21st century pieces – musical or what?

The fact that I do not really know what to call this article speaks to my confusion regarding 21st music for the classical guitar. Some call the subject of my wondering modern, others contemporary, and yet others 21st century. The only way I can explain myself is to give some examples.

Manuel Ponce wrote Sonata III, Carlos Seixas composed Sonata No 23, and Antonio Lauro gave us Vals Venezolano No 3, and I can appreciate the musicality in all three. They are not what I would choose to listen to often and I do not have the technical skills to play them, but I can relate to them at some levels. However, Joao Luiz’s Xie and Toru Takemitzu’s Equinox just confuse, Jar, and leave me feeling as though I have endured rather than enjoyed.

Here is an example of the kind of 21st classical guitar music that I just don’t ‘get’ – have a listen:

Steven H. Somers plays his own composition, ‘21st Century Suite’.

Now I don’t know much about Steven Somers and his music might not properly represent the genre, so I have selected an example from the work of the great Leo Brouwer. Here is his Sonata V – Ars Combinatoria I – vivace played by Andrey Lebedev

My confusion deepens when I compare this to his Un Dia de Noviembre, which I like a lot and am currently learning to play.

Here it is played by Tatyana Ryzhkova.

Leo Brouwer composed prolifically and has a huge international reputation, so what’s with his Sonata V, and other works like Sonata Fandangos y Boleros and Sonata del Pescador? My confusion deepens.

From what I can tell, the pieces I have problems with are technically challenging and encompass a range of ornamentations, stretches, speed bursts and so on, but they seem disjointed, lacking in any discernible rhythm, over-filled with discords, and generally unpleasing to the ear. What am I missing? Ok, so I am a 70-year-old intermediate level guitarist without any formal music school education, but isn’t music supposed to be pleasing to the ear, evocative, and … well perhaps here is my problem, my definition of ‘music’.

As a younger man, I had the same sort of problem with much modern art. Critics raved about what appeared to me to be a slapdash mess of forms and colours, but my impression was that a 6-year-old child could have done as well. I can’t say the same for the kind of classical guitar music that befuddles me because I can see that they would be extremely hard to play. I can understand, therefore, why some performers would use such pieces to display their skills, but do they enjoy playing them, and do people enjoy listening to them?

I am hoping that someone will explain to me the value of such music because even in my old age I am keen to learn. I have searched the internet for some credible critique but have so far found nothing that makes sense to me. Perhaps I am missing something that will change the way I process music or perhaps much 21st Century classical guitar music is just a big con… like much that passes for art, wisdom, and value these days.

 

Pithy advice for classical guitar performers

 

What follows is an extract from an article by Renato Bellucci on his mangore.com website. Renato is both an accomplished classical guitarist and a luthier. Over the years, he has come in for some severe criticism regarding the quality and value of his guitars, but there is no doubt that he has a deep understanding of both the instrument and performing on it.

Here is his advice concerning performing before an audience.

‘Advice I have and a lot has been written about the practical things we can do in order to give a good recital. These are some of the things I learned and apply to me.

DO NOT PLAY A PIECE OF MUSIC IN PUBLIC UNTIL YOU LIKE IT IN PRIVATE. Do not think for a second that the mistake/s we make while practising won’t appear on stage. They will FOR SURE.

PLAY MUSIC YOU REALLY LIKE and avoid competitions unless this point and the previous one are ok and make sure you go there to win and not to learn. Everyone knows who the winner is after the first round is over… the rest is meeting the scheduled dates. Learning should be left for practice time, not for competitions and as Berlioz once said: “Competitions are for horses, not for musicians”.

REMEMBER THAT ONLY 0.5% of the public will notice a mistake unless you put a TAG on it (like saying I am sorry).

99.9% of the people attending are there to cheer you up, make sure you are one of them.

If a PRO is there, you are lucky.

START THE PROGRAM WITH THE PIECE OR PIECES YOU ARE TOTALLY FAMILIAR WITH. In other words, start-off with the right foot, unless you are in for the thrill of your life.

IF FOR ANY REASON YOU DECIDE THE CONDITIONS ARE NOT RIGHT FOR A GIVEN PIECE, SKIP THE PIECE. Trust your feelings, nobody gets a receipt on the way in or out of a concert hall.

CHANGE THE STRINGS AT LEAST 3 DAYS BEFORE A CONCERT.

IT’S PERFECTLY OK TO HAVE YOUR SCORES ON STAGE.

YOU ARE NOT THERE TO IMPRESS ANYBODY.

REST ON THE DAY OF THE CONCERT, even better, have a great time, laugh a lot!

ENJOY THE MOMENT and make your own personal list.

LOOK FORWARD TO A BAD REVIEW, It’s better than no review at all and you were at least worth the ink’.

Nocturne No.2, Op. 4 by Johann Kasper Mertz

I thought I would include you in a part of my musical journey. One of the pieces I love to play is Nocturne No 2 Op 4 by the 19th-century composer, teacher, and virtuoso J.K Mertz.

The piece is written for lower intermediate players (what I have classified as Advanced Transitional) and is usually deemed too simple for concert performers to include in their programmes. However, it may be simple to read and to play badly, but it is far from simple to play cleanly and melodically.

Here is a recording I downloaded from the internet by a Cristobal Selame that sounds more or less how I play it.

Nocturne No.2, Johann Kaspar Mertz

Bradford Werner gives the free sheet music for this piece and you can find it HERE

Jan Depreter plays Capricho Catalán by Isaac Albéniz

Born in 1975 (Belgium), Jan Depreter is considered as one of the most remarkable guitar players of our time. Discovering music at the age of 5, he had to wait 3 more years for Santa Claus to introduce him to his first guitar; an encounter which would result in a lifelong passion for the instrument. Three times Jan graduated Summa Cum Laude for guitar, from the Lemmens Instituut of Leuven and the Royal Conservatories of Antwerp (BE) and The Hague (NL), where he studied with Zoran Dukic. He perfected his art with David Russell and Manuel Barrueco. (Taken from his website http://jandepreter.com)

Excellent article by Marcelo Kayath

I came across this article in the March 11th GSI Blog and I think it is worth sharing on Classical Guitar SA. The article is titled GUITAR – A SMALL ORCHESTRA OR A GRAND PIANO? and in it, Marcelo traces the development of classical guitar music from the end of the 18th century up to the present time. Click HERE for the article

And here is an example of Marcelo performing pieces from the Suite in F Major SW 33 by Sylvius Leopold Weiss where he demonstrates a number of the points he makes in his article.

 

Chôro No. 1 – Heitor Villa-Lobos played by David Russell

Villa-Lobos is one of the most important composers for classical guitar. His music combines Brazilian folk music with contemporary classical. Chôro No. 1, one of his most famous pieces, is a beautiful merging these two styles.

David Russell is one of the great players of the present age.

Knowing your classical guitar

 

My apologies to experienced players, but I wrote this article for those just starting out as players or interested non-players.

In this article, I deal briefly with a range of aspects of guitar construction, playability, intonation, humidity, strings and so on. I have only built one classical guitar, but I am a passionate enthusiast and I have researched and experimented quite a bit.

HERE is the article.

Millennial classical guitarists

 

In this, the 3rd and final post in the series, I am featuring 10 incredible players 35 years old or younger I have ordered them from youngest to oldest to maximise the impact. What wonderful talent in such young people!

 

Linda Bernert (10) plays Tango en skaï by Roland Dyens

 

Nina Bernert (12 now 14) plays Phantasia D major by David Kellner

 

Leonora Spangenberger (13 now 15 years old) plays 12 Etudes by Heitor Villa Lobos: Etude No 1

 

Julia Lange (19) plays Asturias by Isaac Albeniz

 

Stephanie Jones (24 years old) plays Recuerdos de la Alhambra by F. Tárrega

 

Anna Likhacheva (25 years old)  plays Russian folk song “Ivushka”

 

Gabriel Bianco (29 years old) plays Variations on Venice Carnival

 

Su Meng (30 years old) plays Bach Prelude, Allegro – Presto

 

Kyuhee Park (33 years old)  plays El Ultimo Tremelo by Augustin Barrios Mangore

 

Milos Karadaglic (35 years old)  plays’Oriental’ by Enrique Granados

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