October 26th and 27th, the fourth annual Indiana
University International Guitar Festival and Competition took place in
Bloomington, Indiana. Despite the
Festival’s relatively young age, it is fast becoming one of the premier competitions
in North America. "…It was once
again a joy to participate! I have now been to several others, and I can say
with confidence that yours in Bloomington is by far my favorite”, wrote a past
prize winner. The competition and
festival routinely attracts top-tier competitors from all over the world and
features concerts and master classes by well established artists.
two-day festival was orchestrated by artistic director Maestro Ernesto Bitetti,
and executive director Petar Jankovic and was made possible by the generous
support of Aranjuez strings, the Bloomington Classical Guitar Society, the
Indiana University Office of International Affairs, and Reverie Classical
Maestro Bitetti is the founder and chair of the Indiana
University Guitar Department and Mr. Jankovic is a faculty member at the Jacobs
School of Music as well. Together
their vision and guidance have made the competition a growing success that
shows no signs of dissipating.
This year’s notable events included preliminary, semi-final,
and final rounds of competition that were free and open to the public, master
classes by guest artist Luis Orlandini and Petar Jankovic, two divisions of
youth competition and guest recitals by Matt Palmer and Luis Orlandini.
The open division displayed the talents of 16 competitors
from a variety of countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico, China,
South Korea, Vietnam, and Bulgaria.
After a particularly strong semi-final round, four finalists were named
by the Jury--Ye Eun Lee of South Korea, Bin Hu of China, Misael Barraza Diaz of
Mexico, and Jeremy Collins of the United States.
final round of competition was a dazzling showing of guitar repertoire
benchmarks. The first competitor
to perform was Ye Eun Lee, who impressed the Jury in the semi-final round with
an enviable tremolo technique. For
the finals Lee performed Fantaisie
Hongroise by Johann Kaspar Mertz, Alborada
by Francisco Tárrega, En Los Trigales
by Joaquín Rodrigo and Manuel Ponce’s Sonata
Romántica. Lee’s playing was elegant and articulate; effectively communicating
her musical gestures and emotional sentiments with poise, confidence, and
control. Playing second was Bin
Hu, performing Lob der Thränen by
Franz Schubert and arranged by Johann Kaspar Mertz, and Tres Piezas Españolas by Joaquín Rodrigo. Hu played with a commanding technique and stoicism,
captivating the audience with his pensive interpretations. Hu managed to convey a meditative aura
underscored with shades and hints of tastefully applied power and
delicacy. Following Hu was Misael
Barraza Diaz performing Sonata for Guitar
by Alberto Ginastera and Variaciones
sobre un Tema de Sor by Miguel Llobet. Diaz played with an emotional palette and infectious
conviction that coaxed the audience into a state of empathy with his musical
statements, as well a state of awe at his technical prowess. The genuine sentiment that Diaz plays
with marks him as a great communicator and is punctuated by his formidable
control of the instrument. The
final competitor to perform was Jeremy Collins. Collins elected to play Fandango
from Tres Piezas Españolas by
Joaquín Rodrigo, Elegy by Alan
Rawsthorne, and Introduction and Caprice by
Giulio Regondi. Collins immediately controlled the audience’s attention with
his enormous and beautiful sound.
The pristine clarity, polished technique, and gorgeous sound with which
he plays make him at once a moving and highly entertaining artist with an
undoubtedly great career ahead of him.
a period of painstaking and thorough consideration, the Jury named Misael
Barraza Diaz as first prize winner ($1700). Second prize went to Jeremy Collins ($700), third prize was
awarded to Bin Hu ($500) and fourth to Ye Eun Lee ($300). Diaz was clearly happy with the results
and the overall experience. "The
experience at the festival was great. Bloomington is a very special place, and
I think having a guitar festival there was a great idea. The festival itself
was also nice. Lots of great
guitarists and artists were there and I think everybody got to meet new people
and make new friends throughout it", said Diaz.
two divisions of Youth Competition took place on the morning of the festival’s
final day. The competitors showed
an extraordinary level of playing and gave the audience a glimpse at their promising
futures. In the Junior Youth
Division, first prize was awarded to Kairey Wang, second to Jacob Tan, third to
Yian Wang and fourth to Constantin Chekardzhikov. In the Senior Youth Division, first prize was won by Augustus
Woodrow-Tomizuka ($500), second went to Erica Cha ($300), third went to
Veronica Eres ($200) and fourth went to Clara McLain ($100).
of the Youth competitors collaborated with students of Indiana University’s
pre-college guitar program to form the Guitar Festival Youth Ensemble. Directed by Atanas Tzvetkov, the
ensemble performed works by Vito Nicola Paradiso and Gerardo Matos Rodríguez
prior to the concert given by Matt Palmer.
year, master classes were given by guest artist Luis Orlandini and Petar
Jankovic. Orlandini’s master class
featured competitors from the open division receiving instruction on works by
Giulio Regondi, Joaquín Rodrigo, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Frank Martin. Orlandini’s direction focused on
differentiating musical ideas and emphasizing gestures that are implicit in the
music. Petar Jankovic’s master
class featured contestants from the Senior Youth Division performing works by
Heitor Villa-Lobos and Paolo Bellinati.
Jankovic’s instruction emphasized the importance of recognizing
cello-imitative lines in the Villa-Lobos works, discerning a composer’s
intentions in their music, and quality sound production.
Palmer’s recital on the first night of the festival was undoubtedly one of the
weekend’s highlights. Palmer’s
reputation for possessing astounding technical capabilities added to the
anticipation of his performance and he convincingly delivered. Guitar students in the audience left
the concert shaken by Palmer’s playing and were quickly clamoring to purchase
Palmer’s book on guitar technique, The
Virtuoso Guitarist. However,
to merely label Palmer as a guitar technique powerhouse would be remiss. Matt Palmer is an artist of the highest
degree. Palmer is one of those
exceptional players who embody a meeting of artistic depth and physical
capability that inform and compound one another. Palmer’s musical
selections included standard setting renditions of works by Rodrigo and Ponce,
a wholly unique and hypnotic performance of J.S. Bach’s Ciaccona from Partita in D
Minor, BWV 1004, and concluded with the fireworks of Štěpán Rak’s Sonata Mongoliana.
Palmer also served as a member of the competition’s jury.
Festival’s closing concert was given by guitarist Luis Orlandini. Orlandini’s program was comprised of
selections of Spanish and Latin American works. Opening the concert was Federico Moreno Tórroba’s Piezas
Características, which Orlandini
performed with a regal grace and sensitivity. The most moving and memorable moment of the evening came
about as Orlandini presented a stirring performance of Esquinas, Op. 68
by Chilean composer Juan Orrego Salas.
Mr. Salas was present at the concert and was clearly touched by
Orlandini’s interpretation. The
concert was concluded with a performance of Antonio José’s Sonata, with
an entertainingly vigorous final movement.
all accounts this year’s festival was a success. "This year the Festival and Competition have been
extremely successful due to a high level of competition in all categories, the
increasing number of participants from foreign countries, and distinguished
guests offering recitals and Master classes" said Artistic Director
Maestro Ernesto Bitetti. Guest
artists and competitors alike agreed.
"It was a great festival. I learned a lot. I'll try to send some of my
students next year if possible!”, wrote second prize winner Jeremy
Collins. Matt Palmer wrote, "…I
was honored to have been a part of it.”
competitors and guests gathered for a reception after the announcement of the
prize winners and the festival’s closing, the sense of anticipation for next year’s
festival was palpable. The Jacobs
School of Music, Maestro Ernesto Bitetti and, Petar Jankovic, with support of Aranjuez strings, the Bloomington Classical
Guitar Society, the Indiana University Office of International Affairs, and
Reverie Classical Guitars have created a celebration of the guitar that will
hopefully become a lasting tradition in Bloomington, for guitarists and music
lovers from all over the world.
by Adam Brown