17 Jul 19
“Guitar Hero”– not to be confused with the rock music video game by the same name — is the title of Friday’s main concert that concludes the first week of the 2019 Carmel Bach Festival. Maestro Paul Goodwin has invited Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux to perform composer Mark Mancina’s new Guitar Concerto, “Suite in Three Movements,” a Festival commission that premieres on this program. Vieaux will also perform Joaquin Rodrigo’s gorgeous “Concierto de Aranjuez,” a beloved work of the classical guitar repertoire.
“The Mancina concerto has a lovely story behind it,” says Goodwin. “The Hollywood film composer (Mancina) has a studio in Carmel, though he keeps a low profile here. A lovely gentleman, he’s been a fan of the Festival for many years. I’d met him a couple of times not realizing who he was. When I discovered who he was, we chatted, and he said he’d love to be involved in the Festival in some way.”
Mancina sent Goodwin some scores for his consideration, including two pieces that caught his attention with prominent guitar parts, from the films “Diva” and “Twister.”
The maestro asked Mancina if he would accept a commission to write a first movement to those two pieces to create a full guitar concerto. The composer loved the idea and agreed, as long as Goodwin promised to hire his good friend, the acclaimed Jason Vieaux, to play it. The collaboration has resulted in a lively, entertaining score that Goodwin anticipates will be taken up by other orchestras.
“It jolly well should be!” he says. “It’s a tremendous piece. And Vieaux is the prince of guitar players in this country. He makes the most beautiful sound.”
Vieaux and Mancina, who also trained as a classical guitarist, became friends through their shared passion for the instrument.
“The concerto has nice virtuosic passages for the guitar,” says Vieaux of Mancina’s new score. “It’s really fun, and I think the audience is going to enjoy it. It will complement the `Concierto de Aranjuez’ very well.”
“The Rodrigo is the Number 1 concerto in the repertoire,” says Vieaux, who has performed the piece over 200 times. “Our Tchaikovsky, I guess. I never get tired of playing it or of preparing it. It’s so good for the hands. It’s a very difficult piece to play, the outer movements especially. Even though they sound light and nice on the surface, the passagework is incredibly difficult. You always have to be in shape for it, which is great!”
In performance, Vieaux says he approaches the Rodrigo as he would a chamber work, which is a boon to the orchestra. “I’ve played gobs and gobs of chamber music and I can play to any ensemble, so the musicians don’t have to worry about being with the soloist or not—the reverse of the tradition of the diva soloist.”
Vieaux describes Rodrigo as a modernist who is indebted to “Stravinsky-isms” combined with Spanish folklore and themes of the Renaissance and Baroque eras—a powerful fusion.
Among the elite guitarists of our times, Vieaux has appeared as a soloist with over 100 orchestras, including Cleveland, Toronto, Houston, San Diego, Buffalo, Auckland Philharmonia, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Recent highlights include performances at Caramoor Festival as Artist-in-Residence, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Curtis Presents, Phillips Collection, National Gallery of Art, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colon, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and many others.
The Friday program opens with Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” which will head-snap older audience members back to the days of “The Lone Ranger” radio and TV shows. Also, on this program, Goodwin continues his annual presentation of a Beethoven symphony, this summer’s is No. 4 in B-flat major.
Festival virtuoso takes reins of Masterclass
The Bach Festival is undergoing changes these days, some following the departure of longtime staff member David Gordon, whose talents and dedication to the Festival served as an artistic lynchpin of the organization for three decades. Among them is the directorship of the Virginia Best Adams Masterclass, now in its 35thyear. Since 1990, Gordon steered the growth and importance of this program that provides training for the next generation of vocal soloists who specialize in Baroque repertoire.
Michael Beattie, left, is now director of the Virginia Best Adams Masterclass. (contributed)
Michael Beattie seems the ideal choice to succeed Gordon. Beattie has been closely connected to the program and has been music director for the masterclass showcase concert for many years. He has performed with the Festival for a decade.
Beattie has received international attention as a conductor, keyboardist, and vocal coach specializing in the music of the Baroque period. A highly regarded keyboard player, he has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Boston Baroque, the Handel and Haydn Society, Les Violons du Roy, and the Mark Morris Dance Group. He toured internationally with director Peter Sellars as assistant conductor for the Mozart/Da Ponte cycle and as organist for staged Bach cantatas with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. He has been on the faculties of the Tanglewood Music Center and is currently a Lecturer at Boston University.
Both Gordon and the Festival’s executive director Steve Friedlander are thrilled that he is undertaking this responsibility.
“Michael is an exemplary musician with a particular flair for vocal coaching and programming,” says Friedlander. “He is a great colleague and collaborator, much appreciated and respected by the artistic leadership team, musicians, and administrative staff.”
“I’m so happy he is doing the masterclass,” says Gordon. “He’s a great guy and an enormously gifted and trained musician. He is absolutely the right person for it. He has brought such wisdom to the program over the last many years. His programming is spectacular. In addition to being a great vocal coach, he understands the atmosphere we want to maintain there: to create both a safe and challenging space for the singers. He brings not only a professional wealth of skills to the masterclass but also this continuity of a sense of partnership and collaboration.”
Beattie, who has stepped into his new role with gusto, says, “It’s a terrific group of singers this season, a very special quartet. We’ve already started working on our showcase music. It doesn’t get much better than working with these singers, because the level is so high. This is a dream job for me.”
Four singers each year are selected from a large group of applicants, chosen for their solo vocal skills as well as their abilities to sing in an ensemble and be comfortable in a masterclass setting, where they work on refining elements of their craft in front of an audience.
The masterclasses are taught by the principal vocal soloists of the Festival. The sessions take place at the Carmel Presbyterian Church, from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays during the Festival. They are open to the public, a popular and free offering. The showcase on July 27 is a ticketed event at the Carmel Presbyterian Church, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm.
The second week of the Festival begins this weekend with two family concerts on Saturday. “The Epic Adventures of Leonard and Rasmus: Flying off the Handel” at 11 a.m. brings back the intrepid duo of Leonard and Rasmus exploring the world of insects and bugs through music, science, and amusing puns and tales.
The Young Artists’ Showcase follows at 2:30 p.m. showcasing talented young musicians from the Central Coast performing on the Sunset Center’s main stage. Both concerts are ticketed events at an affordable price.
Check the schedule for non-stop days and evenings of concerts, events, lectures, Tower brass music and much more from this international world-class ensemble. For tickets and information see http://www.bachfestival.org and by calling 624-1521. You can also go to the Box office at Sunset Center during Festival hours.