The Debut

In Brief

  • Title: The Debut.
  • Musician: Sabrina Vlaskalic, gitaar.
  • Identification: De Klank van Fransum Nr. 2.
  • Recording date: Not mentioned, probably 2015/2016.
  • Year of publication: 2016.

Homenaje pour le tombeau de Debussy by Manuel de Falla


I heard the Serbian born guitarist Sabrina Vlaskalic (1989 – 2019) for the first time at the Scharpach competition, one of the events of the Twente Guitar Festival in the town of Enschede, back in 2008.

In fact, the term hearing was too limited, it was a meeting with a flamboyant artist (at that moment she was still under training at the conservatory). On stage, she showed a relationship with her guitar and her music like in a love story, in all colourful degrees between passionate loving and likewise quarrelling. Doing so she added a clear touch of flower to the company of her fellow-contestants. It remained that way when she won the competition in Enschede the following year.

Six years passed before I met her again and heard her at the Guitar Festival Nordhorn in 2015. In the meantime, she had graduated and was working as an artist and a professor for the classical guitar at the conservatory in the town of Groningen. During her recital, it soon showed that the years had done her well, resulting in a fine concert.

She has been very active on the concert stages, a CD recording, however, had not been realised yet. That changed as soon as she got in touch with the Stichting Vroedschap Fransum. This is a foundation that manages the 13th century church in the small village of the same name. The special thing of this village is that it is located on an artificial mound, the only way to keep dry feet in the north of the province of Groningen in the pre-mediaeval time. This foundation promotes CD recordings under the label De Klank van Fransum, meaning The Sound of Fransum.

I was present at the CD presentation at the Guitar Festival Nordhorn in 2016. At that occasion, Sabrina briefly introduced her experiences with the recordings and made an impressive live-performance of one of the pieces on the CD: Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Debussy by De Falla. It was quite representative for the music on the CD!

The repertoire on the CD had a pleasant balance between classical and contemporary music. Aguado and Legnani represented the classical branch, Mignone and De Falla marked the transition to the modern era and Brouwer and Henze were the contemporary composers.

Vlaskalic opens with the second piece from Trois Rondos Brillants Op. 2 by  Dioniso Aguado. This is a piece that has formed part of her repertoire for quite a while, I heard it for the first time back in 2008 at the then Scharpach competition and a few occasions later, so the piece has had ample opportunity to mature. Consequently, the piece is well balanced between lyricism and the abundance of the opera, which is pleasantly obvious from the recording.

The second piece was a surprise for me, the Etude Seresteiro from Doce Estudios para Guitarra by Francisco Mignone. A study of almost seven minutes in which Vlaskalic explores the complete spectrum between sad serenity and passionate virtuosity with a beautiful warm sound.

Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Debussy by Manuel de Falla is 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.

Playing a story. That is essential, performing contemporary music. In the Sonata by Leo Brouwer, Vlaskalic did a very good job playing the story in the music. She does not give you a chance to be surprised or even annoyed by disharmonies and weird rhythms. Her story goes on, attracts and holds your attention and invites to visualize. Hearing the music, I almost write a book in my head! 😉 It’s a shame that I do not have an USB interface in my head to store the ideas!

In this way, Fandangos y Boleros obtain a subtle balance between peace and turmoil that is driven by confusing emotions and the sudden appearance of a very well-known theme in the end. Sarabande de Scriabin brings serenity with a clear undercurrent that emerges like dreams from the subconscious. La Toccata de Pasquini tells a passionate story in which Vlaskalic shows a perfect master ship of her instrument at moments that require a powerful tone that is solid like rock without fret clashing.

The movement Sir Andrew Aguecheek from the Royal Winter Music by Hans Werner Henze gets the same effective storytelling approach. 😉 Sabrina Vlaskalic appears to be a gifted story teller indeed (also “around the notes”). Normally I am no explicit fan of contemporary classical music, yet she plays it like a book that I must finish in one go, finding out afterwards that the alarm clock reads four o’ clock in the early morning!

The CD ends with a pleasant piece of nineteenth century opera, Fantasia Op. 19 by Luigi Legnani. A nice combination of drama and playfulness that makes you design a libretto to the music in your mind almost automatically.

The CD is called The Debut. Quite right, it is the first CD by Sabrina Vlaskalic. I would mention a sub-title too. The Confirmation. Of what? Well, the fact that she is a great artist and performer that known how to tell a story with her guitar.

I have a clear appreciation for the recording technique. I have listened to quite a number of recordings and I often was astonished by over-reverb or bone-dry registrations. An astonishment that distracts from the music.

In this recording, I noticed something special. The acoustics of the church in combination with the skills of the recording engineer caused the player and her music to be present, getting all the room to flourish. No distance as a consequence of reverb, no almost undesirable intimacies as a consequence of a bone-dry closeness. As a listener, I got the opportunity to hear every detail. Details are neither veiled nor exaggerated, the dynamics of the music remain in full force. The sound is transparent, a pleasure to listen to!

Conclusion: Just by this CD, you’ll have a monument at home!

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