Jason Vieuax, guitar (USA) - Friday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m.


Mauro Giuliani (
        Grand overture 

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
    Lute Suite #1, BWV 996   
        - Prelude (Passaggio-Presto)
        - Allemande
        - Courante    
        - Sarabande    
        - Bourrée
        - Gigue

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
    Rumores de la caleta  
    Capricho Catalan
    Torre Bermeja


Paulo Bellenati (b. 1950)

Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) 
        - Escordio
        - Scherzo
        - Canto
        - Finale

Antônio Jobim (1927–1994)
    A Felicidade

Duke Ellington (1927–1994)
    In A Sentimental Mood

Jason Vieaux performs on a double top guitar by Gernot Wagner, Germany.


Italian guitarist Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) found his greatest success as a stranger in a strange land. He lived in Vienna for thirteen years, establishing himself as a foremost virtuoso in that illustrious musical city. At one point he was chamber virtuoso to Empress Marie-Louise, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, herself an amateur guitarist. (Recently an ornate guitar Giuliani gave her was discovered in a London bank storage room, along with a florid note written in his own hand.) He apparently enjoyed himself immensely in Vienna, siring three illegitimate daughters during his stay. But his time there also had less salacious results. Though he was a master of flashy musical potboilers—something every virtuoso of this era was expected to churn out—he also was intrigued by the distinctly Viennese approach to music. So he set himself to assimilate this more sober and architecturally rigorous style. His Grand Overture is one such piece. Brilliant though it is (Giuliani could hardly be otherwise), it also cleaves to a musical recipe that anyone familiar with Haydn, Mozart, or early Beethoven would recognize.

Though a staunch Lutheran, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was catholic in his aesthetic taste. He tried his hand at almost everything to do with music, save opera. (Some claim, with good cause, that works like his Saint Matthew Passion are actually liturgical operas.) Indeed, it seems he set out to create definitive works in every genre and for every major instrument. His output is astonishing. Nowadays a complete set of his music can easily fill 155 CDs—with collectors kvetching that stuff was left out—and we also know that much else was lost. So it’s not surprising that the guitar benefited from his industry, albeit indirectly with transcriptions of his so called lute music.

His BWV 996 is something of an enigma. It’s Bach’s earliest work for lute, but we’ve no idea why he wrote it. Composers of his time almost always wrote on commission, either for their employer or a wealthy patron. So an early eighteenth century work with no clear financial impetus is an unlikely oddity. Further, lutenists themselves say that much of this suite falls ungratefully on the instrument. Guitarists must tinker with this suite to make it playable. (Julian Bream even offered a version of the the opening movement in which one must retune between the Präludium and its ensuing Presto.) For all its mystery and difficulty, however, this suite’s attractiveness remains undimmed. The Bourrée in particular is wildly popular, and it inspired Paul McCartney’s 1968 song “Blackbird.”

Before his great success with his Iberia published in 1906-08, Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual (1860-1909) penned collections of small but colorful piano pieces evocative of his native Spain. But his apparent nationalism blurs on closer inspection. He spent much of his adult life living outside of Spain. He also had little patience for jingoism, writing in his diary, “the idea of Fatherland can be considered an excusable egotistical sentiment, but never as a virtue.” Further, his popular image often skews from reality. For example, his role as a composer of small works doesn’t entirely jibe with his grander ambitions: he wrote three full scale operas and seven piano sonatas. But perhaps Albéniz would be unperturbed by his reputation as a miniaturist; as he once said: “There is no need to worry about mere size. Sir Isaac Newton was very much smaller than a hippopotamus, but we do not on that account value him less.”

Brazilian guitarist and composer Paulo Bellinati (b. 1950) is also an industrious scholar. He uncovered and recorded the music of Brazilian composer Garoto, and edited a publication of Antonio Jobim’s music arranged for the classical guitar. His infectious piece Jongo won first prize in the 1988 “Carrefour Mondial de la Guitare” in Martinique. Its popularity was sealed when John Williams and Timothy Kain recorded it on their album “The Mantis and the Moon.” A Brazilian dance, the jongo originated as a dance performed by slaves who worked on coffee plantations.

Of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), one might say the guitar was in his blood. Indeed, two of his early piano works, Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2 and Malambo for Piano, Op. 7, explicitly quote the six open strings of the guitar, as if tuning up for what was to follow. Yet despite his affinity for the guitar, he never actually wrote anything for it until late in life. Doubtless he was wary of the guitar’s notorious difficulty for non-players. “Although I had been encouraged to compose for the guitar from the time I was a student, the complexity of the task delayed my creative impulse, even though the guitar is the national instrument of my homeland.”

In 1976, however, Ginastera decided he had delayed long enough. A joint commission arrived from guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Robert Bialek, owner of Discount Record and Book Shop, who wanted to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his store. Noting that much of the guitar repertoire consisted of little pieces, Ginastera set himself to write a four movement tour de force. It was premiered on November 27 in Washington, D.C., by Barbosa-Lima. Although Ginastera later revised the piece in 1981, it was to remain his only work for guitar.

The composer wrote of his guitar sonata: “The first movement is a solemn Prelude, followed by a song which was inspired by Kecua music (Ginastera’s own curious term for 'Quechua,' an indigenous tribe of northwestern Argentina) and which finds its conclusion in an abbreviated repetition of these two elements. Scherzo, which has to be played ‘il piú presto possible,’ is an interplay of shadow and light, nocturnal and magical ambiance, of dynamic contrasts, distant dances, of surrealistic impressions. Canto is lyrical and rhapsodic, expressive and breathless like a love poem. Finale is a quick spirited rondeau which recalls the strong bold rhythms of the music of the pampas.”

Sometimes called “the Gershwin of Brazil,” Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim (1927–1994) at first saw his future as an architect. But immersed in American jazz records during the 1950s, he soon gravitated to nightclubs and recording studios. Indeed, throughout his life he preferred the recording studio to the rigors of touring. (A Youtube search turns up historic studio performances; his classic Águas de Março with Elis Regina is a delightful example.) Jobim’s distinctive, almost bland and vibratoless voice became the emblem of Brazilian cool. A Felicidade, written in 1959 and originally a gentle ballade, takes on a new urgency in Roland Dyens ingenious arrangement.

Raised in Washington, D.C., by solidly middle-class parents, Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974) was groomed to succeed in a land that offered small opportunity for African-Americans. He cultivated a smooth and regal style in both speech and behavior, something that inspired a childhood friend to dub him “Duke.” The nickname stuck. In spite of the odds stacked against him, Ellington rose to become a giant of American jazz. Through it all, he was an enigmatic man. Interviews revealed him as articulate and brilliant, one who spoke perceptively on any subject. Yet he could be prickly, hoarded credit from his musical collaborators, and was a recurrent womanizer. These flaws Ellington meticulously veiled, doubtless knowing his success could easily slip away. He maintained this aura to the end, even when changing musical taste passed him by and left him in financial want. When he died of pneumonia, he owed more than half a million dollars in back taxes. Biographer Terry Teachout described Ellington as “a riddle without an answer, an unknowable man who hid behind a high wall of ornate utterances and flowery compliments that grew higher as he grew older."

- Tom Poore*

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