A Musical Journey: The Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival


The following guest post is regarding the annual Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival which will take place this year on Thursday, May 28 through Sunday, May 31, 2015 at the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, Ohio USA. Honorably presented by Guitars International. For further information interested parties should visit: guitarsint.com/guitar_festival

Their line-up looks fantastic: Armin Kelly (Artistic Director), Jason Vieaux, Paul Galbraith, Ricardo Gallén, Antonis Hatzinikolaou, Yolanda Kondonassis, Duo Melis, Pavel Steidl, Jeremy Collins, Nigel North, Colin Davin, Joshia de Jonge, and more…

A Musical Journey: The Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival
This is a guest post by John F. Dana

Duo Melis

Duo Melis

Two years ago it began snowing on Friday afternoon. It was late March. I was driving Jonathan Leathwood and ‘cellist Rohan de Saram to a local church in Cleveland for their sound check, and the rental seemed to handle well enough. By 7:00 that evening it was coming down hard, but I felt confident we could make the hall; after the concert, well that’s what cabs are for. By Saturday noon the snow was piling up at the rate of 2″ an hour; we ended up breaking trail from Glidden House through knee-high snow carrying Nigel North’s lutes and music to Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Fast forward to concert time: Elizabethan lute; intermission; Weiss and Bach on theorbo – all this against a three story backdrop of glass with the snow swirling wildly against the trees and shrubs. It was pure magic!

Back to Glidden House to park the lutes, music and concert duds, then next door for dinner. Despite the weather, the restaurant was humming; we brought some tables together and invited a lone diner to move her table over to join us. As it turns out she’s a fan, had attended the concert, and considered the forced camaraderie “every concert goer’s dream!.” Nigel reminisced about being snowed in at a church in the English countryside for three days after a concert; Jonathan reminisced about having, as a youth, attended a concert by Nigel which cemented his determination to be a musician; and Rohan reminisced about being at CBS in Manhattan back in the 60’s hanging out with Glen Gould.

The Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival [“CICGF”] now happens in late May, flowering shrubs not snow, but the magic remains and this four day festival is still “every concert goer’s dream.” The May 2010 CICGF brought together Nigel North, lute; Daniel Lippel, guitar with Tony Arnold, soprano; Duo Melis, guitars; and Jason Vieaux, who along with heading the CIM guitar department and teaching classical guitar at the Curtis Institute of Music performs around 70 recitals a year.

Much of last May’s Dan Lippel concert was conceived as “an intensely personal musical journey,” the CICGF selection committee consistently invites virtuoso musicians of the highest order to perform recitals which journey widely across our chosen instrument’s vast musical landscape. Collegiality is crucial at the CICGF: The performers remain for the entire four day weekend, giving master classes, attending each other’s concerts, and joining each evening after the final recital with student participants for a shared dinner.

Nigel North

Nigel North

Some of last May’s highlights included Nigel North playing a brilliant all Dowland recital. Fast forward two days to Nigel’s master class with the lutenist insightfully coaching a CIM guitar student on how to inject more music into guitarist/composer Barrios’s “La Catredal.” As Nigel said, “Bach certainly didn’t know Barrios, but Barrios knew Bach.” The quintessential CICGF recipe: take one part virtuoso, add two giants of the repertoire, stir in a talented student at the beginning of his career, add a dollop of fascinated onlookers and shake vigorously.

Dan Lippel’s guitars (a Stauffer reproduction by Bernhard Kresse, Germany, and a contemporary instrument by Robert Ruck, USA) with Tony Arnold’s golden voice, presented an emotionally rich, extended song cycle combining Schubert works and contemporary songs by Peter Gilbert (a CIM alum.) and Judah Adashi (world premiere). Lippel also offered the world premiere of Vineet Shende’s “Suite in Raag Maarva” (with the composer attending), combining Hindustani musical forms with traditional western classical music; sitar into guitar.

Duo Melis played an exciting, fast-paced concert ranging from Spanish to Argentine to Italian and French Baroque. The Duo is noteworthy for brilliantly executed passages, at remarkable speed and articulation, without sacrificing musicality for virtuosity. Their artfully synchronized playing, with gorgeous tone, brought extended ovations.

Video Link & Source: https://youtu.be/OH1nFRt6eN8

Attending CICGF master classes has proved invaluable. Two unanticipated benefits are getting to know the performers in a relaxed, interactive setting, and the students as they play a different piece in each master class. They are young, extremely talented musicians at the beginnings of their careers; their enthusiasm, at least, is catching, if not their growing virtuosity. Jason Vieaux’ class deserves special mention, not just for his insightful teaching but for its ambitious real time audio video link with students at the Royal College of Music in London – an exciting experience and a real vision of how teaching at such a high level can be made more freely available.

Finally, to cap things off, a magnificent closing concert by Jason Vieaux on his well known Gernot Wagner guitar – one last standing ovation, gracious thank you by Jason to all and a surprise encore – a crowd-pleasing arrangement of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Pure Magic Indeed!

Video Link & Source: https://youtu.be/74Kw0wAru8U

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