Sabrina Vlaskalic

Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Debussy (Manuel de Falla)

As a listener, I met Sabrina Vlaskalic (*1989) for the first time at the preliminaries of the Scharpach Competition at the Twente Guitar Festival in 2008. In that year, she won the third prize and surprised the audience with a fierce on-stage discussion with the jury concerning exceeding the allotted time. One year later she re-appeared and won the first prize with conviction. I did not see her back again on the Twente Guitar Festival, if players have won a competition, they prefer an attempt at other competitions.

When I heard and saw her for the first time, it became obvious to me that she added a flamboyant stage personality to her musicianship, with a certain passion in her performance. At least her outfit was quite eye-catching in the crowd of grey mice dressed in black.

At first sight, things were a bit unusual, but at a certain moment the whole of her appearance brought some freshness to her performance. Carefully settling a long dress provides some cachet, even though to me this struggle with textiles looks like a crime for the player. I remember Sharon Isbin being busy for five minutes to arrange her dress after a break.

Six-years passed after 2009 before I saw and heard her again at the Guitar Festival Nordhorn. She had graduated in the meantime and was active as a concert player and as a teacher at the conservatory in Groningen. During her recital it became very clear to me that the years had done her well and that her performance had grown immensely. It was a memorable concert indeed.

The concert stage was not the only place where she showed the passion for music at that occasion. As a teacher she showed it likewise while improving and supporting the performance of her students that were there to participate in the competition. Doing so, she addressed aspects beyond their playing that are so important for an artist: personality and attitude. She showed a strong sense of responsibility for her students that went beyond sheet music, guitar technique and musical performance.

I met her a few times more at the next Nordhorn festivals, she was there to inform candidate-students that wanted to go to the conservatory to study the guitar. By means of an interview in my book Feast on Six Strings – Five Years of Guitar Festival Nordhorn, she offered me a personal view of her world of the guitar and guitar competitions.

Facebook provided me with some fragments of her life. Concert trips, performances all over the world, enjoying the world, holiday pictures with her partner, friends and music all around, her actions for the guitar festival in Groningen, her admission to the world-famous competition of the Guitar Foundation of America… And then, completely unexpectedly…

A fatal accident… She passed away on the 17th January 2019m one day before her 30st birthday.

The next day, I noticed on Facebook the immense stream of expressions of sympathy, shock and sadness. I added mine… It is true, these expressions are comforting and supportive, yet they will never be able to efface the real loss.

I wish her partner, family, friends and all people that hold her dear lots of strength to cope with this loss.

In this way a promise for the future becomes a retrospective. In this context, her first cd – Sabrina Vlaskalic – The Debut- came to my mind.

One of the prominently recorded pieces on this cd is Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Debussy by Manuel de Falla, a piece that is packed by heavy emotion on the pulse of a Habanera-like rhythm. The tension in the piece exists both in the powerful harmony and in the rhythmic suspense. Harmony and rhythm form the story in which sadness and a tremendous vital urge combine forces. Death, the tombeau, does not occur before the last measures.

In this piece she expresses her soul.

That is the way, I will remember her. That is how she will live on.

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