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Guitar Solo

Guitar Solo - can this be called Chamber Music?

At the university of music in Munich we distinguished between main instrument lessons (one professor teaches one student) and chamber music lessons (a professor teaches a small ensemble of musicians to perform together). From this perspective a solo recital for classical guitar could not be called chamber music. From the perspective of concerts and radio stations this looks a little different: Here it is more about the size of the room and the audience, the loudness and the musical interest of the audience. In this context, we will most likely call classical guitar solo recitals chamber music.

Classical Guitar - where does it start, where does it end?

Calling myself a classical guitarist, people often show me a big question mark in their face, which slowly clears up. The next thing I hear is something like: "Ah, you play flamenco, don't you?". This answer is still one of my favorite ones: I can quickly correct this wrong "translation". But sometimes it takes more effort. Some tend to think that guitar in general is all about romantic camp fires, folk music or just accompagnation of ones own voice. In many of these cases, there is not the slightest doubt that this is what I ment. The only question, that is still open is, how that can be a "job". So their answer is "... and what is your profession?"

It looks like this picture of classical guitar has never really been different in the public opinion. If you check literature, you will always find the guitar in the context of folk music, "strumming" and mellow singing. What this also tells us about the guitar is, that it is an instrument capable of a very personal dialog with the audience.

So - what is Classical Guitar?

To be honest, this is really difficult to say, but I will try:

  • Classical guitarists interpret compositions of "serious" composers. It is not about the so called "light music" or popular music, even if the repertoire of classical guitar music is often very close to those. There a many influences of regional folk music, jazz and flamenco, but this still does not make the music to be actual folk music, jazz or flamenco. If you take a look a Johannes Brahms: Nobody would say, that his Hungarian dances are folk music. I think the same thing applies to the classical guitar repertoire. The only difference is, that our composers a less known than Brahms.
  • Classical guitar is played on nylon strings with a special kind of technique. We use our fingers with thoroughly shaped and polished fingernails. Other "tools" are not used unless the composer explicitly asks for them. The technique is all about sound quality, colour and variety, about articulation, polyphonic and harmonic voicing and above all flexibility: It has to empower us to play music of Johann Sebastian Bach as convincing as we play pieces that are close to flamenco. Classical music by Carulli, Sor or Giuliani, romantic music with its regional styles of Tarrega, Mertz and Legnani and modern with jazz elements, packed with effects up to pieces like Hans Werner Henze's "Mad Lady Macbeth". All of this must be possible (and convincing).
  • A classical guitarist ideally started at early age to learn the classical guitar technique. After this, he will have studied at a music university to improve his knowledge and skills. You cannot just enrol to study music at a music university. These studies need to be called elite-studies: There is a strict entrance regulations (limited number of students, entry exams in many musical subjects as well as in the first and second instrument). The main instrument is taught in one-to-one lessons with the professor ... this is not playing, but really hard work: to the audience everything has to sound, look and feel like playing free and without any difficulties.
  • A classically studied guitarist picks a repertoire, works on it and presents it - improvisation will only take place where a composition explicitly asks for it. So this is not different from a classical pianist. The course of a solo recital for classical guitar will not differ a lot from that of a piano solo recital. It will just be a little bit more intimate and less loud - based on the characteristics of the instrument.

What can I expect from a Solo Recital?

I offer customized repertoire selections, which are based on location, audience and context:

  • Regionally selected musical repertoire
  • Character and genre based repertoire
  • Travelling through music history, or focus on a special period
  • Portrait of a composer or contrasting multiple
  • Collecting the mood of a place, time, occasion or season.

In all these cases I focus my performance on inviting the audience into the music and on giving the music a chance to tell a story. A concert is a dialog of moods between the audience, the musician and the instrument. Without this, you would be better off with a CD or Mp3 player. I like to have it alive, atmopheric and in close relation to the audience.

What is the charm of a Solo Recital compared to other Chamber Music Forms?

A solo recital, amoung all concert forms, will always put the biggest focus on the artist's person. Even if a musician - like me - is all about music and not about image cultivation, we will find the biggest space for personal interpretation in the solo recital. Everything may just be created from the moment. This can provide a deep insight into the way the musician feels and relates to the music. If a musician is open for the mood and the energy of the audience, both can directly transform into musical expression.

No doubt: a solo recital is als the perfect stage for virtuosity and self-glorification - everybody does it his way...

Any other Solo Guitar Topic you are interested in?

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