by Mike Telin
The weather may have been frigid on Friday evening, February 2, but the capacity audience that gathered inside John Knox Presbyterian Church in North Olmsted was warmed by the mellifluous playing of the excellent classical guitarist Jason Vieaux. The concert was presented as part of the church’s Performance Series.
The first half of the program featured standard works from the classical repertoire, beginning with Mauro Giuliani’s Grand Overture. Giuliani is considered the Paganini of the guitar — the two composer/performers were contemporaries — and their musical similarities are noticeable. The Overture is full of lyrical lines as well as plenty of virtuosic passages, and Vieaux performed the piece with an air of sophistication.
During J.S. Bach’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998, Vieaux’s playing was warm and transparent. His voicing of the Fugue was superb, allowing each line to be clearly heard.
The guitarist began his arrangements of works by Isaac Albéniz with Rumores de la Caleta (“Malagueña”) in which he tossed off riffs with style and brought passion to the melodic middle section. After re-tuning the E string down a step, he presented a heartfelt interpretation of Capricho Catalán. Playing with rhythmic elasticity and technical flair, Vieaux’s performance of the serenata, Torre Bermeja, was splendid.
The guitarist moved into the 20th century for the second half, kicking things off with Paulo Bellinati’s fast and spirited Brazilian dance, Jongo. The three Interludes extracted from Hans Werner Henze’s twelve-movement Kammermusik made for a nice change of musical style — the first slow and introspective, the second featuring wonderful dissonances, and the third a lyrical song.
José Luis Merlín’s Suite del Recuerdo recounts memories of the composer’s extended family as they sat in the backyard playing guitar and drinking wine. The moods of the five movements range from nostalgia to torment, anguish, happiness, and hopefulness. Vieaux brought all of these moods to life with vivid color changes, articulations, and subtle shifts of tempo.
No program by the Grammy-winning guitarist would be complete without a nod to jazz. His arrangement of Pat Metheny’s romantic Always and Forever segued brilliantly into Roland Dyens’ arrangement of Antônio Carlos Jobim’s sublime A Felicidade. Vieaux’s arrangement of the Duke Ellington classic In a Sentimental Mood remained true to the composer, and offered a moment of nostalgia to a few audience members who were inspired to sing along. For his encore the affable guitarist sent the appreciative crowd on their way home with a message from The Duke — What a Wonderful World.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com February 14, 2018.
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