Tonight Grammy Award winning classical guitarist Jason Vieaux [say “vee-OH!”] comes home to where he began studying guitar (his family couldn’t afford a piano) at age five with Jeremy Sparks of the legendary Buffalo Guitar Quartet. Fast forward 14 years to 1992, he was the youngest ever winner of the Guitar Foundation of America competition. Presented by the Buffalo Chamber Music Society tonight at 7:15 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall (in the more intimate “Mary Seaton Room”) Vieaux will speak from the stage and answer questions from the audience. At 8:00 the Escher String Quartet (two violins, viola, and cello) will perform famous works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Benjamin Britten. Following an intermission, at about 9:00 p.m., Vieaux will return to play solo selections featured on his 2015 Grammy (Best Classical Instrumental Solo Album) Award winning CD titled “Play” and then join the Escher Quartet for Luigi Boccherini’s Quintet for Guitar and Strings in D major, G.448.
Year in and year out, since 1924, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society has presented full length concerts featuring world-class international touring artists, this season for only $25 per ticket at the door, a fraction of the ticket prices these musicians command in, say, London or New York City. And, for students with valid ID, the concerts are free.
The opening work on the concert will be the String Quartet in E-flat major, Op.76, No.6 (of 6) by the “Father of Classical Music” – Franz Joseph Haydn – a work which is known for allowing each of the four players to shine in solo roles. Having said that, the fourth and final movement of the work really challenges the first violinist to perform as a virtuoso, and perhaps that’s why we don’t get to hear it as often as its five other cousins. It’s not for the “faint of heart.”
In 1945, Benjamin Britten composed his best-known work, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and in that same year wrote his String Quartet No.2 in C Major, Op.36. While the “Guide” is very tuneful and is certainly “easy listening” as far as classical music goes, the String Quartet is more modern, but not that much, and both works feature incredibly lush harmonies. You can hear the Escher Quartet perform the entire String Quartet over four separate videos on YouTube, starting with the first movement.
The Escher Quartet takes its name from Dutch artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s geometric puzzles where “the interplay between individual components works together to form a whole” as the quartet writes on their website. With both the Haydn and Britten quartets, we’ll get to hear that interplay a lot.
As mentioned, in 1992, teenager Jason Vieaux was awarded the prestigious GFA International Guitar Competition First Prize, the event’s youngest winner ever. Now at age 42, he refuses to slow down.
Vieaux has performed as concerto soloist with over 100 orchestras.
This concert season he is collaborating in recitals with the Escher Quartet (as in tonight), acclaimed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis (they were at SUNY Buffalo a few years back), and accordion/bandoneón virtuoso Julien Labro (let’s hope he puts Buffalo on his schedule soon). Vieaux has performed as concerto soloist with over 100 orchestras; has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 1997, headed the CIM guitar department since 2001; in 2011 co-founded the guitar department at The Curtis Institute of Music, and in 2012, the Jason Vieaux School of Classical Guitar was launched with ArtistWorks Inc., using technology to provide one-on-one online study with Vieaux for guitar students around the world.
The Azica label has generously provided YouTube with all of the tracks on Jason’s 2015 Grammy award winning CD titled “Play,” so if you’d like a preview of what you’ll hear tonight at about 9:00 p.m., right after intermission, you can check out Francisco Tarrega’s “Capricho Arabe” (“Arabic Caprice”), showing the influences of the Moors on Spanish music.
Brazilan-born Antonio Carlos Jobim is best known for “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Desafinado,” which put bossa nova on the world musical map. The work that Vieaux will play tonight, “Felicidade” became widely known from the 1959 sound track for the award-winning film Black Orpheus. The version we’ll hear was adapted by the late, great French classical guitarist Roland Dyens (who himself has visited Buffalo courtesy of Fredonia School of Music’s James Piorkowski).
For a real show piece, it would be hard to beat “Misionera” by Argentine composer Fernando Bustamente, especially in the version we’ll hear by the Argentine classical guitarist Jorge Morel. Vieaux included it on his 1992 album (part of the GFA prize package is a CD on the Naxos label) and he included it almost 25 years later on his Azica label CD “Play”.
And, then joined by the Escher Quartet, Vieaux will play the Quintet for Guitar and Strings in D major, G.448 by Italian born Luigi Boccherini whose major career was in Spain. Many people have fallen in love with this composer when they listen to the soundtrack of the Russell Crowe movie: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Sample)
Yes, Tuesday night is what we used to call “a school night” but every student of the guitar should attend this evening’s event, not because it’s free for students, but because Vieaux and Escher are at the top of their musical game.
Note: Fans of the guitar will want to see the 2015 Guitar Foundation of America competition winner guitarist Thibaut Garcia in recital April 4, at 7:00 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall’s Mary Seaton Room. Garcia has released two albums, performed on four continents, won many guitar competitions, and he’s only 22. He will play music for solo guitar by Rodrigo, Piazzolla, and 2016 JoAnn Falletta Guitar Concerto Competition judge Donald Crockett. General admission tickets are only $10. Students will be admitted free of charge. This concert is co-sponsored by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and The Castellani Andriaccio Guitar Studios. (Castellani and Andriaccio are co-Artistic Directors of the bi-annual JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition preparing for 2018).