Jorge Caballero gave a Master Class, co-hosted with Levine School of Music at their Silver Spring campus, in the Silver Spring Library on Sunday, January 29, 2017.
Jorge Caballero – January 28, 2017
When one is in the presence of greatness, one should be aware of it. I was certainly so on Saturday evening in the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring. From the moment Jorge Caballero sat down and composed himself to present an exquisite rendering of four pieces from the Iberia Suite by Albeniz, my understanding of the capacity of the acoustic guitar was forever altered. With an impassioned performance, Mr. Caballero perceptively communicated the poetic Evocation with its echoes of Spanish fandango and jota song forms. He moved with such ease into El Puerto, a fine Andalusian could have cantered in natural gait to its rhythms. And, El Albaicin and Malaga further bore us through the southern Spanish coast sharing its culture and images. Only absent was the fine wine and food to accompany these masterful pieces.
From J.S. Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903, the take away impression was simply stunning, stunning, stunning. To reduce a score written for an instrument with two manuals and five octaves each and impose it onto an instrument with just six strings is nothing less than insane. What’s even more insane is that it actually works, at least in the hands of Mr. Caballero whose command of his instrument is, I’m sure, the envy of many a performer eking out a career in this demanding profession. The rapid fire execution of scales and counterpoint might cause any keyboardist to permanently close the lid on their instrument; but, to conquer its fugal fingering on six strings, well, the only comparison is that both the harpsichord and acoustic guitar are plucked.
Intermission gave listeners time to recover from part one of the program, but nothing could have prepared us for part two. As one of only two guitarists in the world to have mastered Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on six strings, Mr. Caballero made Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue sound like Lesson Book I instruction. All that can be said is the man has skills — many, many gifts and even more skills to back up his inborn, natural ability. I wasn’t expecting to attend a guitar concert and hear all virtuoso compositions originally composed for the keyboard. Guitarists are renowned for their ability to interpret music written for other instruments, but this program presented us with some of the most difficult keyboard music one could tackle and yet there we were transfixed by not only the tremendous aptitude of this performer but by the amazing sound and dynamic of his playing. You would be amazed too, if you were to plug into the Marlow Series. Its reputation attracts the best guitarists this temporal world offers. What a gift to this community, unlike any other. And, Jorge Caballero confirmed for us Saturday just how fortunate we are to be on the receiving end of greatness.
Looking forward to hearing Antigoni Goni from Greece on February 25th at Westmoreland Congregational Church in Bethesda.
David Russell, March 12, 2016, John E. Marlow Guitar Series.
He had me at, “my wife and I have walked the Camino many times.” This is how David Russell, classical guitarist who plays in the stratosphere high above the ordinary crowd, began his introduction to the second work on Saturday’s program, Cantigas de Santiago by Stephen Goss. He also had me before that in his opening Suite Compostelana by Federico Mompou, equally inspired by the famous pilgrimage. David admittedly hasn’t made the 500 mile trek all at once but he lives within a 200 mile shot of the city and has done it enough to have logged in some impressive mileage. His own experience as a pilgrim set the tone for the Cantigas drawn from the earliest of Iberian secular songs and twelfth and thirteenth century collections. In the Goss work, one at times skips along the route and, at others, sits down to give the sandals a rest and reflect on the road behind and ahead. There was even a hint of Moorish influence in one of the movements which added to the complex dimensions of these historically set pieces. Sitting comfortably in the 21st century with lightweight backpacks and gear, it’s hard to imagine how the journey, all those centuries ago, would have been for whole families making their way to the relics of St. James, but this music makes it sound like a breeze, so if you’re planning the adventure, download the Cantigas — they’re sure to please and take the edge off those aching limbs. The Suite Compostelana, Mompou’s only work for the guitar, gave us some impressive, utterly exquisite and impeccably executed passages which left the audience a bit hushed after its hearing. It was the kind of interpretation that lends itself to accolades of “otherworldliness” and “if he’d lived in ancient Rome he’d be a god.” But Spain has already named at least one street after David Russell so it’s easy to understand the esteem in which he’s held there.
Part two of the evening began with the Bach Partita No. 1, BWV 825, transcribed by Gerhard Reichenbach. What a master this great composer is in the hands of another master. Even in the hands of less adept musicians Bach convinces that he’s the king of counterpoint. As I sat dumbstruck by this music, I was keeping time with David as he moved through the seven dances of the Partita. He never missed a beat. He plays with such precision that the airlines could learn a thing or two from his well-defined tempi even in the midst of complex trills here, there, and everywhere. And, as a keyboardist, I can say confidently the guitar demands much more skill to pluck the strings with one hand and place the notes on a narrow neck with the other than it does to depress a key attached to a rod with a hammer. And, it takes more than just a “gifted” musician to finesse a trill out of a wooden box and just six strings to produce an intelligible sound. It may be even more difficult than putting a man on Mars, but I’ll leave that to NASA to evaluate.
By the time we got to Tarrega’s Gran Jota and the first encore, Granados’ Andaluza, the listeners didn’t even bother sitting down. They just stood through it all – well, I do exaggerate a bit, but just a very little bit. You have to give it to the Marlow Series, one is never disappointed. With musicians like David Russell invited to town, we’re extremely fortunate to be the receptacle of a Series so well-conceived; and, it didn’t happen overnight folks. This is the 22nd Season, and with a lot of luck we’ll hear 22 more (hopefully with a lot of David Russell too).
On November 24, 2015, Chia-Wei Lin performed for students at James Blake High School in Silver Spring, MD as part of our Visiting Artist at School Program.
This program was developed to enhance music education and increase awareness of classical guitar by bringing the very best guitarists to schools in our area. Chia-Wei Lin performed pieces by Johann Kaspar Mertz and Marek Pasieczny, shared his experience as a young classical guitarist performing in many different countries and told personal stories about his life growing up in Taiwan.
The students were part of electric guitar class, and never had heard a world class guitar player performing so close. The music director enjoyed very much and offered for next time the possibility to organize a bigger meeting in the main auditorium with all the performing arts students from the school.
On Friday October 23, 2015, internationally renowned guitarist Marco Socias visited the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland, where he shared stories and played selections from Spanish guitar repertoire for over 100 attentive students. The mission of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts is to provide every student with a rigorous, comprehensive, college preparatory curriculum rooted in intense, pre-professional training in the arts that encourages excellence and success in their personal development as students, artists and cultural leaders. 1
Mr. Socias’ visit supported this mission by showcasing a world-class level of classical guitar performance to an audience of students from various arts disciplines. He shared his expertise about effective practice habits,discussed his lifestyle and extensive travels as a professional performing artist,and offered the opportunity for high school students to engage in a session of questions and answers. In addition to his remarkable musicianship, Mr. Socias’ warm personality and enthusiasm contributed to the positive response from the students, faculty and administration in attendance. For at least one pupil majoring in guitar studies, Mr. Socias’ performance was her first experience hearing live, classical guitar outside of the practice room.
1 Retrieved from http://wcpsmd.com/schools/high-schools/barbara-ingram-school-arts/about, December 9, 2015.
In the days to come, we will post a few pictures from both performances of Roland Dyens, France (L) and Marco Socias, Spain (R). In the meantime, please see what we have available on the John E. Marlow Guitar Series Facebook Page.
Roland Dyens is an original among musician-composers. Few would dare to open a program with an improvisation never before heard by an audience much less the performer himself. But, in the world of guitar playing, one dares to be different. This is how the opening concert of The John E. Marlow Guitar Series on October 20 got off to its 2012-2103 season start. On a wing and a secular prayer, Mr. Dyens amused Marlow listeners with his charm and, sometimes, witty playing.
Programs are generally the norm for performers, but Roland prefers spontaneity to formal program structure. Every piece, then, was a surprise and over half the repertoire was pulled directly from the performer’s own arsenal of uniquely original compositions and arrangements. We strolled with him through his musical wanderings from the opening improvisation, original works and adaptations, which included a sensitive rendering of that “more French than Polish” master Frederic Chopin’s Waltz no. 2, Op. 69, through Fernando Sor’s, Le Calme, to, again, his own piece aptly entitled The Delights of Jetlag, and ending on an encore, yet again his own, Comme Le Jour which touched the assembled souls and brought the house to its feet.
Mr. Dyens is a guitar’s musician too. He explores his instrument with casual familiarity, sometimes moving it gently to extend the after tones of pieces which allows final notes and chords to hum themselves under a sort of extended fermata-esque end. We thoroughly enjoyed having Roland back for a visit this year, and, with a nearly sold out attendance, he got our season series off to an exciting start.
Please join us again, on November 10, when Marco Socias of Spain promises to demonstrate just how indispensable this series has become to our area’s guitar devotees. Look forward to seeing you there.
Silver Spring, MD