What I did at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 1985

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Just a bit of history – the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival used to have composition competitions, and the year I played there, the compositions were all for guitar.

The thing is, not all entries were in until the week before, and I had to play them all – some at sight. This was an entertaining experience and pieces ranged from graphic scores to pieces which were purposely impossible!

Anyway, here is a review from Classical Guitar magazine such as it was in those days (when it was published in the UK).
As well as the winning entries, I played ‘Nasiye’, written for me by Michael Finnissy, ‘Monogram’ by Gilbert Biberian (I gave the first performance in the Wigmore Hall), Tippett’s ‘The Blue Guitar’ and ‘Parabola’ and ‘Decameron Negro’ by Leo Brouwer.

That was just for starters (just kidding). The audience was large and appreciative unlike my earlier concert which  I played at a nearby Guitar Society a few days before and was met with a prize comment from the secretary – “That was OK, Gerald, but I was hoping you would play ‘Recuerdos'”!

Here is the text of the review – the pdf is below

from Classical Guitar July 1986

GERALD GARCIA and NEW GUITAR MUSIC at HUDDERSFIELD

by Richard Leigh Harris

‘A contemporary music festival? In Huddersfield?’, a colleague asked, frowning deeply.
Admittedly he wasn’t a new music buff, but that comment demonstrates well enough the general reaction by musicians to developments in the music of their own age, as well as to the all- too-familiar clichéd images of Northern industrial towns and cities, perpetuated by
numerous jokes and snide asides.

Since its modest inception in 1978, however, the annual Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival has ‘taken off’ to a degree hardly envisaged in the early days by its Artistic
Director, Richard Steinitz, a lecturer in the music department at the Polytechnic. Indeed,
within the last few years and despite quite heavy financial difficulties, Huddersfields’ annual gathering now very much bears all the hallmarks of enlightened, stimulating
programme planning and excellence of execution that makes it in many areas a serious challenger to the major European festivals of new music such as the Venice Biennale, Royan, ISCM, etc as well as those promoted through or via college campuses in the
United States. This international quality and ambience was reinforced at the last, 1985, festival by the presence of leading Italian figures of the eminence of Berio, Aldo Clementi, Salvatore Sciarrino (the latter two names relatively new to British audiences), Bussoti, Donatoni plus the ltalian- influenced Englishman Bernard Rands, now resident in Boston, Mass. Jonathan Harvey and Michael Finnissy completed the list of featured composers
who during the eight days of intense activity (19-27 November) talked informally about prospective performances of their pieces, directed student workshops, adjudicated and were on hand generally to give advice and point the way forward.

An incidental aspect of the 1985 festival was the presence of the ‘Oxford connection’ in the form of guitarists Gerald Garcia, David Harvey, ex-Abingdon composer Jeremy Pike plus the present writer who travelled up from Oxford with Gerald Garcia and pretty well, in the words of the late Philip Larkin ‘. . . waking at the fumes/And furnace-glares of Sheffield where I changed/And eat an awful pie . .  although not so many furnaces these days and
more of a stale BR sandwich than a pie .

Gerald Garcia was invited to Huddersfield in a twofold context: giving an open guitar workshop on pieces submitted for the Yorkshire Arts Association Young Composers Competition, plus a late-night recital held in the Huddersfield Art Gallery and sponsored by W. H. Smith.

At the risk of preaching to the converted, the following points are perhaps worth restating.
Until Julian Breams’ policy and, indeed, advocacy of commissioning new works from leading composers expressly for the solo guitar, this most subtle and intimate of solo instruments went neglected and unsung as far as new pieces were concerned (see Classical Guitar, Feb/March 1986). Since the major mid-Sixties landmark of Britten’s Nocturnal and the subsequent flow of works from established figures such as Walton, Henze, Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett and, most recently and importantly, Sir Michael Tippett and Elliott Carter (‘Changes’ for David Starobin), at long last the guitar is
now being seen by living composers as a viable instrument for which to write, as well as a challenge to produce music which is still recognisably composer X’s while being ready and willing to respond to the technical, syntactical idiosyncrasies of the guitar. Perhaps above all, new music for the guitar is now taken seriously and no longer (thank God) relegated to the fourth division of so-called aesthetical ‘good taste’.

Download (PDF, 427KB)

Mr.Naxos – interview with Klaus Heymann

Klaus Heymann

On Monday, May 18th, 2015, at a ceremony at Yale School of Music, Naxos Chairman and owner Klaus Heymann was presented with the prestigious Samuel Simons Sanford Award. Previous winners include Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Alfred Brendel, Emanuel Ax, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Aaron Copland, Pierre Boulez, Sir George Solti, Eugene Ormandy, and Juilliard President Joseph Polisi.
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I have known Klaus for many years – my first recording was with his wife, violinist Takako Nishizaki in 1985 – it is a collection of Chinese melodies for violin and guitar. This was first issued as an LP on HK Records and subsequently reissued on the Marco Polo label.
We recorded at the Gulbenkian Institute in Lisbon, and I have fond memories of Klaus helping to carry our bags so we wouldn’t damage our hands! I mention this because, since those days, Naxos was founded and one of the guiding lights in the selection process has been Takako.

Since then, I went on to record several CDs for Naxos and have recently produced a CD in China of the prodigy Kuang Junhong.
Naxos has gone from strength to strength and is a pioneer in the streaming of classical music via the Naxos Music Library. They now also have the ability to print CDs in smaller quantities and are establishing a classical music database.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Klaus Heymann has won an award, but he is particularly proud of this one.

Recently I was in Hong Kong, and had a chance to talk to Klaus about his latest award, his attitude to recording and digital distribution, and Naxos’ importance in the promotion of the classical guitar.

Concerto Romantico for violin and guitar – Čepinskis-Krinicin Duo and the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra

Vilhelmas and Sergej

In 2002, I was invited to write a concerto for the Christée-Baldissera violin and guitar duo. This was performed in the German town of Bad Munder.
I finished the piece in a couple of weeks and heard nothing from the duo or the conductor for weeks. Jeanne Christée requested a more virtuosic final movement which I rewrote as a tango and battle between the soloists and the orchestra!
Finally I received an invitation to attend the concert and worked out how get to Bad Munder.

It was quite a journey, compositionally and geographically.
Alison and I got off a train at Bad Munder to find the station was in the middle of the countryside with no clue as to where the town was. Far away on the horizon there was a steeple, so we headed out towards it across snowy fields. It was indeed the town, but there was absolutely no one around.
I had never heard the duo and luckily they had the music down to a tee despite problems with the guitar amplification. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the snowy ghost town. It was beautiful, with traditional north German wooden houses.
In the evening, there were suddenly hundreds of people attending the concert – where had they all come from?

Many years later, my friend Sergej Krinicin of the Baltic Guitar Quartet asked if he could play the piece – he had a duo with the violin virtuoso, Vilhelmas Cepinskis.
Vilhelmas wanted the concerto rewritten for symphony orchestra, but it was originally conceived for strings! We finally agreed it should be played in its original form, and the concert was given in February 2013 but the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Bokor.
This was a big concert which was televised, and I managed t get an audio recording of the whole piece.

Here is the middle movement:

Here is the audio of the complete concerto

NYGE and Vida Quartet play in Oxford on Friday 25th July

EGYAlogo

A date for your diary –
Friday 25th July – 7.30pm
THE CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST
109A Iffley Rd, OXFORD OX4 1EH
Here is a video of NYGE at Easter


Video by Sophie Standford
National Youth Guitar Ensemble, Easter Concert, April 2014
Anton Arensky (1891-1906) Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky arranged by S. Gordon
Performed at The Menuhin Hall, Stoke D’Abernon, Surrey, UK
Musical Director: Gerald Garcia

Last Year with Belinda Evans

Gerald Garcia conducts the National Youth Guitar Ensemble with Belinda Evans in his “Four Hebridean Songs”. Easter 2013

The National Youth Guitar Ensemble 
& Vida Quartet
Friday 25th July – 7.30pm
THE CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST
109A Iffley Rd, OXFORD OX4 1EH
www.sje-oxford.org
P
rogramme includes works by:
Borodin, Mussorgsky, Arensky, Arnold,
Inti Illimani, Gershwin and first performance of
Gerlad Garcia’s Concerto for Guitar Quartet

NYGE and Vida at SJETickets are £10 (Conc. £8) and FREE for Under 18s.
Tickets are available on the door or can be reserved by contacting the NYGE Co-ordinator:
Tel. 07761 425405
Email: info@nyge.co.uk
Web: www.nyge.co.uk

Hebridean Songs – more NYGE 2013

To remind ourselves of the coming concerts on
Saturday 17th August  at Menuhin Hall (1.30pm) and
Sunday 18th at West Dean (1.45pm)
here is a clip of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble with Belinda Evans at Rugby School last Easter.

The pieces are four Hebridean Songs I arranged for soprano and guitar orchestra.
NYGE RugbyBee

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NYGE 2013

On the final leg of my summer school/teaching junket, it’s yet another acronym but one that many are familiar with – the National Youth Guitar Ensemble, which I have been conducting since 2005 when arranger and 19thC guitar supremo Chris Susans stepped down in order to be administrator.
NYGE poster

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WYGF 2013 – 1

WYGF is the World Youth Guitar Festival, which conjures up images of children aged 8-18 jumping up and down with balloons, enthusiastic tutors being silly in a panto, and also some serious ensemble work with some of the best names in the business. It is a place where young guitarists of all abilities make music together under the musical direction of inspirational tutors and mentors.
This year, tutors include Gaelle Solal from France, the Duo Agostino from Australia, Frank Gerstmeier from Germany, Johannes Moller from Sweden, Peter Nuttall, Mark Eden, Mark Ashford, Helen Sanderson, Chris Stell, Nick Powlesland, Matthew Robinson and myself. The organisation was ably managed by Sandra and Trevor Dukes, Georgina Bashford as Head Mentor and the Festival Director Helen Sanderson.
This all took place in the hallowed grounds of Uppingham School.

WYGF

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China Sings! Kuang Junhong and the Iserlohn Festival Orchestra

It was an exciting occasion – the world premier of the first two movements of my concerto “China Sings” – Kuang Junhong played with great delicacy and fiery virtuosity, and the orchestra was superb. Watch this space for all three movements with symphony orchestra.
Iserlohn Festival Orchestra

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David Russell’s Elegy for the victims of the Santiago train accident

Link to David Russell playing Celtic melody

“Estamos en duelo por el trágico accidente de tren en Santiago, la ciudad donde María Jesús y yo nos conocimos y que está tan cerca de nuestro corazón. Nuestro sentido homenaje a las víctimas y nuestro apoyo moral a las familias y a los supervivientes.”

“We are in mourning for the tragic train accident in our beloved Santiago (Spain), the city where María Jesús and I met. A Celtic melody in memory of the victims and our moral support to their families and the survivors.”

David Russell

My Gentle Harp” arranged  by Gerald Garcia

Get the music here

More Biberian – Guitar Concerto

Link to Biberian Concerto.

Gilbert dropped by last month – always an occasion for food, musical discussion and  philosophy.
He was insistent, though, that we had time together – alone. Normally my reaction would be “uh oh – what new scheme has he hatched”, but I knew it was different this time.

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