Carmel Bach Festival 2019: Guitar Hero

Jason Vieaux

            During a Festival, you immerse yourself. While you would expect Bach compositions to dominate at the Carmel Bach Festival, we actually get to enjoy so much more. The music offered for our listening is always in some way connected to Bach. Often, the best way to figure out the connection is by attending the pre-concert talk and reading the program notes. Musicologists who offer these viewpoints are often as entertaining and enlightening as the music itself. In the case of “Guitar Hero,” the main concert for Friday, July 19, 2019, the program selections initially seemed distant from Bach, but the pre-concert talk and program notes pulled it together for me and I felt more prepared as I settled into my seat. 

            The evening started out with the Overture to William Tell by Gioachino Rossini. We heard the complete work, not just the “Greatest Hits” version. After listening to Sharon Sparrow’s talk, we were prepared to really listen. Each section of the orchestra, from the cellos all playing a separate line to the trumpets giving the fanfare so familiar to Saturday morning TV, has a chance to shine. I was awed how the double basses executed arpeggios. 

            Next we heard the reason for the title of the concert. Jason Vieaux, guitarist, entered to play Concierto de Aranjuez by JoaquinRodrigo. This piece is often considered the most popular concerto for guitar and orchestra ever written. I had the opportunity to hear this work many years ago, so hearing it performed at the Festival was like revisiting an old friend. What an enjoyable experience — there was so much to hear! The written program notes prepared us, but actually hearing the orchestration so deftly performed was thrilling. I’ll be looking for recordings made by Mr. Vieaux.

Composer Mark Mancina

            After a brief intermission, we heard the World Premier of Guitar Concerto by Mark Mancina.  This local composer has written successfully for movie scores and TV. Perhaps that’s what instigated the Psycho program on Monday evening? But I digress. Mancina’s composition is a beautiful piece. He knows the guitar well, orchestrates with flair in an accessible vein, and uses seductive tunes. I predict this work will enter the canon of great works for guitar and orchestra. I am thrilled that we heard it first played by Jason Vieaux in Carmel.

            To end the evening, Maestro Paul Goodwin led the Festival Orchestra in Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major by Beethoven. One should be amazed upon hearing that Beethoven wrote this amazing work in only four weeks’ time. Sadly, few music history classes spend time discussing this piece. But, if you wish to audition to play in a major orchestra and you are a cellist, bassoonist, or brass player, you will learn this work. It is a measure of the Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra under Maestro Goodwin’s baton that you would hear, “Nailed it!” in the halls as the orchestra packs up. 

            I thoroughly enjoyed the immersion in Rossini, Rodrigo, Mancina and Beethoven. I look forward to hearing Jason Vieaux play again, and will watch those film credits more closely now for Mancina’s name. Thanks to the wonderful musicians, lecturers and writers for challenging us with imaginative programs during the Carmel Bach Festival.


Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Carmel Bach Festival, Classical Era, Orchestral, Romantic Era.
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