A Flamenco-styled Concerto

flamenco-guitar_f4

Every weekday at 10:30am I play what I call a “guitar pick.” It’s a work featuring the guitar. It can be as a solo instrument, in a chamber setting or with orchestra. Thursday’s pick was by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. Rodrigo lost his eyesight due to illness when he was three years old. He began learning music and instruments (piano and violin) when he was eight. He composed mostly for piano, but a work he wrote for guitar and orchestra in 1939, Concierto de Aranjuez, with its famous 2nd movement was to establish him in the public eye as a composer for the guitar. That work’s sucess led to other commissions for guitar – or guitars – with orchestra. Concierto Malaga is influenced by the sounds of flamenco music. Rodrigo’s work with the Romeros would continue including works for 2- and 4 guitars with orchestra.

Manuel de Falla – Miller’s Dance – Eduardo Fernandez, guitar
Anonymous – Romance – William Gomez, guitar
Joaquin Rodrigo – Conceirto Malaga – Pepe Romero, guitar
Manuel Ponce – 3 Popular Mexican Songs – Adam Holman, guitar

My ukulele pick is a Song for Everybody by my friend – a Nashville-base songwriter – named Matt Lindahl.

Audio: Owen Sammons Improvising on Spirituals

Owen Sammons in studio

Nathan Gunn Goes Old-School

Nathan Gunn Sharkey Photography

Baritone Nathan Gunn calls himself “old-school” when it comes to recitals.

“That’s just how I was raised, and I’ve been trying to break out of that mode,” Gunn said in a recent interview.

“Old-school,” in this sense, means that the performer doesn’t actually speak to the audience or interact with them in any way other than the music being presented. That’s the traditional format — the idea being that the music speaks for itself, maybe with the aid of some printed program notes — but more performers, like Gunn, are learning to talk to the audience.

“[That makes it] more of an evening, a conversation,” said Gunn. “It’s also a very effective way of making music, and the point is to communicate to other human beings.”

Gunn will be singing, and speaking, at the University of Louisville Comstock Recital Hall this Saturday evening, as part of the Speed Concert Series. He’ll be accompanied by his wife, pianist Julie Gunn, who collaborated with him on choosing the songs for the program.

One of the most in-demand baritones working in opera today, Gunn has been seen on stages throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris Opera, and the Royal Opera House. Many critics see him as part of a “new generation” of opera singers who not only have beautiful voices but deliver strong acting alongside movie-star looks. In 2006, the New York Times cheekily suggested that he might also capable of singing with his shirt on, a nod to his occasional bare-chested appearances in various opera roles. (Ed. note: see video below)

Presumably, he’ll be fully clothed on Saturday as he performs Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe, a song cycle written in 1840 that tells a sad, romantic tale.

“If you know the story, he’s this guy who’s in love with a woman who doesn’t love him, which probably makes up 95 percent of all German art songs on the planet,” Gunn said.

Gunn decided, in a fit of “art song humor,” to follow the thoroughly tragic Dichterliebe with the song “Everything Happens To Me,” usually associated with Frank Sinatra.

“We’ll see if anybody chuckles, cause it’s sort of funny… yeah, it’s nerdy, I know,” Gunn said.

The program will also include some American art songs by composer William Bolcom, some cowboy songs arranged by Julie Gunn, and a still-to-be-decided ballad.

Gunn says he enjoys doing recitals because he gets to be in control of the musical quality, as opposed to an opera, where there are so many other variables at play.

“You’re dealing with a gajillion different things. You’re dealing with your colleagues, you’re dealing with lights, you’re dealing with costumes, you’re dealing with a large-scale event. What I love about recital is that anything can happen,” Gunn said.

And anything does. In a recent appearance with Broadway singer and actor Mandy Patinkin (he and Gunn have toured with a two-man show), Gunn completely forgot the words to “Over the Rainbow.”

“And I just stop. And he looks at me and he’s like, do you want me to sing it in Yiddish? And I’m like, you know this in Yiddish? And he starts to sing it in Yiddish. And those are the sort of moments that you cannot plan,” said Gunn. “And I’m telling you, that’s what most people loved.”

Nathan Gunn appears on Saturday evening at 7:30 pm at U of L’s Comstock Recital Hall, as part of the Speed Concert Series. More information, including ticketing, is available here.

This story comes from Tara Anderson, 89.3 WFPL News Arts and Culture Reporter.

In-Studio: Pianist Owen Sammons

owen sammons

You’re invited to our next in-studio with pianist Owen Sammons, who will play improvisations on spirituals.

Thursday at 1pm. Doors open at 12:45pm. Free and open-to-the-public.

619 S. Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40202.

Until then, check out Sammons improvising on some film music below.

classical-guitar

Every weekday at 10:30am I play what I call a “guitar pick.” It’s a work featuring the guitar. It can be as a solo instrument, in a chamber setting or with orchestra. On Monday I presented a performance of what it widely considered the international anthem of guitarists – Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra) by Francisco Tarrega. Composed in 1896, Tarrega made generous use of the picking effect known as “tremolo” throughout the piece. While the thumb picks the bass line, the other digits on the picking hand quickly alternate on the melody. Novice listeners to the piece often conclude that the work is being played by two guitarists. This composition holds a special place in my heart as it was part of the opening music to our wedding, which was played expertly by Louisville guitarist Dale Grider.

Other guitar picks from this week were:

Francisco Tarraga – Recuerdos de la Alhambra – Valerie Hartzell
JS Bach – Partita BWV 1002 – Michael Long
Maurice Ravel – Pavane – Julian Bream and John Williams
Federico Moreno Torroba – Sonatina – Eduardo Fernandez
Giuseppe Torelli – Concerto for guitar and violin – Karl Scheit, guitar

My ukulele pick this week is a cover by Eva Walsh, of a Black Eyed Peas song. Trust me.