GUITAR FEST OPENS ON A CUBAN NOTE
Click your heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home”?
No, gracias. Because pretty much all Rene Izquierdo needs to do is place his classical guitar on his lap, and presto, he’s already halfway to Havana. Which is about as close to the Cuban capital as he’s going to come. At least, for the foreseeable future.
Izquierdo, who opens Emma Rush’s three-day Hamilton International Guitar Festival with a solo recital tomorrow night, Friday, July 7 at 8 p.m. in the Hamilton Conservatory, 126 James St. S., defected from Cuba in 1995 and has never returned. Since 2004, home has been Milwaukee where Izquierdo is associate professor of classical guitar at the U of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. However, it’s his native Cuba that he’ll spotlight in the first half of his recital.
“I wanted to do a recital of lesser known Cuban pieces from the folk tradition, showing a different light by playing pieces from Cuban 19th-century piano repertoire and arrangements,” Izquierdo wrote in an email to The Spectator last Saturday from Boston.
Izquierdo’s first three numbers, “Zapateo cubano,” “Ojos Brujos,” and “El arroyo que murmura,” were all arranged by Cuban guitarist-composer-conductor Leo Brouwer, with whom he’d studied very briefly and only in a masterclass setting.
“Learning with him was like having an encyclopedia of knowledge at your fingertips and his lessons were larger than music,” wrote Izquierdo of Brouwer. “He concentrated most in the general knowledge and how to back your intuition and be able to stand behind your musical statement.”
Izquierdo’s other musical statements include “La comparsa” by Ernesto Lecouna, Brouwer’s great-uncle, “Five Cuban Contradanzas,” and Antonio Rojas’s “Guajira a mi madre.” After intermission, he’ll present works by Domenico Scarlatti, J.S. Bach, Joaquín Rodrigo, and others.
On Saturday, July 8 at 2 p.m. in the Conservatory, American guitarist Lynn McGrath performs, with Spanish narration, excerpts from “Platero y yo” op. 190, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s musical impressions of Juan Ramón Jiménez’s eponymous collection of prose poems.
That evening at 8 p.m., two Canucks, Drew Henderson and Michael Kolk, a.k.a. Henderson-Kolk Duo, will split a bill with American guitarist Bill Kanengiser. The duo will dive into their transcriptions of the Allegretto movement from Beethoven’s “Symphony no. 7,” and the A. Scarlatti-J. S. Bach “Concerto for Oboe and Strings,” before tackling “Hier, aujourd’hui, plus jamais” by the U of Ottawa’s Patrick Roux, and W.A. Mozart’s “Duo for Violin and Viola” K. 423. Kanengiser’s set includes “Dror Yikro” (Song of Freedom), written especially for him in 1991 by Ian Krouse, and Oliver Hunt’s “The Barber of Baghdad,” among others.
Another of the festival’s guest artists who needn’t click his heels thrice is last year’s HIGF competition winner, Vietnamese-born, Chicago-based An Tran, 24, who’s in concert at the Conservatory on Sunday, July 9 at 2 p.m.
At first blush, you might be thinking that the classical guitar and Vietnam are odd bedfellows. But that’s not the case whatsoever.
“The classical guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments in Vietnam,” Tran wrote to The Spectator.
“There are many different guitar clubs and organizations where people can learn to play. There are concerts and festivals throughout the year.”
Not surprisingly, Tran’s recital, which was one of his HIGF competition prizes, includes three works from his native land, “Rain” and “Central Highlands of Vietnam” by the Vietnamese-German composer Dang Ngoc Long, as well as the love song “Stay, My Beloved,” arranged by Toronto’s The An Nguyen. For contrast, Tran will perform three of Sir William Walton’s “Bagatelles,” and Mauro Giuliani’s “Gran Sonata Eroica.”
Tickets for the festival’s evening concerts are $25, student/senior $15, while the afternoon affairs are $15 and student/senior $10.
In addition to these concerts, the HIGF is holding several workshops. Will Douglas’s “The Projection Project” runs this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. while Andrea Antaya’s “Neck, Shoulder, and Arm Health” is slated for 3 p.m. that afternoon. Hamilton baroque guitarist Bud Roach will “Evoke the Baroque” on Sunday 9 at 11:30 a.m.
The final round of the 2017 HIGF Competition is scheduled for Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Conservatory. Admission is $15, student/ senior $10.
For more information, log on to guitarhamilton.com/festival-season or call 905-807-4792.
Rene Izquierdo plays the Hamilton International Guitar Festival on Friday.