is pleased to present the twenty-fourth annual
Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival®
in cooperation with the fifth annual
James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition
hosted at and with support from the
Cleveland Institute of Music
June 6 - 9, 2024

Review: 11th annual Classical Guitar Weekend: Four Concerts (May 20-22, 2011) by Daniel Hathaway and Mike Telin

[One of] two of the most important annual American classical guitar events
(Classical Guitar Magazine)
From: - May 29, 2011:

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
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