Jason Vieaux: Guitar in the Garden

Thu, July 24, 2014, 6:00pm


Prolific guitarist Jason Vieaux brings us all to the Sunken Garden for an evening of great solo guitar music, from Mozart to Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Sor / Variations on a Theme of Mozart, Op. 9
Albéniz / Capricho Catalan (from España, Op. 165)
Albéniz / Torre Bermeja (Serenade from Douze Pieces Characteristiques, Op. 92, No. 12)
Visconti / The Devil’s Strum (written for Jason Vieaux, 2010)
Bellinati / Jongo
Metheny (arr. Vieaux); Jobím (arr. Dyens) / Always and Forever; A Felicidade
Ellington / In a Sentimental Mood
Bustamente / Misionera

All concert-goers are welcome to join us at a reception following the performance.


Photo by Gabe PalacioLet us pack your picnic for you! For delicious dining and the ease of ordering a picnic in advance, consider the special picnic menu offered by our caterer, Great Performances. Picnic tables are available, and you may bring your own blankets and lawn chairs if you like. This service is only available Thursday through Sunday on performance days during the summer. Ordering Picnics for this event is now closed.

Fernando Sor / Variations on a Theme of Mozart, Op. 9


Of Fernando Sor (1778-1839), music historian Richard Long writes:  “[Sor’s] pieces for guitar, especially the large-scale works and the  studies, were composed in the international classical style, and demonstrate  a polyphonic approach and an academic concern for form which are often  missing in the flamboyant works of his guitarist contemporaries…

Variations on a Theme of Mozart, Op. 9 is the most well-known of these larger-scale works. Sor’s variations are based on a theme from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. This theme appears twice in the opera: briefly as Papageno sings “Schon’ Madchen, jung und fein” (“Beautiful Maiden, young and fine”), and during the chorus “Das Klinget so herrlich” (“That sounds so wonderful”).


Isaac Albéniz / Capricho Catalán (from España Op. 165) /  Torre Bermeja (Serenata from Douze Pieces Characteristiques Op. 92, No. 12)

Isaac Albéniz began his career as a virtuoso pianist and composer of cosmopolitan romantic music. Upon meeting the influential musicologist and composer Filip Pedrell however, Albéniz’ music shifted toward the Spanish nationalist style. From that point on virtually all of his works were heavily inspired by the rich musical traditions of Spain.

Capricho Catalan refers to the composer’s native region of Catalonia in northeast Spain. Long melodic lines spun over a rocking accompaniment create a sense of timelessness and reverence for his home.

Though Albéniz was from Cataluña, some of his works were influenced by flamenco music from the southern region of Andalusia. Flamenco has its roots in the music of many Eastern cultures, including those of Moorish, nomadic gypsy, and Jewish people. As a consequence of this eclectic mix, flamenco music has an unmistakable, exotic sound which is heard in Torre Bermeja.

Though he never wrote for the guitar, much of the music of Albéniz imitates the sound of this quintessentially Spanish instrument. In fact, after hearing the guitarist Francisco Tárrega play an arrangement of one of his pieces, Albéniz commented “that is what I imagined”. Indeed, this is one reason that Asturias (Leyenda) is now better known on the guitar than on the piano. The writing suggests idiomatic devices that only the guitarist can fully realize: pedal tones which allude to the guitar’s open strings, broken chords inspired by the strumming of a guitar, and the expressive melody of the middle section which is enriched by the guitarist’s use of slurs, glissandi, and vibrato.

The Torres Bermejas, or “Crimson Towers”, are a prominent feature of the castle in Granada called the Alhambra, which was built in the 13th century upon the ruins of a much older fortress in Andlusia. The towers get their name from the color of the brick which makes up their walls. The name Alhambra is Arabic, and means “crimson castle”. Although the castle is not primarily made of this color brick, it is thought that the name comes from the reflection of sunlight at certain times of day; or according to one story, from the color reflected as it was built by torchlight. The Alhambra has been the inspiration of many musical works, including Francisco Tárrega’s famous solo guitar work Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra).  —  Erik Mann


Dan Visconti / The Devil’s Strum (written for Jason Vieaux, 2010)
 (b. 1982)

 One of the defining myths surrounding American blues guitar playing is about a pact with the supernatural, as portrayed in Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” and countless other songs and legends.

In one such account, a man meets the Devil at the lonely crossroads in the dead of night, and strikes a bargain: in exchange for inhuman ability and charisma as a guitarist, the man need only sign over his eternal soul. At the outset this arrangement leads to sex, money, and fame; but it’s not long before greed, license, and arrogance follow suit and hasten the foolish soul’s inevitable demise.

The central moment in several versions of the myth is when the Devil tunes up the doomed man’s guitar–the moment when the strings become awakened with unseen power and the man’s fate is sealed.

My work for guitarist Jason Vieaux begins at just this moment–the moment of the Devil’s long fingers strumming the jangly strings–and proceeds as the instrument is literally tuned up, until ever faster and more virtuosic riffs drive the piece to its conclusion.   —  Dan Visconti


Paulo Bellinati Jongo
(b. 1950)

Brazilian guitarist/composer Paulo Bellinati (b.1950) has achieved great popularity with his colorful compositions in the style of his native country. The most well-known of these is Jongo, based on a Brazilian dance of the same name which uses 3/4 and 3/2 rhythms and accents over an underlining time signature of 6/8. Originally written for his jazz band Pau Brasil, Bellinati’s piece achieved its greatest success when the composer arranged it for solo guitar. After receiving a first-place prize in an international competition for Jongo, Bellinati also made a duo arrangement for the great Brazilian guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad. Both the solo and duo versions are fiery showpieces that take the listener on a colorful journey through Brazil while retaining so much of the original texture that it is easy to imagine hearing an entire jazz band.  —  Erik Mann


Hans Werner Henze Drei Tentos from Kammermusik (1958)
(b. 1926)

Hans Werner Henze (b. 1926-) is among the most prolific and successful of contemporary German composers. He began formal musical training relatively later in life (in his twenties) with Wolfgang Fortner, and his compositional style reveals a unique voice that melds some of the techniques of serial composition with a Stravinsky influence.

Drei Tentos is part of a larger work entitled Kammermusik (Chamber Music). This 12-movement composition (later extended with an epilogue) was written in 1958 for the tenor Peter Pears, guitarist Julian Bream, and 8 other instrumentalists. Henze describes it as “an encounter between Germany and Greece as conjured up by a poet (Friedrich Hölderlin) whose brain was clouded by insanity and who expressed his vision in wonderful but apparently disjointed phrases.”

“Tento” comes from the Spanish term “tiento”, a free-form fantasy popular in Renaissance Spain. These 3 interludes for solo guitar are very commonly excerpted from the larger work. While they clearly exhibit 20th century tonal language as well as the fragmentation that Henze describes, they also feature a neo-romantic melodicism, particularly in the first and third movements, which help to establish their otherworldly atmosphere.  —  Erik Mann


Pat Metheny /Always and Forever
(b. 1954)
(arr. Vieaux)

Antônio Carlos Jobím / A Felicidade
(arr. Roland Dyens)

American jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny (1954-) inhabits a rare confluence in the music world: He has had an enormous influence over subsequent generations of musicians while enjoying the respect and admiration of his musical colleagues, all the while experiencing one of the most popular and successful careers in American jazz music. —  Jason Vieaux

Antônio Carlos Jobím is widely considered as the most important innovator of the Brazilian bossa nova style. Several years before his collaboration with Stan Getz would propel him to international fame, Jobím wrote much of the score for the award-winning film Opheu Negro (Black Orpheus). This modern take on the classic tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice is set in Brazil and opens with the song A Felicidade and the line that sets the tone for the plot: “Sadness has no end; happiness does”. A Felicidade would go on to be one of Jobím’s many hits and has been arranged and recorded by many artists. The present arrangement by French guitarist Roland Dyens has become popular for its infectious groove and flashy flourishes, while retaining the catchy lyricality of the original song.  —  Erik Mann


Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington / In a Sentimental Mood

A composer, arranger and bandleader, Duke Ellington was among a few who elevated jazz to the status of art when the medium was still young. His contributions would ultimately be recognized with presidential honors, 13 Grammy awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a French Legion of Honor. Among his many hits is In a Sentimental Mood, which according to the composer was improvised at a party in order to calm two women who had become upset. It was first recorded instrumentally by Duke Ellington’s orchestra, and lyrics were added later. The essence of this song can be summarized in the lyrics “On the wings of every kiss drifts a melody so strange a sweet; in this sentimental bliss you make my paradise complete.”  —  Erik Mann


Fernando Bustamente Misionera

Argentinean composer Fernando Bustamente had a great love for both classical and Latin American popular music. Misionera, originally for piano, falls completely in the latter category, with all of the rhythmic drive and catchy melodies of a great pop song. Its title probably refers to the Province of Misiones in Northeast Argentina. Bustamente’s compatriot Jorge Morel created this arrangement for solo guitar, which has now become its best-known version. Morel includes an almost constantly moving bass line and the use of tremolo to create the illusion of sustained notes.  —  Erik Mann