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Festival Review: International Guitar Festival at Brno

Posted By Connie Sheu, Wednesday, November 21, 2012


By Jim Skinger

Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. This historical city, nestled in the surrounding south Moravian hills, boasts a skyline filled with magnificent church spires, golden domes and an ample supply of 17th/18th century buildings, to satisfy the most ardent architectural historian.

Wide "pedestrian only” streets lined with sidewalk cafes, restaurants and endless varieties of shops and stores extend well beyond the historical district. This year marked the 21st anniversary of this Festival, under the direction of Vladislav Bláha.

Looking back to past programs and events celebrated here, it is a virtual who’s who of the guitar world that have participated, no doubt giving it the status as one of Europe’s most important guitar festivals. Divided into four main parts, the program included: Concerts, Competitions, Master Classes and afternoon Lectures and Concerts. From the 5th to the 9th of August, six concerts were presented, each featuring traditional repertoire as well as new works, often composed by the performers themselves.

The Competition, known as Guitar Talent, is organized yearly by the Czech Guitar Society. All competitors are divided into two age groups. Group I is required to play one round and group II, two rounds.

Group 1

1st place: Barbora Kubiková, Czech Republic, Vera Danilina, Russia

2nd place: Ronald Janeček, Slovakia

3rd place: Martin Cabá, Czech Republic

A guitar made by Czech guitar maker Pavel Kriha was presented to 1st place winner Barbora Kubiková, and a guitar made by the Czech company Strunal, was presented to Vera Danilina.

Group II

1st place: Adam Woch, Poland

2nd place: Dimitry Kudryaustov

3rd place: Oleg Sergeev, Czech Republic, Igor Klokov, Russia, Darius Lampkouski, Poland

The first prize winner, Adam Woch, received a Guitar made by luthier Masaki Sakurai

All competition winners received a generous supply of guitar strings from Savarez and D’Addario, plus accessories such as guitar support by FEEL, nail files from SOFIT and handcrafted guitar cases from IKA Company – Jiri Bednar.

In closing, I say wholeheartedly that the Brno festival remains one of the biggest and most successful guitar festivals in Europe. The quality of the performances, staff and students that attend make this festival one of the most enjoyable experience one can hope for.


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Festival Review: Hamilton International Guitar Festival

Posted By Connie Sheu, Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hamilton International Guitar Festival 2012

by Heather Morand Clark

The second annual Hamilton International Guitar Festival took place in Hamilton Ontario from July 13 to 15, 2012. In only its second year of existence in this industrial city on the shore of Lake Ontario, the Hamilton Festival boasted registrations more than double the number from the previous year. Students ranged in age from teens to seniors, and came from the local area, as well as further away: Ottawa, New Brunswick, Rochester and Cleveland. Director Emma Rush was pleased with attendance at the concerts also, having brought in performers Jorge Caballero, Shawn Pickup, Isaac Bustos, Gohar Vardanyan, Kevin Manderville, and the Laura Young/Frances Pappas duo that call themselves Lagrimosa Belta. 

Jorge Caballero kicked things off with his concert at the MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, a different venue being tried out this year. Last year’s venue, the Hamilton Conservatory, was still the scene of all lessons, lectures, the vendor fair, and the afternoon concerts.

Jorge Caballero’s concert began with a Bach Partita, and continued with five pieces by Isaac Albeniz. After the intermission, only one more piece, but what a long one! Jorge is becoming well known for his performance this past year or so of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition arranged by Kazuhito Yamashita. Yamashita has not performed this in many years, and no other guitarist has attempted it either, until Jorge took it on. This amazing piece of music is a personal favourite, in both orchestral and piano versions, and now too on guitar. Jorge’s phenomenal technique is breathtaking to watch. Listening to the orchestral version again afterwards, with its loud brass and loads of percussion, after having heard it on guitar, one wonders how it is that Jorge was able to convey everything from the original composition without the feeling that there was anything missing! A masterful arrangement and stunning performance!

Halifax guitarist Shawn Pickup, who lived and studied in Germany for a number of years, was featured in the Saturday afternoon concert. He performed music by Nuccio D’Angelo, Franz Schubert, Joaquin Turina, and Alberto Ginastera. The Ginastera Sonata for guitar ends with an energetic finale that pushes both instrument and player to the limit. The percussive nature of it is such that it is amazing that the guitar survives!

Saturday evening’s concert was a double feature, with Isaac Bustos performing in the first half, followed by Gohar Vardanyan of Armenia. Isaac’s programme included selections by Albeniz, two Sonatas by Scarlatti, Rodrigo and Giuliani. Gohar joked that she would not be playing the same selections as Isaac, despite the printing error in the programme stating that she would! She played Introducción y Rondo, Op. 2, No. 2 by Dionisio Aguado, Un Sueño en la Floresta by Barrios, two Spanish pieces by Sainz de la Maza and Albéniz, Invocación y Danza by Joaquín Rodrigo, and Fantasie Hongroise by Mertz.

The next concert, Sunday afternoon, with Kevin Manderville, was the scene of a bit of comedy, as after the first piece, Leo Brouwer’s Canticum, there was a prolonged standing ovation. Kevin joined in the humour, leaving the stage and coming back a couple of times, feigning surprise at such adulation! He eventually continued with Suite in A minor by MM Ponce, Dos piezas Afro-Antillanas, and the Suite del Recuerdos by Jose Luis Merlin.

The final concert of this year’s festival was by the duo of Frances Pappas(voice) and Laura Young(guitar). This wonderful combination was making a return appearance in Hamilton, having performed for the Society in its first year of existence. The appreciative audience was treated to a variety of music by Bach, Kellner and Dowland of the 16th and 17th centuries, through to such contemporary composers as Carlo Domeniconi and Stefan Hakenberg.

Next year's festival, already in the planning stages, will feature, among others, David Leisner, a return appearance by Johannes Moller, along with his wife and duo partner Laura Fraticelli and others, to be determined. The festival next year will also include a competition for the first time. Two preliminary rounds will take place on Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th, and the finals will be a public concert on the evening of Sunday July 14th. (Festival dates are July 12-14). More information will be available soon on the Guitar Hamilton web site, or by email addressed to Emma Rush at .

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Festival Review: Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival

Posted By Connie Sheu, Monday, November 19, 2012

Crown of The Continent Guitar Festival

by Aaron Green

Last August, I had the great fortune to spend a week in one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on earth. Beautiful in scenery and inspiring to be among those who love guitar as much as I do. I am speaking of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop and Festival in Bigfork Montana, on the shores of the majestic Flathead Lake.

The Festival has taken the basic mold of the National Guitar Workshop and successfully expanded on it in many significant regards. That which stayed the same is the guitar being represented in all it’s incarnations and the world class status of the teaching staff. Many NGW teaching alum such as Jody Fisher and Andrew Leonard. Matt Smith, Mark Dzuiba and James Hogan are on staff and with guest artists such as Dennis Koster, Lee Ritenour, Julian Lage and Patty Larkin. Previous years have seen such artists as Scott Tennant and Pat Metheny, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Lukather among others.

The Crown of the Continent Foundation has set their sights very high and it shows in every facet of this annual weeklong guitar celebration. The workshop and festival takes place at the Flathead Lake Lodge, a world class retreat with cabins for guests, gourmet meals, thousands of acres of woods and fields. For those not attending guitar classes there is horse back riding, fishing, swimming, boating and all of 45 minutes away, Glacier National Park, from which the Crown of the Continent got it’s name.

Every evening there was a concert to attend, held in a massive festival tent. These concerts were very well attended not only by those taking part in the workshop but also people who lived in or were visiting the area. Julian Lage, Dennis Koster, Lee Ritenour, Sonny Landreth, Chris Hillman Herb Pedersen, Patty Larkin along with special guest Dave Grusin all gave stellar performances. To attend these concerts night after night was a real treat and the response from the crowd made sure the artists knew that. There was also a student concert so those attending could show off their stuff and that was not only fun but impressive as well.

The 3rd annual Yamaha six string theory competition finals were held during the festival, at a beautiful art deco inspired theater in downtown Bigfork. The competition is for all styles of guitar, broken up into 6 categories, blues, rock. acoustic, jazz, country and classical. The event was open to the public and the venue was packed. I was most impressed with all the finalists and did not envy the judges the job of trying to determine who was the winner. After all was said and done, the winner who emerged was Karl Marino, from Quebec, classical guitar. Congratulations Karl!

One aspect of the Festival very much worthy of note is the scholarship program for gifted young guitarists who otherwise would not be able to attend. In classical guitar there were two, both extremely talented guitarists, one from Japan and the other from New York. They took daily classes with Andrew Leonard and Dennis Koster and by the end of the week had assimilated many years worth of insight and musicality. The classes were conducted in a group setting a la Masterclass with these young virtuosos sitting side by side with older and avid afficianados. This underscored the feeling of the entire week, which was one of mutual support and enthusiasm across all genres, it was kind of like a little bit of heaven.

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