Classicalguitarist Vieaux plays with clarity

Published on Thu, Oct 4, 2007 by ichard Clark

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Classical guitarist Vieaux plays with clarity

By Richard Clark

Ideally, a guitar should be heard in a cozy living room, where the intimacy of its naked sound may be appreciated. But when Jason Vieaux strummed his instrument in our performing arts center last month, its beautiful sounds were simultaneously strong and intimate.
That’s the magic of his Gernot Wagner concert guitar. It’s a tough one, double-topped with a wooden sandwich of spruce and cedar.

I think it was the combination of Jason’s rare skill, his fine guitar, a hall with excellent acoustics, and an audience of good listeners, that occasioned a great recital.

Although Vieaux had performed in Bellingham about 14 years ago, it was his first trip to Blaine. He obviously enjoyed the occasion. You could see it in his face.

Fernando Sor was only 13 when Mozart died, but the composer must have left a lasting impression in his young mind. Given Jason’s interpretation of Sor’s “Variations on a Theme of Mozart,” the classical style of Mozart was well conveyed. And what does that style demand? Clarity. If I had to define Jason’s greatest musical strength in a single word, I’d have to give it to clarity.

Exactly the same may be said of Bach’s “Prelude, Fugue and Allegro.” This music is so transparent that any lack of clarity will render it opaque.
And that’s not the way baroque music should sound. Indeed, I could hear the “theological” side of this composition.

It was Trinitarian sound with three movements, a prelude in 12/8 time with a straight tone that reminded me of music from a monastery. The three-voiced fugue was crystal clear, and doubtless a great challenge for any guitarist. It led naturally to a joyous Allegro; I think it was Bach’s impression of heaven.

“Cuba,” taken from the “Suite Espanola” by Albeniz, presented Jason with an opportunity to convey the sweet loneliness that a warm-hearted guitar is capable of expressing. The “Torre Bermeja” was contrastively energetic. I thought I could hear the Moors dancing after a towering introduction brought them into the limelight.

Before the intermission, most of the music invoked the baroque and classic periods. I compare those compositions to clear champagne.
The need for clarity is obvious. One could easily spot a cricket in champagne. I found no crickets. I drank it to the last drop.

But music of the romantic and neo-romantic periods is of a thicker texture. I compare it to chocolate cake. Of course it would be harder to find a cricket in the cake. Here the challenge of clarity is no less important. It entails more than plucking the right notes. It’s often a matter of voicing a clear pathway through a jungle of chords, or phrasing a trail into the forest without becoming lost. Clarity entails crescendos, diminuendos and a feeling for romantic rubato. For Jason, it seemed to be a piece of cake. I found the music of the second half clearly delicious, enjoyably consumed, and again, I didn’t catch a cricket in the crumbs.

“Sonatina Meridional,” written in three movements, was Ponce’s gift to Segovia. This was a work that took the listener into Spanish country scenes with singing, dancing and partying that kept the music – not to mention Jason’s fingers – moving. There was a bit of brooding in the “Copla,” but it moved directly into the lively “Fiesta,” a fantasy with flamenco overtones.

“The Bat,” composed by the American jazz artist, Pat Metheny, began with a whisper that soon led Jason’s audience into an appreciation of the guitarist’s tremolo.

But I was just as well attracted to those thoughtful rubatos that gave the melody so much character. I’d call it free and flowing.

Finally, Merlin’s “Suite del Recuerdo” was written in six parts that brought the audience a rich combination of sounds. I heard a beautiful melody with an echoing counter melody, a solo that became a love song for two, a cheerful dance, a sound of galloping horses, tricky syncopations, and even a bit of rhythmic tapping. It was music designed to hold our interest – and it did.

Jason enlightened us with informative program notes. While performing, his eyes were pinned upon the dexterous fingers of his left hand. He played with intense concentration, and occasionally a slight smile broke across his face. An encore was his reply to a standing ovation.