Masterclass Alexis Muzarakis
This Saturday was the day of my own (amateur) competition. To my pleasure I could get a lift from Bobby Rootveld who was there as companion of Nandini Sudhir, a young girl from India that participated to this competition to get some experience. In her own country, she had won several national competitions for the young and now she had spread her wings to Europe to follow master classes and achieve playing experience.
I was quite early present at the nowadays well secured door of the classroom. It’s just like my work; you can enter with a security badge only. I guess that’s safe against instrument theft. After a while Alexis Muzarakis joined me.
I complimented him with the Mallorca and the Bogdanovic Sonate that he had played in the Duo Melis setting the day before. Nice to talk about it afterwards.
We had some pleasant discussions about Onder een Linde Groen by Nicolas Vallet. He showed some exercises for the ring finger in order to lift the melody note out of a chord, he suggested some playful things with the melody and showed how to make a fingering based on strictly legato playing.
To me Alexis Muzarakis appeared to be a skilful and pleasant teacher and above all musician. It was fun to be playful with a wink!
This year I was a participant to the amateur competition myself, so the record of the first players (I drew as the second candidate) will be incomplete. Fortunately I could rely on some expertise in the audience!
If you want to read about my competition adventures of this year, please refer to the Guitarity about in elsewhere on this site.
Before the candidates older than sixteen would hit the stage, it was the turn of the young players of fifteen years and younger in the Cat. 3 competitions. This time we had two candidates that came all the way from Poland, Kinga Baranczack and Oliwer Giza. I had already noticed Kinga Baranczack, who practiced a piece by Sanz in the Artez canteen. Later it showed that this practice had been quite effective to win the prize.
I was not present, however, because I was waiting to be locked up in the room for playing-in.
The first candidate of the Category 2 competition was Hans Jansen, a player of my generation. He has played this competition a few times already and we appeared to be the oldies amongst the participants. I heard him playing when I was waiting for my turn in the dressing room in the catacombs under the stage. What I could hear of it sounded well, easily and collectedly, without hesitation and slips. I recognized Lagrima by Francisco Tarrega (although short, it can be an awkward piece) and music by Emilio Pujol and Paulo Bellinati.
From our journalist form the audience I got some further comments:
The first participant, Hans Jansen, hit the stage. It was a man that I had seen on the festivals before. I found his contribution to the competition surprising: he played three compositions, amongst others Lagrima by Tarrega, with a great peace in his play. To me he appeared particularly meditative, serene and modest; I greatly enjoyed listening to him. Later on I asked him about this meditative aspect and I appeared right, he was a practitioner of meditation indeed!
My turn. My exact memories of what I did are vague (could it be flow?) as I described in the Guitarity about this subject. Yet I achieved my goal: Playing the complete programme in a musical way, at least in my opinion.
After an exciting voyage through the dark catacombs I entered the hall in time to hear some of the candidate after me. Pieter Dirk Dekker played Tango en Skai by Roland Dyens and an arrangement of Leyenda by Enrique Granados (1867 – 1916). These are both challenging pieces, the challenge being NOT to overextend your capabilities. At times, however, the player did overextend, which was clearly audible.
Also about this player a reaction of our journalist:
The second participant Pieter Dirk Dekker was a young Dutch talented guitar player. His appearance was neatly; he was well-dressed and presented himself correctly. With amongst others Tango en Skai by Dyens the player left a sound impression. Unfortunately, it became clear that the repertoire in combination with the performance-stress was a little bit too ambitious. A slightly easier repertoire very likely had yielded him a higher rank on the podium.
It was strangely obvious with all young Dutch participants of this competition, they played repertoire that was too difficult to play convincingly under the given circumstances. Playing competitions, it is quite important to master the repertoire and feel completely at home with it. Anything less will lead to poorer results than expected by the player.
Nandini Sudhir from India elegantly hit the stage. With a clear voice, she announced that she would play Frog Galliard by John Dowland and Tarantella by Johann Kaspar Mertz. She played completely by heart.
The tricky thing with Frog Galliard is keeping the tempo and the pulse of the piece despite the fact that the divisions become more complex. Nandini was accurate in this and in the end her play even gained extra strength. After the Dowland piece she started the Tarantella with an energetic tempo. She kept the pace and stayed on track, also with the tricky transitions. The same applied for the 6/8 swing of the piece. A spectacular end section concluded her performance. I was there when she played it in Nordhorn and I frankly admit that she surpassed her then presentation here in Enschede. She emanated a certain peace that seamlessly integrated with her performance.
The fifth candidate was Vera Hukker, an old acquaintance of the amateur competition of this festival. She appeared with a piece that has a reputation in degree of difficulty, La Catedral by Augustin Barrios with all three movements, Preludio saudade, Andante religioso and Allegro solemne.
The Preludio brings the guitarist into the crest of the cathedral, so far beyond the twelfth fret. She had to take care not to get ‘acrophobia’ at these positions. With Andante religoso Vera did what was required, creating a calm and spiritual atmosphere. In the last movement, she was very careful not to surpass the boundaries of her capabilities, because it is not wise to attempt to play the same tempo in this movement like for instance David Russell. However, the almost logical consequence became, that the last movement was Solemne, but no Allegro at all! It did not really help her: the last movements showed its challenge, a long-concentrated effort. After the first movements at times it became a problem to keep concentrated, judging a few clearly audible slips and hesitations.
The last candidate was the young Robin Ros. He strove for the prizes with Preludios Americanos Nr. 3 Campo by Abel Carlevaro and the famous Vals Nr. 3 by Augustin Barrios, both pieces that are fitting for conservatory training. So, Noblesse oblige, but… that did not show up during his performance. The bass line in Campo carries the melody and is life-important for the piece, well; its performance did not convince me! Like I have heard with a number of competitions, the Valse by Barrios has some pitfalls ready for the player, and unfortunately Mr. Ros could not evade them all.
We did not have to wait long for the results. This afternoon, the jury valued youthful ambition and technical complexity of the repertoire.
Nandini Sudhir from India was the proud winner, and I totally agreed with that. Vera Hukker and Robin Ros shared the second prize and the remaining players were not rated.
(Un?)Fortunately, the certificates mentioned the ranking (although I understood that this should not have happened), the oldies were on the last positions, I was placed last and Hans Jansen got place five. Pieter Dirk Dekker could choose the fourth or third place, that’s simple mathematics, isn’t it? I guess he would rather have the third place on his guitar CV. I must say that it’s a strange construction, as a jury I would have issued this third price anyway. Well, possibly an extra prize was out of budget.
The great advantage of the last place is that you have the biggest chance of improvement the next time, if you have a high ranking that’s much more difficult. I have achieved some useful experiences and additionally have finally hit the stage in Concordia before the intended conversion of this theatre to a movie hall.
Concert Robert Horna
I heard the Polish guitarist Robert Horna for the first time on the very first Twente Guitar Festival back in 2006. In those days, it was a relatively small-scale but very adventurous three-day start of a sequence of guitar festivals up till today. I was quite impressed by his performance.
He had studied at the Twente Conservatory with Louis Ignatius Gall and started his own guitar teaching business. That suited me well, because in 2006 I was prepared to start guitar lessons again. In the years that followed I got to know him as a skilled and motivated teacher, until he left Holland and returned to Poland in 2008. After his leave, I have seen him a few times at concerts in the theatre De Kappen in the town of Haaksbergen, the Synagogue in the village of Borne and the Aureolus Theatre in the hamlet of Brecklenkamp. After his return in Poland he studied jazz and improvisation at a local conservatory.
It was fun to see him again on stage. It is rewarding experience to assess that the years sometimes favour a musician.
He took off with a few pieces by Gaspar Sanz (1640 – 1710), amongst others Espanoletas, Torneo, Zarabanda, Clarines y Trompetas and Canarios. What can I say; he played them even livelier than on his CD.
I had never heard him playing the Jazzsonate by Dusan Bogdanovic. An ingenious and quite complex piece that shows quite a number of runs and modulations that you meet with jazz guitarists like Pat Metheny. Horna played this music with precise motivation.
Just before the break Robert Horna played two pieces by his favourite composer Roland Dyens, Songe Capricorne and Saudade Nr. 3. I heard a beautifully matured and experienced performance. With these pieces, it became clear how the years, even though they have not been all friendly and prosperous, may influence the interpretation and perception of the music in a positive way. It was impossible for me to sit quiet on my chair during the swing of the Saudade.
The first piece after the break became Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song by Carlo Domeniconi. Robert Horna played lyrical and lively, yet he invoked a quiet longing to Koyunbaba by the same composer, one of the pieces that Horna can play matchlessly.
Robert Horna is a passionate lover of the music by Astor Piazzolla, regarding a number of arrangements he made of the tangos of this famous Argentine. This time he would play Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas, a four-movement suite on the seasons (in Buenos Aires, I presume).
In the end, he did not play them all four, one of them was replaced by Milonga del Angel. Hearing this, my memories went back to 2006 right away. That was because Jolanda, the then winner of the first amateur competition, was sitting right next to me. Since 2006 I had met her on every Twente Guitar Festival that followed. In those days, back in 2006 she won the competition with this piece, coached by Robert who was her guitar teacher in those days. A nice homage in this time to a dear memory.
The other Portenas were played with the fierce emotion of the traditional Argentine Tango. Her you clearly notice the difference with a CD recording, living music makes contact in a different way.
The applause was a clear indication that the audience had gotten in the mood. Robert Horna sensed this and rewarded the euphoria with the longest encore in many years, the Koyunbaba by Carlo Domeniconi
Six years ago, playing this piece before returning to Poland, he expressed in my mind the pain of a goodbye, of leaving a country and people that are dear. On this occasion, it showed again that the years had been good for this music, again this maturity and experience. The audience listened breathlessly and obviously picked up the emotion.
A worthy finale for a monumental concert!