Gohar Vardanyan Plays Manuel De Falla

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An excellent performance of Spanish Dance no. 1 from La Vida Breve by Manuel De Falla. Performed by Gohar Vardanyan via her YouTube. I thought this was tricky enough on two guitars but Gohar rocks it. Nice one. Guitar by Jean Rompré.

Video Source: http://youtu.be/1dokFTFV2_c



28 Comments

    • She is amazing and I am looking forward to hearing her play a magical concert at this years Great Lakes Guitar Society “Women of the Guitar” festival and competition held at Buffalo state college! She is going to play, teach and participate in two roundtable discussions about the future of guitar and music education.

  1. There are so many players – violinists, pianists, cellists – as well as guitarists who treat music as a kind of gymnastic exercise. Heine, the great German poet, expressed it perfectly:…” it suffices if a musician can communicate by means of the instrument all that he or she feels and thinks, or what others have felt and thought; and all the tours de force of the virtuoso. which testify merely to difficulties vanquished, ought to be proscribed as useless noise, and relegated to the domain of conjurers, of tumblers, of sword-swallowers, and dancers on tightropes and on eggs.” Ms Vardanyan has a phenomenal technique – but that’s all. Stylistically and musically her playing is clueless. She has no idea what this piece is about.

    • Thanks for the comment Jeremy, however, what exactly did you think was musically missing? If you can put into words the exact thing you thought was lacking then I could better understand. I thought her interpretation was very rhythmic and exciting. Also I think her voice separation is excellent. She knows a great about Spanish music and flamenco styles as well and I thought that really came through.

      • It’s rhythmically monotonous, and lacking in the syncopations that are intrinsic to Spanish music of this kind. Listen to Bream’s contribution to the famous duet with Williams, or this live performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27ln29gLmXU, which is less technically accurate perhaps, but musically much more meaningful. I was brought up on Flamenco (and played for a time in a Spanish restaurant in Spain) so I possibly know a little about the flamenco element in the piece. Maybe Ms Vardanyan does know a lot about flamenco, but whether she understands it is another matter entirely. You don’t find Spain/flamenco just by looking at the notes. You have to understand what the music is doing and its references. If you want to hear something of what I mean, listen to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzkNcjV9Wdo. The music starts at about minute of the video. The singer is Terremoto and the guitarist Manuel Morao. This is the kind of music that deeply influenced de Falla (who was a native of Cadiz by the way). Morao’s playing lies at the heart of flamenco – not the showbiz stuff that Paco de Lucia popularized with his technical wizardly – but the music that comes out of the soul of Andalucia. Here is another example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaN_7uVNsec. The guitarist is Diego del Gastor whom I had the privilege of hearing at a fiesta before he died. His technique was simple, but I’d rather hear him or Morao any day than Paco de Lucia, and for exactly the reasons adumbrated in the quotation I gave from Heine.

        • Thanks again for the comment. I still feel your critic is based on personal preference (as is mine!). Manuel De Falla did not write this for guitar and I don’t love romanticized versions or overly flamenco influenced performances. The composition is influenced by Spanish music but it is Falla’s composition which is also influenced by a number of styles and composers of the early 20th century. You probably know more about flamenco than I though so I’ll submit on that part. Nevertheless, I still really like Gohar’s interpretation of this composition by Manuel De Falla. I get all the Spanish elements I need but also the composition itself.

          • It’s not just based on personal preference. It’s based on a) knowledge of de Falla’s music during the period when he wrote La Vida Breve; and b) personal knowledge and experience of the flamenco influence – as well as the influence on de Falla during this period of fellow composers such as Albeniz,Turina, Granados and also Carlos Pedrell. Your last comment (“I get all the Spanish elements…”) reminds me of a debate we had at school: “I don’t know anything about art but I know what I like. Discuss”. You can reply “de gustibus non est disputandum” if you like. But what it really means in this context is that you don’t want to learn. I’m not talking about overly romanticized or flamenco versions; I’m talking about musicianship and grasp of musical language. Gohar Vardanyan is a superb technician; but to be a good musician is something else entirely. She was trained (and probably now lives) in the US – which produces plenty of talented guitarists (as does Canada), but tends to favour technical accomplishment over musicality. Other examples? Listen to any American or Canadian guitarist performing Barrios and then listen to Berta Rojas or the late lamented Cesar Amaro (respectively Paraguayan and Uruguayan). Or if you want to extend the instrumental range, listen to the famous Joshua Bell (American violinist) and then to Jascha Heifetz. I’m only an amateur guitarist nowadays, but my other half, is a celebrated soloist on another (classical) instrument. By celebrated I mean that she has nearly 50 CD recordings, over 300 pieces written for her (including 68 concertos) and has performed as soloist with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. I asked her to listen to this performance. Her reaction? “Not even one phrase worth listening to again… she simply doesn’t understand the score…” The reason why I bother to write all this is that there is so many misleading directions given to students and enthusiasts.

          • Hi Jeremy, Thanks for the time you’ve taken to explain yourself. I really appreciate it as I like these kinds of debates in the comment sections. I am not an authority or expert on the music of Manuel De Falla so when I say I like her performance I simply mean that I think her sense of rhythm, pulse, phrasing, separation, and delivery are both convincing and enjoyable for me to listen to.

            However, I will say that anyone, professional or not, who says something as harsh, mean, and unprofessional as “Not even one phrase worth listening to again” should be ashamed. I would love to know the name of the person to made that comment. Even in high academic or professional circles no one would ever want to state a comment that is so far removed from constructive criticism. That comment does not make me want to continue this debate so that’s it for me. But again, thanks for your detailed comments I do appreciate that aspect and I do thank you for being a reader. 🙂

          • Yes, of course, I’m really sad he’s gone so early. I learned alzapua from one of his acolytes….

          • Douglas Chapman on

            In (unanswerable) riposte to Jeremy . . . Whereas Voltaire said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it,” and La Rochefoucauld said “Where you find two men who agree, only one is thinking,” Aldous Huxley wrote “It’s difficult to maintain a conversation with a person who responds to personal personal words with impersonal expressions.” Typically, Jeremy will now come back with some shallow, wounded intellectual artifice. (Wait! Wait, Are those the scratch of fingernails I hear across insensitive, dumb random computer keys?)

    • Douglas Chapman on

      When you can play at her level, speak; until then . . . Also, remember that this work by M. de Falla is a classical rendition of Flamenco music, minus the dancers; thus the straightforward, rhythmic drive without the smalz of lyric expression, which would be so inappropriate to this piece. (Have you heard her play Tarrega, Rodrigo, Beethoven, Sor, Giuliani or Paganini?)

      • So music is only for those who can play it? I don’t think so. But, given your inference, a reply is in order. I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself with her or any else for that matter. However, I’ve been playing since my early teens and am now in my mid sixties. Although I began with flamenco in Spain, I later moved to Mexico City where I studied for three years with Manuel Lopez Ramos and one of his star students – Mario Beltrán – at Lopez Ramos’ own guitar school. The course I followed there was pretty thorough and included the rigour of MLR’s right-hand training, (2 years articulating with a flattened hand from the second knuckle only, the famous coordination exercises, all the Carulli and Sagreras exercises, etc. etc.). MLR was a great musician as well as a wonderful guitarist and a kind and gentle teacher. Maybe, when you’ve read this, you’ll both allow me to express an opinion and spare me your sarcasm. The kind of comment you made “…When you can play at such and such a level…” is precisely what closes down artistic judgement and cowers people into submissive silence. It’s a kind of bullying. It doesn’t belong in the realm of art.

        • Douglas Chapman on

          I’ll be 75 in 6 days, studied with the musical and guitar lights and a couple of the truly great lesser-known ones of last century, performed and taught, and I wouldn’t dream of the pretentiousness you shamelessly flaunt. Of course, you’re unaware of it . . .

          • Ok, Brad, I’ll go nutzzz. It would be a (slight) miscalculation on your part to stimulate lively discussion through the means I mentioned as possible above, which I don’t think you have done. In fairness to other responses, I would say these responses to Jeremy’s blow-hardism ARE playing nice, as far as what they could be, or are justified in,saying….

          • Agreed…just trying to add a light hearted comment into the mix after the fact! I try to keep the blog as positive as possible.

          • Yes, light hearted, encouraging, playful, enthusiastic, Best of all with a discernible lack of self appointed authority….

    • Now, now, Bradford, if you want everyone to play nice, don’t establish yourself as even handed moderator calming a wild mob. These people are defending someone, not attacking. If this Jeremy guy is a plant of yours to stimulate lively debate, you’ve made a serious miscalculation.

      • Well I do talk to myself sometimes! No, but really, I do thank everyone for the comments including Jeremy and everyone else. Please continue at will. Go nutz.

        • Thanks Bradford. Just a small rejoinder to erose9. “These people” are not defending someone, because I’m not attacking anyone. There’s nothing adversely personal in anything I’ve expressed. My initial comment was about musicianship not skill or technique which the player obviously has in abundance and which I recognized. Some of the responses directed at me at, however, are~ personal and nasty. They are typical tactics of those who prefer to attack the person rather than the opinion. It’s essentially a demand for conformity, a form of browbeating. I find it rather sad. Your response, on the other hand, strikes me as fair and generous. I’ll sign off with a quotation from a letter Segovia wrote in 1954 to the French music critic Bernard Gavoty:
          “…as for us pianists, violinists, cellists, and guitarists – how many hours of pain and self-abnegation, how many weeks, months and years do we spend polishing a single passage, burnishing it and bringing out its sparkle? And when we consider it “fully cooked” we spend the rest of our days persevering so that our fingers will not forget the lesson or get entangled again in a brambly thicket of arpeggios, scales, trills, chords, accents and grace notes. And if we climb from that region of technique to the more spiritual sphere of interpretation, what anguish we experience in trying to find the soul of a composition behind the notation, and how many scruples and second-thoughts we have before we dare to discover what does not like hidden in the paper.” That’s what I’m referring to. But in the last analysis, it doesn’t really matter…..

  2. Many of us here (dare I speak for more persons than myself) feel it ‘rather sad’ that you now have received a taste of your own medicine, and are separating the opinion from the person to bring to the floor your defense. Opinions are welcome here. After all, it is a forum for discussion. I think that opinion is a personality trait of the person, that’s how we get to know each other. In academic circles like conservatories universities, centers of learning, etc honest opinions, even by tenured professors can go into areas considered by some to be discouraging, and not a function of their position, which is to teach, certainly by positive reinforcements like encouragement. I think you could have leveled the same criticisms at this artist if you had used less associations with the great and near great to assist your torpedoing this artist and her performance, which is her opinion and a display of who she is as a person. No one here is condemning your opinion, just the degree to which you give an unassailable finality to your disapproval. In the last analysis, everything matters. That’s why we have so many opinions.

  3. Douglas Chapman on

    JEREMY / Sheldon . . . I as a performer, and speaking for all performers, direct this at you, personally.
    You said:
    “. . . I’m not attacking anyone. There’s nothing adversely personal in anything I’ve expressed. My initial comment was about musicianship not skill or technique which the player obviously has in abundance and which I recognized. Some of the responses directed at me at, however, are~ personal and nasty. They are typical tactics of those who prefer to attack the person rather than the opinion. . . .”

    The glaring problem caused by you on this site is that, like Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory,” You’re inexcusably insensitive to others, unaware that, in your own words, your “initial comment” could not be taken by anyone, let alone the performer, as personal. When you’re backstage after the performance, neither the audience IN THE PRESENCE OF THE PLAYER nor the player AT THAT TIME need or want to hear negative criticism. WE ARE DISCUSSING A LIVE PERFORMANCE BY A LIVE PERSON, NOT AN ABSENT, EVEN DEAD PERFORMER, WHO WILL NOT OVERHEAR YOU, YOU IDIOT!

    When you make a comment here, it is not only to us. Unavoidably it is to the the performer and is PERSONAL. . . . We’ll suppose that, like Sheldon, you’re not a result of your upbringing, and just what is referred to professionally as an “incomplete personality.” Sheldon, since you have declared yourself incapable of hearing yourself, get help.

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