News Release - September 19, 2013
Classical Guitarist Jason Vieaux Delivers Consummate Artistry
Jason Vieaux is simply one of the leading figures in classical guitar today. Acclaimed for his flawless technique and consummate artistry, he is the youngest first-prize winner in the history of the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America International Competition. Jason has recorded eleven albums and performed as soloist with more than fifty orchestras. In between concert appearances he teaches at the Cleveland and Curtis Institutes of Music and offers web-based instruction.
Catch Jason Vieaux at Sonoma State University’s Weill Hall on Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$15 and parking is included.
Giuliani: Grand Overture, op. 61
JS Bach: Lute Suite No. 1 in E Minor, BWV 996
Britten: Nocturnal after John Dowland, op. 70
Albeniz: Sevilla (sevillanas, from Suite Espanola, op. 47)
Ellington: In a Sentimental Mood
Visconti: The Devil's Strum (2010, written for Jason Vieaux)
Merlin: Suite del Recuerdo
To buy tickets click here.
Weill Hall at the Green Music Center is located at the north campus entrance off Rohnert Park Expressway. Park in Lots O and L.
Grand Overture, Opus 61 Mauro Giuliani
Mauro Giuliani was one of the greatest virtuosi of the guitar in the nineteenth century. Although the use of the guitar in mainstream classical music was relatively novel at the time, Giuliani’s playing must have been extraordinary indeed, as the list of musicians that he associated with includes many of the most important of the era: Beethoven, Weber, Moscheles, Mayseder, Hummel, and probably Paganini and Rossini. Some of his most impressive accomplishments include performing one of his own concerti conducted by Carl Maria von Weber and participating in the premiere of Beethoven’s seventh symphony, presumably playing the other instrument that he excelled at: the ’cello.
Giuliani’s career is divided into three periods, according to the countries in which he lived: Italy (1781-1806), Vienna (1806-1819), and a return to Italy (1819-1829). For many reasons, not least of which was the domination of opera- and by extension a popular taste for the grand and the spectacular- many talented Italian guitarists emigrated. These included Moretti, Carulli, Molino, Carcassi, Zani de Ferranti, and Regondi, as well as Giuliani. While Paris was the destination of many Italian guitarists, Giuliani chose Vienna, which had a profound impact on his career and compositional style. It was there that he met many of the leading musicians of the time, and it was there that he first began using sonata form in works for solo guitar.
Sonata form involves the presentation of two themes which initially contrast in key and usually contrast in style and mood as well. These themes are then developed with modulation creating a sense of tension, culminating at the end in a reiteration of both themes, this time both in the home key. It is at its essence a dramatic form and well suited to a dramatic genre such as the opera overture.
The practice of composing an orchestral overture to introduce an opera existed almost since the beginning of the genre. The overture was intended to create a sense of excitement for what was to come, and in the hands of a skilled composer, would foreshadow the drama and conflict of the plot. Some overtures were so popular and self-sufficient that they became independent concert works. Eventually composers began to write works called overtures that had no tie to a larger work at all- Giuliani’s Grand Overture, Op 61 is one example of this practice.
Grand Overture begins with a slow introduction in A minor. Its sense of gravity comes from the use of dissonant diminished chords, chromatic lines, and a pedal on the dominant (a low E) that takes up about the final two thirds of the introduction. This is followed by the main section of the piece, which is fast and in sonata form. Although it is in A major, Giuliani waits eight measures to firmly establish the key, prolonging the instability of the introduction and creating a sense of forward momentum. Long stretches of fast arpeggios make this a virtuosic showpiece, and one can hear an entire orchestra of sound contained within the six strings of the guitar. -- Erik Mann
Lute Suite No. 1 in e minor, BWV 996 Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach’s works for lute* represent perhaps the single most important body of work in the guitar repertoire. Among these works are dance suites, including the Suite in E Minor, BWV 996. This work, like most suites of the late Baroque, follows the standard form of: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue with optional movements. Bach chose to include the Prelude and Bourrée in addition to the four standard movements.
The Prelude to BWV 996 imitates the French overture. This style gained popularity in the seventeenth century through the orchestras of Jean-Baptiste Lully at the court of Louis XIV. A French overture begins with a slow section with dotted rhythms, scale flourishes, and heavy ornamentation while maintaining an improvisatory feel. This is followed by a fast, fugal section, beginning with one instrument playing a melody which is then imitated by other instruments entering successively. Bach's slow section begins with a single voice that seems to wander downward, eventually encompassing a wide pitch register. Following this are mostly scalar passages and chords in dotted rhythms. The fast section begins with a seemingly endless stream of voices stating the subject until, at almost the halfway point, the subject is fragmented within a strikingly dense texture. This movement ends, like most in this suite, with a Picardy third- a major tonic chord in a piece that is otherwise in a minor key.
The remainder of the movements are dances. The Allemande's flowing lyricism offers a welcome respite from the intensity of the Prelude. It too features skillful counterpoint but with a lighter texture. The Courante is in French style, which typically features a moderate tempo, a time signature of 3/2, and a variety of rhythms- as opposed to the Italian version of the dance, which is fast, in 3/4 and with constant eighth-note or sixteenth-note rhythms. This movement is one of the most countrapuntal examples of this dance in the repertoire. The Sarabande is often the emotional heart of Bach's suites, and this case is no exception. It is a long-lined aria of intense passion. The Bourrée is the best-known movement of all of Bach's works for the lute. Its two-voice texture creates a lightness and a bounce that eases the listener out the reverie of the Sarabande. It is also the only movement not to end with a Picardy third. The Gigue features voices that alternate between contrary and parallel motion. The A section has many prominent descending lines, while the B section has more ascending lines, leading to the glorious end of the suite on an E major chord.
*Though it is still a matter of debate, most scholars believe that these works were conceived and originally performed on the lautenwerk or lute-harpsichord, an instrument similar to the harpsichord, but which used gut instead of metal strings to imitate the sound of the lute. -- Erik Mann
Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70 Benjamin Britten
(1913 – 1976)
Passacaglia - Theme
Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70 is widely regarded as one of the masterworks of the guitar repertoire. Britten himself stated that the Nocturnal contained “disturbing images” for him, and that it would not be “madly popular because it is the strangest and remotest thing- but then dreams are strange and remote”. In fact Britten’s music frequently occupied a middle road within the twentieth century, criticized by the avant garde as too conservative and by the general public as too challenging. A little knowledge of the work’s history and form however can do much to prepare the listener for a greater appreciation of its genius.
Britten’s connection to the guitar was through Julian Bream, who he had met at the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk, England. At Aldeburgh Bream performed Elizabethan lute songs, including those of John Dowland, with Britten’s romantic partner, the great tenor Peter Pears. All of Britten’s works for guitar were inspired by this duo. Both the Six Folksong Arrangements and the Songs From the Chinese were written for Pears and Bream, while even his solo guitar work, Nocturnal, was inspired by one of Dowland’s lute songs: Come Heavy Sleep.
The text of Come Heavy Sleep begins as follows:
Come, heavy Sleep, the image of true Death,
And close up these my weary weeping eyes,
Whose spring of tears doth stop my vital breath,
And tears my heart with sorrow's sigh-swoll'n cries.
Come and possess my tired thought-worn soul,
That living dies, till thou on me be stole.
The connection of sleep with death is no doubt what disturbed Britten, although he was frequently drawn to such dark currents in other works, as in his operas Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw. Sleep and insomnia, inspired by Dowland’s text, underlie the titles of individual variations, such as Restless, Dreaming, and Gently rocking. The Elizabethan fascination with melancholy and the use of text with multiple or ambiguous meaning must have appealed to Britten as well because it fit his own moody temperament.
Nocturnal is in reverse theme and variations form. In a traditional theme and variations a theme is presented followed by a series of variations. The variations usually keep the same form and tonality as the theme but exhibit a different character. In Nocturnal however the theme comes at the end. This theme is an excerpt of the lute song Come Heavy Sleep arranged for solo guitar. The first variation, Musingly, follows the theme the most closely in form but very distantly in tonality. It is almost all single-line melody, and sounds as free and spontaneous as a jazz musician improvising unaccompanied. In reality however, it follows the theme phrase by phrase, but with a shifting tonal center. The variations that follow generally are built on smaller motives from the theme. The final variation, the passacaglia, is also by far the longest. It is based on a descending scale that accompanies a brief portion of the theme. In the passacaglia however, the motive is repeated obsessively, reaching a nightmarish climax. As the passacaglia at last recedes the theme emerges from it seamlessly, a beautiful respite to the turmoil preceding it, until finally fading from existence. -- Erik Mann
Sevilla (sevillanas, from Suite Española, Op.47) Isaac Albéniz
Isaac Albéniz was a virtuoso pianist and, along with Enrique Granados and Manuel de Falla, is considered to be one of the three greatest Spanish composers of all time. Among the best of Albéniz’ works are Spanish character pieces for solo piano, often named after parts of Spain. Sevilla is one such work. Sevilla was first performed by the composer on January 24, 1886. It is one of the four works originally included in his Suite Espagñola, Op 47 and presented to the queen of Spain on March 21, 1887. Other movements were later added to the suite either by Albéniz himself or by his publisher. Sevilla (or Seville) is the most famous city of the southern region of Spain called Andalusia. Perhaps Albéniz had Seville's popular Holy Week festival in mind when he wrote this celebratory piece. This is one of his most orchestral compositions for the piano, with independent inner voices creating a full and busy texture, much like the movement of revelers in a festival. -- Erik Mann
In a Sentimental Mood Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington
The Devil's Strum (2010) Dan Visconti
written for Jason Vieaux (b. 1982)
One of the defining myths surrounding American blues guitar playing is about a pact with the supernatural, as portrayed in Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" and countless other songs and legends.
In one such account, a man meets the Devil at the lonely crossroads in the dead of night, and strikes a bargain: in exchange for inhuman ability and charisma as a guitarist, the man need only sign over his eternal soul. At the outset this arrangement leads to sex, money, and fame; but it's not long before greed, license, and arrogance follow suit and hasten the foolish soul's inevitable demise.
The central moment in several versions of the myth is when the Devil tunes up the doomed man's guitar--the moment when the strings become awakened with unseen power and the man's fate is sealed.
My new work for guitarist Jason Vieaux begins at just this moment--the moment of the Devil's long fingers strumming the jangly strings--and proceeds as the instrument is literally tuned up, until ever faster and more virtuosic riffs drive the piece to its conclusion. -- Dan Visconti
Jongo Paulo Bellinati
Brazilian guitarist/composer Paulo Bellinati (b.1950) has achieved great popularity with his colorful compositions in the style of his native country. The most well-known of these is Jongo, based on a Brazilian dance of the same name which uses 3/4 and 3/2 rhythms and accents over an underlining time signature of 6/8. Originally written for his jazz band Pau Brasil, Bellinati’s piece achieved its greatest success when the composer arranged it for solo guitar. After receiving a first-place prize in an international competition for Jongo, Bellinati also made a duo arrangement for the great Brazilian guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad. Both the solo and duo versions are fiery showpieces that take the listener on a colorful journey through Brazil while retaining so much of the original texture that it is easy to imagine hearing an entire jazz band. -- Erik Mann
Suite del Recuerdo José Luis Merlín
Merlin says of Suite del Recuerdo: "This is an homage to memories, my memories. To the collective memories of my people living in nostalgia, tormented, anguished, happy and hopeful. Memories from the country, in San Luis, with all the smells and sounds from the country. It is like looking inside yourself in very profound silence. Memories of afternoons with grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins. All enjoying each other, sharing our feelings and playing guitar, sitting in the back yard drinking wine, under the vines. Lots of them are not here anymore. They are in my memories."
The work is a memorial to the victims of the Dirty War which took place in the 1970’s and early ‘80’s in the composer’s native country of Argentina. This was a time in which the military used “dirty” methods such as torture and rape. Estimates vary widely as to the number of political opponents that died or disappeared in the conflict, ranging from the thousands to the tens of thousands.
Merlin begins his suite with the lament Evocación, followed by a series of nostalgic Argentinean dances. After a reprise of Evocación, the suite is brought to a lively close by Joropo, a lively Venezuelan dance which is the only movement in a major key. -- Erik Mann
Jason Vieaux uses Galli Genius strings and plays a guitar made by Gernot Wagner, Frankfurt
Media ContactRuth Wilson
Lecturer in Horn
Music Department Publicity
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, CA 94928