By definition a Child Musical Prodigy is a young person capable of playing music at an advanced technical level with the interpretative and emotional maturity of an adult. The most famous Canadian prodigy in the recent past was pianist Glenn Gould. The most famous international prodigy, also in the recent past was Yehudi Menuhin. Both musicians started playing and performing at a very young age. Yehudi started violin lessons at age four. Prodigies are rare but not unheard of (pun intended). The big challenge for these gifted musicians is to be taken seriously and not be mistaken for “a monkey see monkey do” circus performer. Another challenge is to avoid “burn out “. A significant number of child prodigies fade into relative obscurity in later life. Having said that while their stardom is in assent in their early years it is startling to see and hear them perform. The question that always come to my mind how do they do it? While the rest of us mere mortals struggle to play a precise and accurate musical scale that can past critical muster there are children out there playing at a level that we can never achieve. It wouldn’t matter if we practiced twenty hours a day it would not happen. It’s just not fair!
Here is violinist Chloe Chua at the age of 11 accompanied by 20 year old Kevin Loh on classical guitar playing Astor Piazolla’s ‘Café 1930’ from his Histoire du Tango suite. Chua was the First Prize winner in the junior category of the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. Loh, now 20, studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London for seven years (partially funded at the outset by none other than the Rolling Stones!).
Some years ago I made the big mistake of declaring that Liona Boyd was a musical light weight “who played like a girl”. It was to a group of women so you can imagine how that went over. In 1970 it was another era and in a sense it was also the end of an era. It was a time when women were beginning to step outside their subservient role and choosing to stand on their merits. At the time Classical guitar performance was a masculine domain. Andre Segovia had established the Classical Guitar as a legitimate solo instrument and by the time Liona arrived on the scene he had passed on and the genre was dominated by the likes of Julian Bream, John Williams and Alirio Diaz. It was still very much a man’s world. There were female performers who came before Liona. Most notably there was the brilliant French guitarist Ida Presti who, with her musical companion and life partner Alexander Lagoya , has left us with a legacy of some of the best classical duo performances ever recorded. In no way did Ida “play like a girl”. For Liona it was an era in which female musicians were still expected to be overtly feminine, wear frothy dresses, high heel shoes and appear on stage with a somewhat submissive demure. Liona was a perfect fit for those expectations and although she had impressive technique her repertoire, in my opinion, was not adventurious. But, to be fair the repertoire of most classical guitarists of the day lacked a sense of adventure. New composers and compositions were just emerging and these would change the accepted notion of the standard repertoire.
That all changed when Sharon Isbin arrived on the scene. In her own way Sharon was also a stunning looking woman but she did not conform to the “frothy” role expected of a female Classical Guitarist.
She wore practical, but fashionable attire, pant suits and the like, and she played with a drive and a passion that left most male Classical Guitarists in the dust. One of her first recorded efforts was a collection of the Bach Lute Suites that set the Classical Guitar world on its ear. The Classical Guitar world has never been the same since and the number of high caliber female performers that have followed in he footsteps is astounding. So much so that it is unfair to single out a performer for comment when there are so many young Classical Guitarists, male and female, out there. Having said that this performance of John Dowling’s Fantasia Number 7 by the very young Australian guitarist Alberta Khoury is of note.This young lady has studied with Sharon Isbin and it may account for her aggressive technical and musical approach. She has been criticized for playing at too fast a tempo but her dynamic and tonal control is above reproach. I believe at the time of this recording she was 16 years old.
For guitarists who may be interested in such things she obviously tunes the G string down to F# and uses a capo on the third fret to emulate the register and sound of the Lute. Also note the guitar rest on the right knee. It is a device that seems to be gaining popularity with classical guitarists.
Just for comparison here is another version of the same piece by a fellow Australian guitarist Andrey Lebedev.
Just in case you may have thought that Alberta’s performance of the John Dowland Fantasia was a fluke here is her performance of the Prelude from Bach’s Lute Suite No.4.
So for all you wanna be rock and roll guitar gods out there here is a woman who doesn’t “play like a girl”.
If you looking for a YouTube performance by John Dowland (1563-1626) then you are out of luck. He died about 400 years ago. That was way back at the end of the first Elizabethan era. Despite his demise his music lives on and is a staple in the Classical Guitar, Lute and Vocal repertoires of today. He was an English Renaissance composer and lutenist and in his day was described as “the rarest musician that his age did behold’. He was a celebrated composer and performer who traveled extensively in Europe. He constantly fell afoul of the religious turmoil of the day. He was Catholic and despite his fame was unable to obtain a court position with Protestant Elizabeth I. He finally, and belatedly, obtained a position with King James I. At that time he was recognized as the finest Lutenist in Europe. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as Come, Heavy Sleep (the basis of Benjamin Britten’s 1963 composition for solo guitar Nocturnal after John Dowland ) Come Again, Flow my Tears, I saw my Lady Weepe and In Darkness let me Dwell. As the titles suggest his music displays the melancholia that was so fashionable in his day. His instrumental music has undergone a revival and today any serious Guitarist or Lutenist needs to spend serious time in exploring the music of John Dowland. The music is complex, exciting and well worth the effort.
I recently stumbled on a YouTube vocal performance of Come Again by the Bensa-Cardinot Duo and it was one of those “ah ha” moments. Cécile Cardinot vocals had a purity that “rocked my world”. I don’t know if was her French accent or the old English language that ignited my imagination. The first video features Cecile on vocals and Olivier Bensa on Lute. In the second video Olivier switches to Classical guitar.
COME AGAIN – Lyrics (not the same as Cecile’s)
Sweet love doth now invite
Thy graces that refrain
To do me due delight
To see, to hear
To touch, to kiss
To die with thee again
In sweetest sympathy
That I may cease to mourn
Through thy unkind disdain
For now left and forlorn
I sit, I sigh
I weep, I faint
I die, in deadly pain
And endless misery
Draw forth thy wounding dart:
Thou canst not pierce her heart;
For I that do approve
By sighs an d tears
More hot than are
Thy shafts, did tempt while she
For scanty tryumphs laughs
Born in 1989 in France, Cécile Cardinot is a singer, a spectacular classical guitarist and choirmaster. She started her guitar career with Olivier Bensa in 2008. Along with her choirs, concerts that lead her to various countries and her profession as a guitar teacher at Cahors Conservatory, she worked on the music of John Dowland to create a show “Voice Lute Forte” dedicated to the music of this composer. She is laureate of the Claude Nougaro competition as well as “Revelation Guitarist Acoustic” 2015. (check the duo’s performance of Piazolla’s Libertango to gain an appreciation of her guitar skills http://www.rodneywilson.ca/2018/07/10/youtube-pick-26-nuevo-tango-new-tango/ )
Her musical colleague Olivier Bensa was born in 1951, is a classical guitarist, lutenist and composer. He has recorded several discs such us “O. Bensa performs Leo Brouwer”, appointed as a reference by the composer himself. Being a concert performer, he has played in prestigious halls (Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London…). As a composer he is subject to numerous commands and his works for guitar are published at H. Lemoine Editions. In 2016 he worked with Cécileto create Voice Lute Forte a work dedicated to English Renaissance music and more specifically to the music of John Dowland.
Here is another version with the lyrics closer to those printed above
The flip side of John Dowland’s Music is his instrumental music and specifically his Lute music. Here is a performance of his Fantasia No.7 by Andrey Lebedev.It starts out as a gentle, stately exploration of the melody before going into complex variations and contrapuntal explorations before reaching a climax in an eighth rhythm finale. Modern day steel string guitar players with their alternate tuning and finger picking techniques have been heading in this direction for a number of year but, take note, John Dowland was there long before us. A technical note: To emulate the sound and range of the Lute, modern day classical guitarists will use a capo (usually at the third fret) and tune the G string down to F#.
Andrey Lebedev, born in Moscow and raised in Australia is one of many, many outstanding young players who are breathing new life into Classical Guitar performances. He is a winner of many awards and honors and currently lives in London where he is a full scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music, supported by the ABRSM and the Julian Bream Trust. His interests in contemporary repertoire have led him to premiere new works by leading composers including Peter Sculthorpe’s Oh T.I. for Guitar and String Orchestra, Leo Brouwer’s Danzas Rituales y Festivas, Vol.2 and the aforementioned Julian Bream Trust commissions, as well as regularly performing music by late 20th century by composers such as Berio, Henze, Ginastera, Britten and Takemitsu. A lover of chamber music, Andrey Lebedev performs regularly with flautists Bronte Hudnott and Alena Lugovkina, mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean, and has worked extensively with the Llewelyn Guitar Quartet in Australia.
Post Script: – 2018/10/29 – The music of John Dowland has even penetrated the consciousness of the rock world. I came across these two videos of Sting with Lutenist Edin Karamazov performing a number of John Dowland songs. I have always enjoyed Stings musical exploration in rock, world music, jazz and solo performances but even I was surprised by these forays into the songs of John Dowland.
The instrument Sting is playing is called a Theorbo. It is a plucked string instrument of the lute family family with an extended neck and a second pegbox.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are into classic rock, jazz, blues, pop, bluegrass, whatever, eventually every serious musician or music patron has to come to terms with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is one of, if not the most significant composer, in the history of western music. It really doesn’t matter what instrument you play because Bach didn’t really care to much about instrumental specifics. He frequently moved his music around from instrument to instrument or onto any one of the many configuration or ensembles at his disposal. Obviously, string and keyboard players have the edge with the shear volume of Bach’s music that is available for their instruments. Mandolin players are luckier than most. Although, to my knowledge Bach didn’t compose specific mandolin music, players have access to the huge quantity of Bach’s violin, cello, viola, etc music that is out there. They also have the advantage in that the tuning of the mandolin is the same as the violin (G D A E – low to high). Admittedly the Mandolin doesn’t have the ability to sustain long notes like a violin but there are ways around that (the tremolo).
Over the years mandolin players have not been slow to pick up on the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas. It is not only great music but it’s a great way to build up your mandolin technique. Even Bluegrass players have taken a turn at those compositions. One of note is an American mandolinist, singer, songwriter, and radio personality named Colin Thile (born February 20, 1981). He is best known for his work in the progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek and the acoustic folk and progressive bluegrass quintet Punch Brothers. He also has a passion for Bach. Check the video below of Colin playing Bach’s Sonata No.1 in G Minor, BWV 1001. This is a Suite of four pieces: Adagio / Fuga / Siciliano / Presto.
Although the Bluegrass mandolin, to my ears, sounds a little thin for this style of music this is a great performance and should inspire us all.
The first time I took a look at the manuscript for the Sonata it threw me for a loop. I am more used to reading simple melody lines or chord diagrams so on first glance it was, and still is, pretty daunting. Take a look at the first page ………
Mike Marshall and Darroll Anger are two other North American performers who have dipped more than a toe in Bach’s deep musical waters.
Mandolin players can go even further afield in the huge Bach inventory. For example here the Israeli Madolinist Avi Avital and Harpist Bridget Kibbey playing a rearrangement of the Eb Major Sonata for Flute and Clavier, BWV 1031. This is the first movement the Allegro Moderato. Avi is a well known, award winning performer and Bridget is a much in demand solo and ensemble performer. The physical contrast between the tiny mandolin and the giant harp is eye catching and yet the sound balance between the instruments is spot on.
There are many, many more examples on YouTube so feel free to explore and, if you are a mandolin player, maybe work on a few pieces.
If you have spent any time listening to Bluegrass music then you are more than familiar with the mandolin. After all, didn’t the mandolin virtuoso Bill Monroe virtually invent this traditional genre? As I pointed out in a previous blog entry, there are other ways to
play mandolin besides Bluegrass and a perusal of the Brazilian Choro Bandolin tradition is a profitable investment in time. Even a casual investigation of the Bluegrass and Choro traditions will eventually lead one back to the mother lode of mandolin performances – the European classical tradition. As I mentioned in the previous blog, in part, the North American and Brazilian mandolins traditions can be traced back to the mostly Neapolitan roots. In the seventeen hundreds there was nothing more Italian or Neapolitan than the city of Venice and the music of Vivaldi. Some of the most popular mandolin pieces in the classical repertoire are the Vivaldi concertos. The attached performance is the Antonio Vivaldi – Concerto for 2 Mandolins and Orchestra (RV532) by Het CONSORT (a well known Dutch Mandolin Chamber Orchestra).
Reesha Oud Picks
From the north American perspective the interesting things about the mandolins in this video are that the instruments are round back and very small. The other thing of note is the style of pick used. New World (USA and Brazil) mandolin players tend to use short, thick stiff plectrums. The performers in the Vivaldi orchestra all use thin quill like plectrums almost identical to the reesha, a pick used by Middle Eastern musicians to play the Oud. I don’t know what advantages that would offer. Maybe it is just a question of quality of sound. North American mandolin players favor a very percussion string attack and that maybe generates a sound out of favor in the classical tradition.
Below is another Vivaldi performance this time by the Israeli musician Avi Avital who is the first mandolin player to receive a GRAMMY nomination in the category “Best Instrumental Soloist” (2010) for his recording of Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto (Metropolis Ensemble / Andrew Cyr). He has won numerous competitions and awards including Germany’s ECHO Prize for his 2008 recording with the David Orlowsky Trio and the AVIV Competition (2007), the preeminent national competition for Israeli soloists. He plays an unusual looking instrument built by the Israeli Luthier Avi Kerman. The instrument has been described as a double topped instrument with a convex back. It is in essence two mandolins – one inside the other.
The compositions are so similar one wonders if the solo concerto is just a re-orchestration of the duo.
For mandolin music this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many more Mandolin videos on YouTube. There are lots of performances to explore….. viva YouTube
AUTUMN TONES is a chamber music ensemble of local musicians with Nicola Everton on clarinet, Sue Gold on piano and Martine denBok on violin and viola. All three musicians are associated with the Symphony of the Kootenays as either members of the orchestra or as visiting soloists. Nicola and Sue have performed many times in the area, along with cellist Jeff Faragher, in the classical chamber music ensemble THE SELKIRK TRIO. In both the Selkirk Trio and Autumn Tones the intent seems to be to explore the modern edge of classical music as well as excursions into the realms of the traditional classical repertoire, Jazz, Latin, Klezmer or anything else that strikes their fancy. On this beautiful fall afternoon in the lobby of the Key City Theatre that is the musical realms they set out to explore.
They kicked off the afternoon with Darius Milhaud’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.For me it was a moment of unbelievable synchronicity. On the drive to the theater I had been listening to some Brazilian Choro on the car CD player (yes, some of us still listen to CDs). On this beautiful fall afternoon what could be more appropriate than bouncing down the highway to the warm rhythms of Brazilian Choro. From the opening bars of the Milhaud piece the choro music I had just been listening to immediately came to mind and I began mentally adding in the percussive sounds of the Brazilian Pandeiro to the trio on stage.The Pandeiro is a Brazilian tambourine that is the heart beat of samba. That mental notion is completely understandable when you consider Darius Milhaud’s musical associations with Jazz and Brazilian music. He was one of the most prolific modern classical composers of the last century and was influenced by the sounds of Jazz and Brazilian music. While it is not his only claim to fame he was a musical mentor to the Jazz musician Dave Brubeck. So much so that Brubeck named his son Darius after the composer. One of Milhaud’s former students was the popular songwriter Burt Baccharach. Milhaud is reported to have told Bacharach, “Don’t be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody.”. This Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano lived up to that standard with lots of melody, rhythm and musical interplay between the instruments.
Popularity in music usually means world tours and mega arena performances. Modern classical composers do not rate that sort of popularity or attention and yet, in the realm of classical music, Arvo Part is probably the most popular modern classical composer of the last few years. This Estonian composer of classical and religious music uses self invented compositional techniques in the minimalist style (think Phillip Glass with darker Eastern European overtones). For this afternoon’s performance the trio selected Part’s popular Spiegel im Spiegel written in 1978. “Spiegel im Spiegel” in German literally can mean both “mirror in the mirror” as well as “mirrors in the mirror”, referring to an infinity mirror which produces an infinity of images reflected by parallel plane mirrors: the tonic triads in the composition are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. The piece was originally written for a single piano and violin. Other versions exist with cello or viola, double bass, clarinet, trombone, flute etc. This performance is for piano, clarinet and violin and is in F major in 6/4 time.
Aram Il’yich Khachaturian (1903 – 1978) was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor and is best known for his composition the Sabre Dance. He was the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century and is considered one of Soviet Russia’s leading composer. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly used Armenia and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern & Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples’ folk music in his works. His style is “characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies”. The trio performed movements 1 and 3 from his Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.
In the vernacular the clarinet has been referred to as a liquorice stick. Maybe it is the colour of the instrument but I like to think it is because of the liquid smoothness of the music of Mozart when played on the clarinet. Autumn Tones pulled us away from the “edginess” of contemporary classical music into the smooth mainstream of WolfgangAmadeus Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, K498 in E flat Major for piano, clarinet and viola. No composer before Mozart had written for this combination of instruments. The origin of the nickname Kegelstatt is interesting. The German word Kegelstatt means “a place where skittles are played,” akin to a bowling alley. Mozart is reputed to have written this while playing skittles. At the time the clarinet was a relatively new instrument and in the first performance the then vituoso Anton Stadler played clarinet, Mozart the viola, and Franziska von Jacquin the piano. This trio composition, along with his Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet concerto helped increase the instrument’s popularity. The piece is in three movements: Andante / Menuetto / Rondeaux: Allegretto
For the final piece the trio took us back to the edge for a little slice of Yiddish Klezmer in the tune Moldavanke. This style of music is mostly associated with Eastern European Jewish traditions and is performed in a lively bouncing style with overtones of Jewish humor and melancholy. Nicola has fallen in love with the style and wants to put together a Klezmer band.
Autumn Tones would like to thank The Kootenay Cultural Alliance and sponsors that have made this tour possible.
A BONUS: By it’s very nature music is of the moment. As soon as the musical note leaps into the air it is in the process of dying and until the invention of sound recordings that was it. All we had left were memories. The recording industry has changed all that and performances can become more permanent if they are recorded. Unfortunately not all performances make it “onto wax”. This concert by Autumn Tones is now but a pleasant memory. Perhaps some day Autumn Tones and The Selkirk Trio can be persuaded to record those musical gems that over recent years they have cast to the winds. To make up for that here is a bonus for you from YouTube –
Darius Milhaud: Suite op.157b for Clarinet, Violin and Piano – Cologne Chamber Soloists
Certain musicians, or groups of musicians, often have “a lock” on a genre or a particular musical approach. For instance Blue grass and old timey musicians own banjo music. After all they virtually invented the instrument and the appropriate styles so it only stands to reason that they should “own” banjo music. Similarly, for a multitude of reasons that I could bore you to death with, “Classical Guitarists” have a lock on Guitar Duets, Trio and Quartets. “The Brazilian guitar duo João Luiz and Douglas Lora are one of the most exciting and recent chamber groups to emerge on the music scene. These two talented young guitarists combine energy and technique with a dazzling musicality………. the duo shows maturity, talent and perfect technique in their interpretations and executions of intricate Brazilian rhythms……. Their sonority is exceptional, robust and varied and their whole repertoire is played with verve and enthusiasm, with stylistic balance and sensitivity …….. Excepts from Wikipedia – Amen to all of that.
Classical music, and classical guitar may have a reputation for being stuffy, “uncool” and uninteresting. I think this piece, Bata Coxa, by the Brazilian composer Marco Pereira (born 1950) played by this very energetic duo should dispel some of those notions. CDs by the duo are expensive and hard to come by…… thank God for YouTube for giving me a chance to experience their music.
AFTERNOON TEA WITH THE SELKIRK TRIO, Studio 64, Kimberley BC, Sunday August 7, 2016
For most people the idea of Classical Music usually means symphony orchestras, opulent concert halls, musicians in formal attire and patrons dressed to impress. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the symphony is the be all and and end all of classical music. The great virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin, no stranger to large orchestras and concert halls, is reputed to have expressed the notion “that the true essence and application of music is to be found in chamber music”. If there is any doubt to that concept one has only to spend time with The Selkirk Trio. A couple of hours with Sue Gould (piano), Nicola Everton (clarinet) and Jeff Faragher (Cello) and you should become a true believer in chamber music. Over the years I have attended at least three concerts of the trio and each time I am impressed with their program selection, their technical virtuosity and their musicality. The strength of the trio, and chamber music in general, is the lack of filters. There is no sound re-enforcement to get in the way and distort the true sound of the instruments. The musical arena for chamber concerts tends to be human scale with the audience and the musicians all within hand reach of each other. The nuances of musical dynamics and shading are right there in and around the audience. The trio kicked off the concert with the Cuban classical composer and jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera’s Afro. Jeff doubled on Djembe to provide some authentic atmosphere. This was followed by Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Trio in B Flat Major, Opus 11, the second movement. My favorite item in the trio’s program is the 7 Balkan Dancesby the Croatian composer Marko Tajčević. Nicola obviously revels in these short but intricate pieces that bounce around the essentially odd rhythmic elements of Balkan music. I have tried to find a recording of these particular pieces but so far I have not been successful. I only think it fair to suggest that the trio needs to record them at some future date.
Sue and her coat of many colours
Pavel Karmanov is a Russian rock musician with musical credentials that go way beyond the limits of that style of music. Sue Gould selected his minimalist composition Birthday Present to Myself. The Minimalist School of classical composition is a recent innovation and is best exemplified by the music of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. Minimalist compositions usually consists of repetitive melodic motifs that need to be comprehended as part of the larger composition. A friend of mine declared that Steve Reich’s classic minimalist piece Six Marimbas to be some form of advanced Chinese water torture. Of course I beg to differ. It is one of my favorite pieces of music. I am looking forward to spending more time with the music of Pavel Karmanov.
Nicola kicked off the second half of the program with some Klezmer compositions by the Canadian composer Milton Barnes (1931-2001). The pieces were scored for clarinet and piano duo.
Nicola’s Freilach dancing shoes
In this day and age we all have toys. For Jeff it is the looping pedal. Jeff has just completed a solo CD recording project entitled Voices Within. One of the object of the exercise was to give Jeff the opportunity to experiment with a looping pedal. This is a device that is very common in pop music circles. It allows a performer to lay down tracks of music in an orderly fashion to create a complete solo performance. In this case Jeff chose a number of cello pieces where he performs all the parts. To give some idea of how the process works Jeff gave a working demonstration by using the looping pedal to first lay down the melody of The Largo from Vivaldi’sConcerto in G Minor for Two Cellos, BV351. He then went back and, while the melody was playing, he added the bass part. He followed this up by finally adding the harmony part thus completing the piece. “Boys and Their Toys”……… Sue was not to out done. Her toy was a relatively simple device attached to the iPad containing her musical scores. With a tap on the foot pedal she is able to turn the pages, thus overcoming a major nuisance for pianist playing off the printed page. Nicola did her “party piece” with the Klezmer tunes, Jeff did his “party piece” with Vivaldi and the foot pedals. Sue’s “party piece” was a solo performance of Bela Bartok’s Romanian Dances for Solo Piano. The trio came together to perform Nino Roto’s (of God Father film music fame) Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. For the encore the trio played an arrangement of The Ashokan Farewell from Ken Burn’s CBS Civil War Documentary. It was a hauntingly beautiful end to a great afternoon of music.
Happiness is a sun tan and a good clarinet reed
“Jeff, what are you doing down there?”
“I’m playing with my toys”
The concert is over …. I can now lay myself down and sleep
In the classical music world the ladies comprise a significant number of the professional musicians out there. Maybe not at the conductor’s level of course, but among pianists and string players their numbers are very notable and noticeable. Up until very recently that was not the case among the Classical Guitarists. Considering that there were not to many Classical Guitarists around in the first half of the 20th century that is understandable. The first significant female guitarist I became aware of is Ida Presti (1924-1967) and her performances with Alexander LaGoya in the Duo Presti-Lagoya. As a duo they set the standard at a pretty high level. When Julian Bream and John Williams recorded their duos around in the 1970s they were following in the footsteps of Ida Presti and Alexander LaGoya. Also in the 1970’s the Canadian Liona Boyd came to prominence and, although a very competent performer I always found her to be a bit of a musical light weight – “she played like a girl”. That rather derogatory phrase took on a whole new meaning when the American guitarist Sharon Isbin also launched her career in the late 1970’s. She had the looks and demeanor of a New York fashion model and a guitar technique that literally over shadowed all her male and female peers. She was no musical light weight (just check her recording of the Bach Lute Suites) and if what she was doing, “playing like a girl”, then God bless us all with the ability and power to “play like a girl”. In the late 1980s the Brazilian Badi Assad emerged on the scene with an original approach to Classical Guitar. Although raised within a strong classical tradition, her two brothers are a famous Classical Guitar duo, her approach has been more folkloric and Brazilian. Badi is also blessed with extraordinary good looks and marvelous technique. It seems that stunning good looks is a prerequisite for female classical guitarists. After cruising YouTube one would think that is definitely the case (is that being sexist?). The ladies on YouTube, Leonara Spangbenger, Julia Lange, Tatyana Ryzhkoua and Ana Vidovic, just to mention a few, are all beautiful young women who do not “play like a girl”.
The latest female guitarist to come to my attention is Smoro Gregoriadou. This Greek lady is virtually re-inventing the guitar. She plays a wide range of interesting classical guitars that include, double course instruments, high strung instruments, instruments with scalloped finger boards (a’ la John McLaughlin), guitars with odd shapes and styles. This lady is absolutely brilliant. I have yet to hear another classical guitarist that is more spell binding in performance. Check the YouTube selections below. I find her technique and musicality absolutely astounding
Cueva Del Gato is a composition by the famous flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia. She literally outshines the original. I believe the instrument is tuned higher to an A (equivalent to playing with a capo at the 5th fret) and also note the scalloped fingerboard).
In the past there has been a well recognized tradition where classical composers have dipped into folkloric waters to refurbish and re-invigorate their music. In fact there are whole national music traditions that have come into being as a result of that process. Every now and then folk musicians, rock musicians and jazz musicians have turned that process on its ear by enlisting classical musicians, most notably, symphony orchestras in support of music that is outside the normal symphony repertoire. Over the years The Symphony of the Kootenays has been involved in a number of those type of projects. Lizzy Hoyt’s Canadian Folk Sketches World Premier is the latest in that ilk. Lizzy Hoyt (vocals, guitar, fiddle, and harp) and her trio, Keith Rempel (upright bass and back-up vocals) and Chis Tabbert (guitar and Russian Soviet era mandolin) joined the Symphony and shared the solo spotlights with a number of the Symphony’s outstanding musicians. The rehearsals were on Saturday afternoon, February 13, 2016 in preparation for the premier concert later that evening. Here are some images from that rehearsal.
I know the instrument doesn’t make the music. It is the musician who makes the music. However, having said that, I think it is worth focusing some attention on Lizzy’s magnificent Collings small bodied guitar (probably a Collings OM1). This a truly beautiful example of modern luthiery and it further demonstrates that we are living in a golden era of hand made instruments.
As for the repertoire it always gives me great pleasure when a Canadian musician stops looking south for musical inspiration and decides to explore the rich, varied, and largely unexplored traditions of Canada.