Masterclass Robert Horna
Because of my little outing with my granddaughter, the second day of the festival was my first. As usual my Love drove me to the Van Essengaarde to save parking fees. Later on the day one of the participants told me that she had to pay nineteen euros for a single day on a parking lot in greedy city of Enschede. I’d rather keep that money in my pocket!
Thus, I walked with my bag and guitar case through the Van Essengaarde to the old music temple of the Artez Conservatory. The building of the American Guitar Store was as empty as it was last year. The bronze violinist with his case was still hoping for better days, but alas, this year the decision was made that the classical muse would leave the city of Enschede in order to move to the town of Zwolle, the city of the Greedy Fingers. A matter of greedy fingers indeed, during counting the few euros that our government had left for cultural education.
The building of the Artez Conservatory now accommodates a pop academy. I guess that the bronze violinist now should switch to electric violin! Just add a wire to the statue and all is set.
It was quiet inside. The luthier Jan Zonjee from Amersfoort was already there with his guitars. It appeared that we had both become a grandfather this year; it was fun to exchange some experiences.
A few guitarists were practicing their materials; a player of my age was browsing Lettre Milongue by Roland Dyens and a Polish girl that would participate in the Cat. 3 competition made an exercise of Espanoleta, Paradetas and Torneo by Gaspar Sanz (1640 – 1710).
I was sitting patiently; my master class would not start before eleven o’ clock. I enjoyed myself with tuning and sanding my nails.
I had a master class with Robert Horna, one of my former guitar teachers. He returned to Poland back in 2008. It was fun, the click we used to have, immediately was there again after all these years (I did regret that he left a few years ago). In the meantime, he had studied jazz at conservatory level. To me that looks an interesting combination, a classical guitarist that is skilled in improvisation too.
I understood that Poland is not the right country for musicians to become rich men and women. Consequently, many Polish musicians play and move abroad.
After catching up we had some time left for my competition repertoire. Vaterlandsblüthen Nr. 2 by Mertz got some practical annotations.
Preliminaries Competition Professionals
As a consequence of the change of main sponsor, the competition of the Twenthe Guitar Festival had changed names too: Kaj’s Guitar Store Guitar Contest, or shorter Kaj’s Guitar Store Competition.
The onrush for the professional competition was a little more than last year, 31 participants were on the list. Again this year there was an obvious “allogamy” with the Guitar Festival Nordhorn, I recognized at least ten names of players that had participated in this year’s edition of the Nordhorn festival. Two competitions that are close both in time and distance apparently motivate players to strive for the prizes at both occasions.
The preliminaries for the competition took place in the Ballet Hall of the Artez Conservatory. Now the Enschede branch of Artez has been converted into a pop academy, I guess the name should be Jazz Ballet Hall. The stage had been displaced again (through the years the stage has been on all four walls of the room). As a consequence of the very dry acoustics, the guitarists would have to play up to bring a bit of dynamics to the audience. For them it was a good thing that the jury was seated on the first rank.
Nikolas Patrakka played the starting note of the preliminaries with Courante from the Violin partita Nr. 2 BWV1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) and Barcarole Julia Florida by Augustin Barrios (1885 – 1944). The Courante appeared a joyful swinging piece with a few awkward left-hand transitions. Unfortunately, this caused the flow of the piece to become less clear. Julia Florida gave us more music with a sweet melody and attractive soft passages, although the player hesitated at times.
Peter Powell made the attempt to the finals with Tarantella by Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco (1895 -1986). The player was bothered by the acoustics of the hall in which the notes seemed to drop dead at the second rank. Maye that caused him to lose a bit of composure in a few phrases of this multifaceted and exciting piece
Peter Bácsi performed with two Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757). To gain some time he left out the repeats. The first Sonata was a very modest piece that almost sounded retired from the worldly noise, and the acoustics of the hall more or less affected this, the player was barely audible at the back (where I was). The second Sonata had more body, but also in this piece the player held back despite his interesting play in the middle section.
João Leitão failed to announce his contribution, so it was a good thing that the board had distributed programmes. Presto from Violin partita Nr. 1 BWV1001 by Johann Sebastian Bach and Estudio Nr. 4 by Heitor Villa Lobos (1887 – 1959). Presto became prestissimo with a touch of haste, but the player showed a good recovery from the haste-introduced slips. It was a pity that the soft passages sounded diffuse and lost a bit of their clarity. The Villa-Lobos etude, however, became a nice piece of music; the player skilfully found and expressed the story behind the study.
Roberto Hurtado Salgado combined classical with contemporary by means of Del Homenaje a Falla from Tres Apuntes by Leo Brouwer and two Capriccios’ by Luigi Legnani (1790 – 1877). The sketches by Brouwer showed a clear structure despite the somewhat too fragmentary performance. Capriccio Nr. 9 was almost too fast, yet it breathed the right opera atmosphere. Capriccio Nr. 7 was just as fast as Eduardo Fernandez played it on one of my first guitar CDs in the nineties, but it had some very pleasant quiet moments. This candidate awoke a sense of finals with me.
At Nordhorn, Andrija Lazarevic just missed the first place in the finals. I expected him to reach the finals here with his Caprice nr. 5 by Niccolo Paganini (1782 – 1840). I was not disappointed by his play, he played this arrangement of the virtuoso violin music fast, controlled and yet without haste. Again, I got a finals feeling.
Juan Carlos Arancibia Navarro considered Sevillanas by his fellow-countryman Joaquin Turina (1882 – 1949) as a nice entry to the finals. In practice, this appeared slightly more difficult, technically he played neatly, but in the musical sense I was not quite impressed. The consistency of the piece appeared the challenge.
It looked like it was bound to be, I immediately got the opportunity to compare performances, because Memi Ueno also stepped up with Sevillanas by Joaquin Turina. I could easily recognize the piece by ear, even though she did not announce the piece. She appeared more extravert in the rasgueados, which were the loudest in her very soft performance. I did like her clarity in the sections with the accompaniment in triplets.
Damiano Fineschi staked his cards on Bach, the Prelude from Lute Suite BWV995. His start was quite hesitant, but on the run, he gained power once he landed in the straight fugue after the quasi-improvisation of the prelude.
Darius Lampowksi was certainly quiet about his programme, so I was glad that the paper showed the correct data: Prelude from Hommage a Chopin by Alexandre Tansman (1897 – 1986) and Allegro from Sonata Op. 61 by Joaquin Turina. The sound of the Prelude was worthy to an homage to Chopin, tone and timbre reflected the style of this composer. Technically, Lampowksi played the Allegro by Turina neatly, yet he had trouble with the balance of the bass line if the latter carried the melody. Fortunately, it got much better as soon as the melody was back in the descant again.
Mark Jensen offered a joyful note to the preliminaries, Guajira by Emilio Pujol (1886-1989). He played a piquant pizzicato, but initially he had some trouble with the strict 6/8 – 3/4 system of the dance. Later on, he got in the mood and played this typical Spanish dance quickly and energetically.
Menno Bruggenhout left us to the information on the programme, Scherzo Vals by Miguel Llobet (1878 – 1938) and Zapateado from Tres Piezas by Joaquin Rodrigo (1901 – 1999). He played Llobet’s waltz curtly and pointedly and –as a consequence of the very high speed- sometimes a bit incoherently. On the run the Zapateado found its right atmosphere and it was hard luck that he slipped in the very last run!
Ibet de los Angeles Alvarez Mompié had the longest name of the competition. She started her programme without saying a word, let alone an announcement. On the programme paper her piece appeared Fantasia for Guitar by Roberto Gerhard. It was a colourful and atmospheric contemporary piece, so it was a shame that the guitarist at times played so retiring that the details got lost.
Aktas Fatih Erdogan started with Piezas sem Nomen, because he did not announce his pieces and the programme did not list them either. I heard a piece with an interesting swing, but its structure was quite fuzzy and incomprehensible and the lack of breathing pauses did not clear up things either.
Alejandro Gomez played something by Brouwer; I could even recognize it without announcement (that was lacking any way). He played the piece in the right atmosphere, kept its pulse and made a good balance between technique and lyricism. Likely candidate for the finals!
Fabian Freesen is an old acquaintance that played this competition on various occasions in the past. He came up with Etude Nr. 7 by Heitor Villa-Lobos and the last movement of a Sonata by Joaquin Turina. The Etude sounded much matured with a sophisticated balance between speed and expression. The Turina Sonata sounded fresh and playful, and in the slow section it was plainly beautiful. Most Likely candidate for the finals!
Jacob Bangsø was the winner of the competition of the Guitar Festival Nordhorn of this year. He was planning to repeat this feat in Enschede, starting with two movements from Aquarelles by Sergio Assad (*1952). The Valseana was a warm bath. I found it the best performance up till now. In the Divertimento Bangsö kept the swing very well and played a transparent performance of this awkward movement, even though he played it less convincing than in Nordhorn. Nevertheless, I think he will be a finalist.
Alejandro Aparicio made his music appear out of nothing, no announcement shed any light on it, and a movement from the Sonata In Memoriam by Fernando Carmona Arana, The piece appeared to have the atmosphere of a Tombeau. After a beautiful start the composition and its performance got bogged down more or less, despite the well-executed phrasing.
Rolf van Meurs performed a composition that was quite familiar to him, Sonatine 1954 by Hans de Heer (1927 – 2002). Personally, I find it a bit vague composition, but its sound was beautiful and at times unexpectedly tender. After this Sonatine we heard the last movement of the Sonata Op. 47 by Alberto Ginastera (1916 – 1983). Van Meurs made a nice performance at times, but personally I have a problem with playing loose ends from this Sonata, because all movements are interrelated. In this way the music sounded a bit disjointed.
For a change (well, to be fair, it looks like a custom to me amongst many players) Martin van Hees let us in the dark about the pieces that he would play. Long live the programme on paper! He started with the Cadenza from the Guitar Concerto by Heitor Villa-Lobos, playing it with bravura and eloquence. Still I missed the orchestra that introduces the Cadenza and after completion takes control again. His second piece was composed by the well-known Brazilian as well; Van Hees neatly played the squeak and creak Etude nr. 12. I got a light sense of finals.
Moises Silva wanted to reach the finals playing La Catedral by Augustin Barrios; he immediately started playing without further introduction. I recognized the last two movements, Andante Religioso and Allegro Solemne. The Andante was very modest indeed! A bit more legate would have added some extra to this movement. Silva concluded neatly with the Allegro that actually turned out to be Solemne.
Tuur Segers wanted to keep his performance a surprise for the audience and immediately started with the first note of the Fantasia by John Dowland (1563 – 1626). A surprising performance indeed! His voicing was nicely transparent and he played it joyfully up to tempo, including the complex last section. You may reach the finals in this way!
The longer I am listening, the more pleased I become with the programme on paper. Nevertheless, I had recognized the piece of Rosemarie Vermeulen by the sound of it, Tarantella by Johann Kaspar Mertz. The spider venom started to work slowly, but after a while the tempo increased and the player completed the piece pleasantly.
“If it is not in the rules, there will be no announcement”, Jinsae Kim seemed to think (At Nordhorn he had to announce, because it is in the competition rules). Thus he prepared his road to the finals with a Sonata by Domenico Scarlatti and the Fandango from Tres Piezas by Joaquin Rodrigo. I recognized the Sonata from a duo version and I immediately noticed the advantage of duo playing, in the solo version it is quite tricky to let the bass line sing. Unfortunately, the player was too hasty in this piece. The Fandango became fireworks with a fine technique. After a few measures, the player added a playful drive. Would he reach the finals here too?
I already heard Marcin Chilinski playing at Nordhorn. He went back to the classical/early romantic period with Soirées d’Auteuil by Napoleon Coste (1805 – 1883). A piece with a looong introduction, much virtuosity in the various themes and also a looong last phrase. This time Chilinski put less emphasis and effort in virtuosity, and the music benefited from it. Now the Vienna Waltz on the party night in Auteuil was pleasantly dansant.
Federico Spina kept silent about his repertoire. Unfortunately, the programme did not mention it either. His pieces were different from Nordhorn, so I could not copy the information. One piece resembled Scarlatti; the capodastro on the second fret seemed to be a clue for this. The second piece resembled a Fandango. Could it be a movement from Collectici Intimi by Vicente Asencio (1908 – 1979)?
Dear players, be sensible and announce yourself. Because I was puzzling about the pieces, I did not hear how well he played them.
For a moment, the stage was the realm of the frail Chinese Liying Zhu. She started with interesting material for comparison, the Courante from Violin partita Nr. 2 BWV1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach. She played quickly, elegantly but a bit curtly in the bass line. Her final piece was the famous Homenaje pour Le tombeau de Claude Debussy by Manuel De Falla (1876 – 1946). The technique was OK, the very loud bass sometimes added to the atmosphere, but sometimes it didn’t. I missed the sad tension of the piece.
The do say that speaking is silver and silence is golden, but I keep appreciating announcements. Apparently Malgorzata Jarosz went for the gold. I know a competition that has the statement in its rules that candidates are obliged to announce. It would be a fine initiative that serves the attention of the audience. I would suggest changing the competition rules accordingly in Enschede as well.
Anyway, the programme mentioned that she was going to play Etude 18 by Napoleon Coste (1805 – 1883) and Allegro Moderato from Sonata Mexicana by Manuel Ponce (1882 – 1948). Etude 18 appeared to be a three-movement piece, the middle section sounding the least as study material, so I found it the best section of the piece. The Sonata Mexicana was a bit fragmentary; I missed the story and the coherency of the piece.
The last candidate was Michal Bak. In the programme, it looked like that he played the same material as Malgorzata Jarosz, but the sound was quite different. The presumed Coste piece sounded way too Spanish and was definitely not the same as I heard with his predecessor. The movement from the Sonata Mexicana appeared to be another too; could it have been the Allegro non Troppo? He got along with the repertoire well, although I must admit that at times I found his play a bit rough.
The preliminaries were completed. Personally, I found more likely finalists than the number of places in the finals, so I am curious about the selection of the jury!
Concert Duo Melis and Festival Ensemble
The Festival Ensemble is an event for an ad-hoc ensemble of guitarists of all kinds and skill levels that rehearse a piece for a few hours in order to get it ready for an on-stage performance. This time they prepared the composition Time by Martin Müller, the conductor of the ensemble.
I had taken a look at the scores in advance and I found that it would take a bit of effort during the rehearsals, particularly for the parts that had a rhythm pattern that shifted over the measures. The final result (I could play back the piece via the web site of the Guitar Festival Twente) sounded contemporary with a definite swing.
The real effort, of course, was for the ensemble. After an afternoon of intensive rehearsal and a final try-out on the stage in the Concordia Theatre, the real performance was there. The ensemble was very motivated and the shifting rhythm patterns became clear.
After the orderly retreat of the ensemble (with instruments, chairs and music stands), two chairs remained on the stage. Quiet right, because Duo Melis was up.
No, not right away, first the results of the preliminaries of the professional’s competition were announced. Jacob Bangsø, Fabian Freesen, Andreia Lazarevic, Lying Zhu and Tuur Severs had reached the finals.
I remembered Duo Melis, Susana Prieto and Alexis Muzarakis, from the 2010 festival; they stood-in skilfully to an evening concert that was cancelled suddenly. In those days they played fireworks, so my expectations were high.
People do change over time, I noticed that Alexis Muzarakis had obtained some silver in his hair and I found out that Duo Melis had gotten a young scion (they are a couple), so I guess that they are performing both on stage and with bringing up a toddler at home.
I did remember their first three pieces from their performance in 2010, a few movements from the Zarzuela La Vida Breve and the ballet suite El Sombrero de Tres Picos by Manuel de Falla. One of the pieces was the Danza de la Molinera that is played as a solo as well. A nice piece of passion and synchronism.
At home, I have a recording of the music by Antoine de Lhoyer (1768-1840) as played by SoloDuo, so I knew that it was nice music, beit a bit excited to listen to it for a complete CD. So, Duo Melis found the right dose with Duo No. 3. Fast corner movements and a nice romantic middle section with a few virtuoso excursions.
Personally, the Toccatina by Nicolai Kapustin (*1937) did not appeal to me. It was an extremely fast and rhythmic piece, but it seemed to be built-up from effects only. Showpiece!
After the break, we returned to the Baroque Era with a few pieces by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Virtuoso and extensively (baroque) ornamented arrangements of the harpsichord compositions Allemande, Les Rappel des Oiseaux, Les Tendres Plaintes and Les Cyclopes.
The drawback of high expectations based on memories from the past is that you will never hear the same. Duo Melis played the music well balanced, but the goose bumps from 2010 had not occurred yet.
Fortunately, this tide turned with Mallorca by Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909). In my opinion with this piece Duo Melis played the most intense and beautiful emotion of the evening.
I guess Duo Melis agreed themselves, because Albeniz formed a nice step towards the likewise emotional (but less romantic) Sonata Fantasia by Dusan Bogdanovic, in which the composer gave voice to his memories of the war in Yugoslavia. Duo Melis interpreted these memories in a seamless and moving performance, the best interplay of this evening!
The audience picked up this emotional enthusiasm and rewarded the musicians with an ovation. As a reaction and encore, a little homage to their little daughter formed the pleasant goodbye of this evening.