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Posted By Connie Sheu,
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
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By Randall Kohl
Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico has long been recognized within
the country of Mexico as a center for the creative arts, in particular music
and especially guitar performance. This past August, 2013, the city continued
this tradition by hosting its 8th International Guitar Meeting and 6th
National Guitar Competition with the support of the Universidad Veracruzana,
the Instituto Superior de Música of Veracruz and two national arts councils,
the FONCA (Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes) and CONACULTA (Consejo
Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes).
Despite Tropical Storm Fernand’s best attempts to cause
havoc, only the first day’s talks and concerts were postponed and, after some
minor adjustments to the original schedule, the rest of the week went by
quickly and smoothly. In all, 17 different events were programmed which
included research papers, master classes, CD presentations, concerts and the
two-round competition. Particularly noteworthy were the concerts and master
classes given by Eliot Fisk, Bill Kanengiser and Judicaël Perroy, all grand
master performers and instructors who need no introduction to readers of this
publication. We can also include in this category, Matanya Ophée whose talks on
Domingo Prat’s work and the lascivious origins of the tango were particularly
In addition to the world-renowned participants, the
organizers of this event have also made a point of promoting local and national
talents and this year was no exception. They included Daniel Guzmán, luthier at
the National Instutute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de
Antropología e Historia) in Mexico City; David F. Mozqueda, originally from
Guadalajara, Jalisco and alumnus of the guitar program at the University of Southern
California; Mexico City’s Juan Carlos Laguna, instructor for the National
School of Music at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (Universidad
Autónoma de México) and recording artist for Urtext Digital Classics; Rodrigo
Neftalí, also from Mexico City and third place winner of the 2007 "José Tomás”
International Guitar Competition in Petrer, Spain; Álvaro Hernández, alumnus of
the Universidad Veracruzana’s undergraduate program in guitar and the
Universidad de Extremadura’s (Spain) master’s program; and Carlos Alberto
Viramontes of Coahuila, Mexico, who studied guitar at the Autonomous University
of Coahuila (Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila) and took first place at last
year’s installment of National
Guitar Competition in Xalapa. Special mention, in this category, must be given
to Juan Helguera, composer, guitarist and researcher from Mérida, Yucatán,
whose contributions during the second half of the 20th century and
the first decades of the 21st via publications, radio and television were on
grand display and to whom this year’s gathering was dedicated.
We should also note the participation of the Italian
musician, composer and painter Marco de Biasi who, in addition to performing
his own original works for the guitar, gave a talk on his theories of color and
music based on the works of Kandinsky and writings by Klee. Also noteworthy was
the presentation of the CD Mictlán by
the Universidad Veracruzana’s Cutberto Córdova with works for guitar by this
local composer. A particularly moving moment was the in memoriam presentation of the recently deceased Mexican music
researcher and guitarist Corazón Otero’s life and work.
Of the 15 contestants participating in the Young
Performers’ competition, the winners and their respective prize money (in
Mexican pesos) were: Jesús Serrano Huitrón, age 21, from Mexico City, first
place ($25,000); Juan Pedro Villegas Bernabé, 24 –years-old, also from Mexico
City ($15,000); and Bernardino Rodríguez Espejo, 23 years, from Xalapa,
Veracruz ($10,000). More information on this past Encuentro and Concurso can
be found at the following links:
next Encuentro with concurrent
competition is scheduled for April 18 to 24, 2015. Details will be made
available through the Universidad Veracruzana’s music and arts web site.
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Posted By Connie Sheu,
Monday, November 18, 2013
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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
Posted By Connie Sheu,
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
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By Ann Ireland
The hallways of the music building
at Concordia University are oddly hushed this morning. Young men perch on the edge of tables,
guitars on lap, tuning up or running through a piece that they are soon to
play. The tension is low-key, but
The first round of Montreal’s
International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition has already begun. One
of the contestants is already inside the studio, playing in front of judges
Jeffrey McFadden and Patrick Kearney
Tomorrow I will appear in an on-stage
interview with Jonah Snyder (classicalguitartraining.com) to discuss my novel
The Blue Guitar. Is it a coincidence that my novel takes place at a classical
guitar competition in Montreal? Not really; I attended the G.F.A. here in 2004
and made copious notes.
A door opens, and a young man
scurries out of the studio with his guitar, his face pink. Another enters, hoping to play well enough to make the
semi-finals. A friend from Toronto is competing in this first round; he’s only
been taking lessons for a couple of years – so this is a big deal for him.
I am staying in a house with noted
Scottish guitarist, Matthew McAllister. Yesterday we hiked alongside the canal
discussing music and Scottish politics, my ear tilted to his Sean Connery
accent. This evening, at the concert hall, Matthew plays soulful Scottish lute
pieces that he’s transcribed for guitar. When he finishes, the crowd surges
towards the merch table.
The amateur guitar orchestra
members file on stage, dressed in black. They peer earnestly at their music
stands, bi-focals in place, as the conductor, Dave Pilon, lifts his baton. The
audience is jammed with relatives and friends who wave to their pals in the
orchestra between pieces. This looks like major fun.
At intermission, Patrick Kearney
announces the names of those who made it to the semi-final round. My friend’s
name is called. I hope I don’t
embarrass him by my noisy ‘Yip Yip!’
Back at the house the guest artists
are bagged from a day’s work judging and performing and are keen to rehydrate
with a drink or two. Soon the
stories start to flow, mishaps of international guitarists, scandals, horror
stories.... It occurs to me that hanging out with musicians is way more fun
than partying with writers.
The semi-finalists enter one at a time and play for ten
minutes – and Patrick Kearney is strict about this. In the middle of a
soul-baring Adagio – tough luck,
pal; you should have timed it better.
Nerves are poorly concealed: hands swipe knees, then brush back hair. A
smile is more like a grimace.
Matthew has a two-hour Master Class directly afterword judging
the round, and when I reach him to ask – ‘You going to join us for dinner?” –
‘I’m totally fried,’ he says. ‘Can’t eat. Can’t talk.’
So Jeffrey, Patrick and I hit the
St- Hubert chicken joint, a must-visit for anyone coming to la Belle Province.
We hoover up moist chicken, beer and bloody Caesars.
My friend didn’t make it past the
semi-finals, but he’s happy to have gotten as far as he did.
Last day: After recitals and master
classes and the on-stage interview with me, it is time for the the presentation
of awards for the youth competition.Tim Beattie pulls off the win. A raffle is
held for a brand new guitar and the kid who’d played Bach’s First Cello Suite
snags the winning ticket.
Five adult finalists will now
perform half hour recitals, the crescendo of the weekend. The audience has
bulked up with guitarists who didn’t make it to the final round. One sits forward, elbows on knees. Another
nods as a performer nails a tough passage. Another looks sleepy, maybe hung
Joseph Palmer’s low ‘e’ string breaks mid-stream: a loud
‘ping’ followed by a hush. He disappears into the hallway to fashion the string
change. Within five minutes he’s back to continue his program. He comes in
second overall. Nice recovery.
I try to figure out who will win, but I’m stymied. One
performer excels in musicality, another flies by the seat of his pants and
nails what seems, to this amateur player, an impossibly fast section.
The winner is Misael Barraza,
Mexican. Second is Joseph Palmer from Texas. Third is Brent Crawford from
Patrick and his team act like
they’ve been released from a cruise ship stuck at sea. We head out for Chinese food, giddy
‘What about next year, Patrick?’
‘It will be magnificent. Adam
Holzman’s coming. And we have a snazzy new venue for the concerts. We’ll
showcase composer Denis Gougeon –”
‘And so much more?’
‘You got it.’
If you want to hear/see an edited
version of my on-stage interview with Jonah Snyder of
classicalguitartraining.com – here’s the link:
About the Author:
Ann Ireland is a prize winning novelist, former president of PEN Canada, and coordinator of the Writing Workshops department at the Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University, Toronto. Her most recent novel is: THE BLUE GUITAR published by Dundurn Press.