Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux

I’m looking forward to the release on January 27th of a new CD from internationally acclaimed solo artists Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux entitled “Together.”  These superb musicians join forces to showcase the rich colors and unique repertoire for harp and guitar.

Their diverse expressive capabilities and intimate sonorities suggest that they are interchangeable parts of one whole . . . it was difficult to hear where one instrument ends and the other begins – the mystical effect of one great intangible apparent throughout the program: the intuitive synchronicity of Kondonassis and Vieaux.

– The Buffalo News

Read and interview about this CD here.

Jason Vieaux Releases New Album, “Play”

jasonvieauxplaycoverThe person who has ignited a renewed passion in my life for the study of Classical Guitar is a down to earth virtuoso named Jason Vieaux (go to his website here.)  Jason co-founded the guitar department at The Curtis Institute of Music, and he has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 2001.

I met Jason Vieaux at a Master Class held at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, N.Y.  I was a nervous mess when I had to play for him, but by the end of the week long class, he had managed to encourage my ability and approach to the guitar in ways I had never attempted nor even dreamed of before (see my post from July 2011, Guitarists in the Monastery) .  Not only is he an extraordinary musician, but he is an excellent teacher and ambassador for the classical guitar.  I’ve had several private lessons with Jason and was one of the early students to enroll in his online school with Artistworks (an amazing online resource for learning all styles of music).  He is generous and encouraging in his pedagogical approach no matter what level of ability presented by his students.

The official release of his newest solo album, Play, on Azica Records, is scheduled for January 28, 2014, but is now available on Amazon and iTunes. The album celebrates Jason Vieaux’s 20th anniversary as a performer by featuring the Spanish, Mexican, South American, Cuban, French, and American classics that Vieaux has found to be universal audience favorites over the past two decades. The music includes showpieces by Barrios, Sagreras, Bustamante, and Sainz De La Maza, Tárrega’s classics Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Capricho Arabe, and Vieaux’s own in-demand arrangement of Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood and Andrew York’s popular Sunburst.

It is one of the most spirited and dynamically expressive classical guitar recordings I have ever heard and reveals Jason’s expressive virtuosity at the service of a wide range of music styles.  His arrangement of Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood is simply stunning.  If you have not had the pleasure of hearing Jason Vieaux before, this may be the perfect album to get you started.  Bravo Jason!

Bach Sarabande et Double, BWV 1002

A surprising snowy day in March offered a day home to practice two movements from J.S. Bach’s Violin Partita No. 1, BWV 1002 in B minor.  I’m playing a 2012 Kenneth Hill Cedar Performance Guitar.


Guardame Las Vacas

A Spanish Renaissance piece with folk theme and variations by Luis de Narvaez.  This is another popular piece for students of the guitar.


Julia Florida

Here is a piece I’ve been studying by the great Paraguayan master, Agustín Barrios Mangoré.  Mangoré was a virtuosic guitarist and an innovative composer. After his death in August, 1944, he and his music were forgotten or ignored for nearly two decades. Since then, Mangoré’s recognition has increased significantly among the classical guitar community and this piece is often played in concert. Recent artists such as: David Russell, John Williams, Jason Vieaux, and others have brought his music back to life through their recordings. Quoting John Williams:

“… as a guitarist/composer, Barrios is the best of the lot, regardless of ear. His music is better formed, it’s more poetic, it’s more everything! And it’s more of all those things in a timeless way. So I think he’s a more significant composer than Sor or Guiliani, and more significant composer — for the guitar — than Villa-Lobos.”

Julia Florida is a Barcarola – a style of music sung by the gondoliers in Venice, Italy or any music that is created in this style. Typically in 6/8 meter, it simulates the motion of the boat moving through the waves of the water with the rhythmic rowing of the gondolier. If I ever get there, I’m bringing my guitar!


Birds Flew Over The Spire

Here is a lovely short piece written by the British Classical Guitarist and Composer Gary Ryan.  I’m using a new guitar, an Andreas Kirmse Cedar Double-top.  Andreas is a German Luthier living in France and his guitars have exceptional warmth and playability.

A Map of the World

Today was a sabbath day, a day for playing guitar.  Several years ago (1999) Pat Metheny contributed to the soundtrack for the film, “A Map of the World,” and the the title track evokes simplicity, depth, and transcendent beauty.  It plays like a prayer.

I have not been able to find the transcription for the guitar track, so I’ve learned and adapted it by ear.  Metheny performs this on a small scale steel string that is tuned a fifth higher than normal pitch on the guitar.  I think it works well for the classical guitar as well.  I spent the day working it up and recording it on my Logic setup.  Hope you enjoy it.


Café Concert: Jason Vieaux

From WQXR the Classical Music Station of NYC:

Until this year, the Curtis Institute of Music, the famed conservatory in Philadelphia, did not regard the guitar as an instrument worthy of a place in its curriculum. When the school changed its policy, it hired Jason Vieaux to co-run a guitar department. This week, Vieaux gave a Café Concert, offering a program that was in some ways a treatise on the guitar’s usefulness, both as solo instrument with an original repertoire, and as a close cousin of rock music and jazz.

Of the former category, Vieaux performed two works by the usual suspects: Sevilla, a tasteful arrangement Isaac Albeniz, and Joropo, an evocative Latin dance piece by the Argentine composer José Merlin (both will be heard in a recital at the Caramoor Festival on July 21). He also switched gears to perform an arrangement of a song by the jazz-guitar legend Pat Metheny, who was the subject of Vieaux’s 2005 album “Images of Metheny.”

Read the full article here.



Romance No.1 for Guitar and Orchestra

This past week, I worked on a beautiful composition for guitar and orchestra titled “Romance No.1” by John Brunning.  I came across this piece as performed by the brilliant guitarist, Xuefei Yang, on her recent album, “Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez.”

The orchestral arrangement on the recording provides an evocative harmonic background to the guitar and I decided to arrange it by ear for a midi string ensemble in Logic Studio.  You will also note in the video my first attempt at splicing several clips showing a close up of my right hand (guitarists will appreciate this). On the menu bar, choose 720p for HD video/audio.

The process of recording is a helpful way of practicing for live performance.  It improves concentration and offers a way of identifying sections that need further development.  Sabbatical time and practicing guitar go well together!