical guitar was!" My favorite work of the evening was Julia Florida by Augustin Barrios. Jason's sensitive interpretation of this work made it come alive as if Barrios himself was there playing.

This was the first time Classical Guitar Weekend had a guitar make give a presentation. The great Italian guitar maker, Andrea Tacchi, gave a lecture on the classical guitar and its origins through the present day. I was especially interested in meeting him, because the soundboard on my guitar came from his workshop, harvested from the French Alps. I left Tacchi'ss presentation thinking about something he had said, "Knowledge is liquid. It takes the shape of the container that holds it." In conclusion, this is the reason why I devote time to travel to educational events like Classical Guitar Weekend. I wish to expose myself to expose myself to great people, the luminaries of this art, and in so doing be uplifted and inspired in my musical journey.