27 Countries!

We just did a tally. Amazing to think of it, isn’t it?

27 Countries represented in the John E. Marlow Guitar Series over the past 22 years ( 6 concerts per year):

54 concerts representing the USA

14 Brasil

19 Spain

9 Paraguay

1 Argentina

3 Venezuela

2 Bulgaria

7 France

6 Cuba

4 UK

5 Australia

2 Greece

2 Belgium

1 Sardinia

2 Scotland

1 Germany

4 Ireland

2 Italy

7 Croatia

1 Canada

3 Israel

1 Turkey

3 Chile

3 China

1 Mexico

2 Poland

1 Taiwan

Pepe Romero, April 14, 2012

“It’s taken awhile to formulate all the thoughts swirling in my head since Pepe Romero graced the Marlow Guitar Series with the final concert of the 2011-2012 season on April 14.  Pepe packs so much artistry and excellence into his programs it’s just hard to know where to begin, but a few impressions come distinctly to mind when he plays: he is a great lover of his instrument; he should be given the title “Strummer Extraordinaire”; he is a master of contrasts; and, there is no distinction between his body and the guitar – when they sit down together, they are one harmonious, inseparable unit.

All of these descriptions were evident from the moment he opened with Milan’s 16th century Fantasia the delicacy of which summons sublime innocence in a lyrical style that hardly sounds on the cusp of the Baroque; but, there it is, sweetly strolling along like a docile lamb grazing on a bucolic meadow without threat or fear of man or beast. This piece, from the start, communicated that tremendous affection between this eminent artist and the tool of his trade.  He loves every, and I mean every, note like his own child with great adoration.  I couldn’t help but think he must have been from the holy family of the guitar – that he must have been raised by gentle hands and very tender hearts.  He even honored this by playing one of his father’s compositions near the end of the program.  But, before that, in Gaspar Sanz’s, Danzas Espanolas, he demonstrated the inner workings of the great Spanish tradition of simple and accessible melodic lines tweaked with subtle ornamentation always charming, never overdone, flawless, and exceptional in every way.  When little themes echoed each other, as they often do in classical form, there was always a contrast of darkness and light, piano and forté without an obvious “here I’m playing soft folks, and here I’m playing loud…”.  No, Pepe’s approach to contrast is almost imperceptible at times, but never insignificant.

Gran Jota by Tarrega brought such quiet to the house you literally could have heard a pin drop.  With it’s long-scaled runs to its rapid strumming passages, it was a tour de force of the Spanish repertoire.  At one point in this piece the playing was so soft you could see listeners leaning into the sound breathlessly waiting to exhale all the while being transported by those remarkable hands in which we were all held.  Then, the strumming came, OMG, no one strums like this man.  When he runs his fingers across the strings of his instrument you hear every note articulated like it were the one and only out of this wave of gushing sound in the middle of which there are all kinds of other things going on from light percussive taps on the soundboard to awesome arpeggios one on top of the other running up and down the frets with an ease that is almost shameful.

Albeniz’s Leyenda is one of those oft played pieces by guitarists which demonstrates one’s great facility, or not, for non-stop finger work.  Not everyone is so convincing of their abilities but that’ not an issue for Pepe who just confirmed how superior he is to mere mortal performers.  And, for Beatty Guitar Competition 2011 Grand Prize Winner and 2012 Finalist, Katie Cho, who, at the ripe old age of 12, played Leyenda as her opening competition piece back in March, was beaming with pride for being part of that inner Leyenda circle (I can’t help thinking he must have played it for her).

By the time Pepe ended the program with his Father’s Fantasia Cubana, he had taken the audience through five centuries of music that convinced me how likely it would be that we would recognize our ancestors if they returned from the dead.  Despite the hundreds of years gone by, there is still a lot to recognize in the gifts they’ve left us.  The program was a rich history of the Spanish oeuvre, a rare program even for a classical guitar series.  It’s no wonder Carol Marlow turned to me at the reception and, with a fire in her eyes, said, “See!  That’s where classical guitar comes from, it comes from Spain!  So, many young performers forget this!”

She is so right.  It truly was a stellar close to a glorious season and one I hope this listener never forgets.  Look forward to seeing you next season…”

-D. Drayer, Silver Spring, MD

John Feeley, March 24, 2012

If you haven’t heard John Feeley play his own arrangement of the Bach Cello Suite no.1, you haven’t heard the Bach Cello Suite no.1.

From the opening Prelude with all its soulful longing, through the remorseful and mordent filled Saraband to the final Gigue, it fills your head with memorable emotion which will follow you around for hours, days even — on the sidewalk, at street crossings, in the elevator (if musak doesn’t interfere with it).  You won’t be able to shake its haunting counterpoint.  This is what we were given a taste of on March 24th, when Ireland’s own was ours for a little over an hour for the Marlow Series.  It just doesn’t get much better than that, except maybe those wonderful O’Carolan melodies as timeless and fresh since the day they were composed.  You can play them straight or dress them up with frilly ornamentation and they still convey a sense of a time gone by, something missed, but oh so romantically remembered.  The mastery of these pieces lies in the musician’s ability to turn the notes and phrases as a woodworker skillfully guides the saw to produce a masterpiece of form and motion out of solid matter.  The artist feels it, sees it taking shape and executes.  John Feeley knows these pieces like the back of his hand, and turns phrases into decorative little masterpieces in and of themselves.  What a gift it is to be informed by his mature experience — another evening enjoyed by all.

In addition to John’s program, we had the opportunity to hear, for starters, this year’s winner of the Beatty Competition, Young Jun Lim, who is off to the Peabody Conservatory next year on scholarship.  This Series has inspired a younger generation of artists to strike out on their own, and we are extremely proud of all the Beatty Competition contestants who bring their own fresh ideas to timeless guitar classics.

For our last concert of the Season, Pepe Romero will grace the Series.  Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, this program is already sold out, but if you subscribe to the series, you don’t have to worry about such things.  Please consider doing so for the 2012-2013 Season.  Watch your mailbox for subscription brochures which will be out in late summer.  We look forward to seeing you in the Fall!

-D.Drayer, Silver Spring, MD

Simon Powis, February 24, 2012

“Scarlatti is just as much a delight to play as he is to be heard on the receiving end by ticket holders.  One might say it’s the thrill of the trill that lures in the listener, but it’s so much more.  Simon Powis, one fine Australian and soon to be American, gave us more on Saturday the 25th with his practiced elegance and accomplished ornamentation of three Sonatas by this eminent composer of the harpsichord – an instrument which lends itself nicely to transposition on an adeptly plucked and fretted acoustic guitar.  The skill in turning these sonatas, made for up to 50 strings, however, into a work for six strings is, in and of itself, a daunting occupation.  But, to do so with equal musicality and skillful decoration raises Dominico’s art to another level entirely.  One could easily argue that trills, mordents and embellishments are far more complex in a guitarist’s hands than those of a harpsichordists.  The guitarist isn’t just depressing a key from which an articulated sound pours forth.  His instrument requires far more finessing and calculation – the fingers needing to know precisely where those arpeggios go rather than merely striking a key and voila – out comes the note.  Try it sometime, I guarantee you you’ll be stumped.

But, Mr. Powis was not stumped.  He breezed through the courtly K491, to the melancholic reverie of K208, and ended with the cat and mouse-ish chase of K209 all with metronomic precision.  All else that followed took on its own form, from the stream of consciousness lines in Armand Coeck’s Constellations to Giuliani’s Rossiniana 1, op.11 through Walton’s Bagatelles with its Satie-esque Lento and lyrical Alla Cubana, Turina’s toreodorish passages and ending on Piazzolla’s Tangos with the La Muerta de Angel providing an impressive ending to a program that spanned the Baroque to the 20th century.

We’re getting spoiled this year, you know, with all these new young hands bringing us something unique from their respective continents and fanning the fire for this series ever higher, and Spring promises even more with the seasoned John Feeley of Ireland up next on March 24th and our 2011-2012 finale provided by a much beloved and cherished Pepe Romero on April 14th.  Hope to see you there…”

-Deborah Drayer
Silver Spring, MD

Duo Amaral, January 21st, 2012

There’s a rule about duet playing that most musicians would likely agree requires control and respect on the part of an accompanying musician.  When one has the melody, the other backs off and gives free reign to whichever player has it within his or her own hands.  Musicians like Mia Pomerantz-Amaral and Jorge Amaral understand this intuitively, instinctively and beautifully.  It takes a lot for accomplished musicians to know when deferring to a partner is best for everyone and everything provided by the composer.  These two poised artists get this concept; and, in so getting it, they create a marvelous auditory pas de deux that joyfully amplifies twice what one six-stringed instrument could only produce by half.

The Duo Amaral seems to agree that four hands are, if not better, certainly more complex than two; and, on January 21st, Marlow Guitar enthusiasts were easily convinced that twice an accomplished musician doubles the listening experience. 

In arrangements distinctively arranged and/or interpreted by the players, new life was breathed into familiar works of Vivaldi, Franck and Handel.  With Vivaldi’s L’estro Armonico Concerto No.9, we were transported to Italy where court dances and sinuous, gondola rides took us to a place most of our passports have not yet marked.  With Franck’s Prelude Fugue & Variation Op.18, we heard the aching tenderness of naïve love awakened by the reality of life’s complex fugal demands.  And, then, with Handel, we came to appreciate just how exceptional and intricate the 18th century was and still is for those whose art remembers it.

After the concert’s usual, and enthusiastically received guitar give-away drawing, the Duo departed from the printed program and offered us Jorge’s recently transcribed piano work by Isaac Albeniz (Espana) and wonderfully original work by his father/composer Victor Manuel Amaral Ramirez.  In Jorge’s father’s piece particularly, there was a refreshing departure from purely circle-of-fifths composing to a 20th/21st century exploration of tonality that was complex, intriguing and masterful in a way knowingly captured by both Amarals especially in the second movement’s harp-like, open passages and high-on-the strings playing balanced so superbly by the two instruments.

Now, without further belaboring my obvious appreciation of these newcomers, I strongly recommend that if you ever yearn for a sound that will engage you and transport you to a place we often do not allow ourselves to go, pick up a copy of Duo Amaral’s “Suplica”, and find yourself again.


-Deborah Drayer
Silver Spring

WPFW FM 89.3 Interview With DUO AMARAL

Sunday, January 15th, Duo Amaral will be on Tom Coles’ G Strings program, WPFW FM 89.3.  Listen between 10 am and 12 noon for the interview and live music!  (You can listen through their website through their ListenLive streaming player options.)

The John E. Marlow Guitar Series will present the Duo Amaral on Saturday, January 21st, 2012, 8pm at the Westmoreland Congregational Church in Bethesda, MD.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Taken from their bio on the website –
Duo Amaral was launched in 2008 by husband and wife Jorge Amaral and Mia Pomerantz-Amaral.  This dynamic duo is gaining momentum and steadily attracting audiences in the USA and abroad as their reputation grows with each recital and master class. Duo Amaral has been described by Il Messagero Veneto as “masterful, with poetic virtuosity and intensity of expression”. In just two and a half years, they have toured in Italy, Germany, Poland, Panama, Mexico, Israel and the USA, performing, giving workshops, master classes and judging international competitions.

Mr. and Mrs. Amaral completed their studies at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University, where both were awarded Master of Music and Graduate Performance Degrees with Manuel Barrueco and Julian Gray, respectively.
(click here for more)

A Master Class Review (Dimitris Kotronakis)

Just a note that we received about Dimitris Kotronakis’ Master Class, the day after the concert.

Hi Tim,

The kids were VERY inspired by Kotronakis’ class.

All my best,