Review: Stars of the Guitar

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Every two years, three of the world’s most talented guitarists are chosen as finalists to compete in the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. A production of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Stars of the Guitar features recordings of finalists from previous years of the competition. The finalists perform under the direction of JoAnn Falletta and as featured with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. This two-disc set gives an entirely new perspective and meaning to some of guitar’s most timeless masterworks.

The first disc of the set begins with a recording from 2004 by the competition’s first winner, Marcin Dylla, playing Concerto del sur by Manuel Ponce. The album then features Concierto No. 3 “ Elegiaco” played by Chad Ibison who competed and received the 3rd place in in 2014. “Elegiaco” was a commission by the BBC for famed guitarist, Julian Bream. The final feature on the first disc is Joaquin Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre performed by Ekachai Jearakul, recent winner of the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Concert Artist Competition.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is no stranger to the repertoire of the guitar. The second disc features another concerto by Joaquin Rodrigo, Concierto de Aranjuez. Though the most popular and most recorded concerto from the two disks, the orchestra and guitarists Petrit Ceku give this piece a much needed redo. The second recording on the disc, Folias by Robert Sierra, is one of two living composers to have been featured on this album. Written in 2002, Folias was performed in 2012 by second place prize winner Celik Refik. The use of extended percussive and harmonic exploration is beautifully displayed by Refik. Last held in 2014, Marko Topchii, the most recent winner of the competition , won with his performance of Concerto pour Guitare et Petit Orchestra. Topchii provides a flawless performance of what is a technically demanding piece. Chosen as one of American’s “ 30 great guitarists under 30” by Acoustic Guitar Magazine,Benjamin Beirs in 2008 performed Concerto No. 2 in D Major, Op. 33, the last work on the album.

Stars of the Guitar lives up to its name in every way by providing some of the newest and most invigorating recordings for the guitar’s repertoire. The competition will convene again in 2016 for what will likely be it’s more exciting competition yet. For more information on this recording, visit bpo.org.

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