Review: Jason Vieaux, Classical Guitarist from USA

JasonVieaux-fixTen years ago, the John E. Marlow Guitar Series invited a young American guitarist with a French name to perform.  Although Mr. Vieaux was the 1992 winner of the Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition, he was not well-known.  Back then, he played a well appreciated concert and over the years his name would surface for a return visit.  On October 26, 2013, Mr. Vieaux returned to perform the opening concert for our 20th season.  The audience of close to 500 found his performance to be beautiful and certainly among the best we have seen over the years.  It was easy to see why Mr. Vieaux is one of the most sought after concert guitarists today – performing over 50 concerts a year on top of his teaching duties as Head of the Guitar Department at the Cleveland Institute of Music and as a co-founder of the new Classical Guitar Department at the famed Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

Mr. Vieaux is what lawyers call a “strict constructionist,” i.e. he believes the music should be played exactly as the composer intended and not take liberties to make things easier to play as is a popular trend.  His “play it as written” approach was apparent in his opening two pieces – – the Grand Overture, Opus 61 by Giuliani and the Bach Lute Suite No. 1 in E minor.  Mr. Vieaux closed out the first half with a truly haunting rendition of Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70, the second having been originally composed for Julian Bream in 1963, one of Mr. Vieaux’s classical guitar gods.   I’m sure that if Mr. Bream, long retired from performing, had been at the concert he would have joined the crowd in the standing ovation given at the end of the evocative piece.

Following the Intermission, Mr. Vieaux started with a flawless performance of Isaac Albéniz’s Sevilla, surely to ensure that those in the audience who love the Spanish repertoire did not leave disappointed.  He then turned to a group of pieces by contemporary composers.  Following Sevilla, he completely shifted gears and did an incredible jazz arrangement of the Duke Ellington song In a Sentimental Mood.  Again, had he been present, I’m sure one of Mr. Vieaux ‘s other guitar gods, Pat Matheny, would have joined in the raucous applause.  The next piece, The Devil’s Strum, composed Dan Visconti for Mr. Vieaux is a take on the story of the blues guitarist who sells his soul to the Devil to gain inhuman ability on the guitar.  The piece which involved loud foot stomping, multiple string tone changes, strumming behind the nut and awesomely dazzling blues licks, did show close to inhuman ability to play the guitar and likely will only ever be played by Mr. Vieaux.  He closed the concert with pieces by Brazilian composers Paulo Bellinati and Argentine José Luis Merlín’s Suite del Recuerdo, a tribute to the victims of Argentina’s Dirty War, where thousands of men, women and children became the disappeared.

The highly demanded encores naturally included Mr. Vieaux’s own arrangement of a Pat Metheny piece.

The concert was unusual because unlike many performers Mr. Vieaux, provided fascinating details about each piece.  And, oh by the way, he does amazing imitations of George Harrison and John Lennon which should be demanded at his next appearance, which I am sure will be will before 2023.
– David Kirstein

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Author: marlowguitar

International Conservatory of Music presents the John E. Marlow Guitar Series: Presenting Guitarists from all over the world! Posts written by Meagan Healy and edited by ICM, unless otherwise indicated.