“Kondonassis and Vieaux deserve to be termed magicians for the way they shaped phrases with natural fluidity, grace and, when required, fiery drama.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

Guitar and harp—does this combination sound unusual? The instruments have much in common: each are plucked or strummed; and both have millennia-long histories. And when performed together by Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis, both virtuosos of their instrument, you get an inspiring mix of new and exciting sounds.

Join us for a special pre-concert talk at 7 pm, free with your concert ticket. Benjamin Verdery, artistic director of 92Y’s Art of the Guitar series and chair of Yale’s guitar department, talks with two composers featured on the program: Keith Fitch and Gary Schocker.

Jason Vieaux, guitar
Yolanda Kondonassis, harp


Watch a video of Mr. Vieaux and Ms. Kondonassis playing together and discussing their CD, Together, which features several works in this concert.

PUJOL: Suite mágica for Harp and Guitar
JOBIM: A Felicidade
HOVHANESS: Sonata, Op 374, “Spirit of Trees” for Harp and Guitar
SCHOCKER: Hypnotized for Harp and Guitar (New York premiere)
FITCH: Knock on Wood for Harp and Guitar (New York premiere)
SALZÉDO: Chanson dans la nuit for Harp
MONTSALVATGE: Fantasía for Harp and Guitar

 

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Art of the Guitar and the 92nd Street Y Guitar Institute are supported by The Leir Charitable Foundations in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir; The Augustine Foundation; and The D’Addario Music Foundation.

Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis highlight their debut duo CD, Together.

Alan Hovhaness " The Spirit of the Trees"

Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

The Tao of Pluck

By John Henken

As John Rockwell wrote in his New York Times review of the Carnegie Hall duo debut of guitarist Narciso Yepes and harpist Nicanor Zabaleta in 1984, “the combination of classical guitar and harp—two plucked string instruments with resonating wooden bodies—might seem a natural.” Notice the “might”—you know there is a “but” or “however” coming. The instruments did share space and repertory in some Spanish Baroque tablatures, but have seldom found common employment since, something Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis hope to change. “Part of what we’re doing is trying to expand the repertoire for guitar and harp,” says Vieaux. “We think the combination of these instruments is beautiful, marvelous and fantastic.”

© 2015 John Henken

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MÁXIMO DIEGO PUJOL: Suite Mágica for Harp and Guitar

MÁXIMO DIEGO PUJOL

Born Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1957
Suite Mágica for Harp and Guitar
Composed in 2008, 12 minutes

Maximo Diego Pujol took up his father’s guitar—literally—at the age of eight, and began studying tango and milongas. Although he debuted as a performer and composer just a year later, he did not fully commit to a musical career until he was years into the simultaneous study of mathematics and the guitar. Once completely devoted to music, however, he began amassing prizes in composition competitions and performing with popular tango stars. He has created a large body of music, most of it involving the guitar in tango nuevo fusions. (Jason Vieaux also includes some of Pujol’s music in his solo repertory.) His website is maximopujol.com.

The Preludio of Pujol’s Suite mágica (commissioned by German guitarist Maximilian Mangold) wells up in obsessive waves from the lower harp strings, like a summoning ritual. The ensuing Vals begins blithely enough, accumulating weight as it runs its short course.

The Tango though, is where the magic flows strongest and longest. This is edgy stuff, harmonically sophisticated and punctuated with percussive slaps and glissando slashes. There is a measure of lyric grace at the core of the movement, but then the dark side returns. The gathered energies are released in the rhythmically biting Candombe, an earthy Afro-Uruguayan dance music that is related to the Argentine milonga and tango.

© 2015 John Henken

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ANTÔNIO CARLOS JOBIM: A Felicidade (arr. Roland Dyens)

ANTÔNIO CARLOS JOBIM

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 25, 1927; died in New York City, December 8, 1994
A Felicidade (arr. Roland Dyens)
Composed in 1959; 5 minutes

A singer, guitarist and pianist, Antonio Carlos Jobim was one of the creators of bossa nova, “the new wave”—more literally, “new flair” or “new groove.” The term first appeared in 1959 in his classic song “Desafinado,” which became an international hit in a 1962 recording by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. The popular urban samba was the basis of bossa nova, though the new genre took in many forms and styles, integrating melody, harmony and rhythm in a cool, understated delivery.

In 1956 Jobim collaborated with the poet Vinicius de Moraes on songs for Moraes’ play Orfeu da Conceição. When the play was filmed three years later as Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus), the producer did not want to use any of the existing songs. Since Moraes was in Uruguay on a diplomatic assignment at the time, he and Jobim worked together by telephone on three new songs, “A Felicidade,” “Frevo” and “O Nosso Amor.” (Luiz Bonfa also contributed songs to the film, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959, as well as the 1960 Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.) “A Felicidade” opens the film as a vital, urgently surging Carnival samba, which French guitarist Roland Dyens (b. 1955) captures in an arrangement that is highly inventive yet thoroughly idiomatic to both the instrument and the genre.

© 2015 John Henken

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ALAN HOVHANESS: Sonata, Op. 374, “Spirit of Trees” for Harp and Guitar

ALAN HOVHANESS

Born in Somerville, Massachusetts, March 8, 1911; died in Seattle, Washington, June 21, 2000
Sonata, Op. 374, “Spirit of Trees” for Harp and Guitar
Composed in 1983; 23 minutes

Alan Hovhaness was an astonishing American original, a maverick before the term, let alone the role, was fashionable. His compositions run up to Op. 434, and that does not count the hundreds of works that he destroyed in response to discouraging criticism. He wrote 67 numbered symphonies and works for every possible combination of Western instruments and voices, as well as Asian ensembles and pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. His influences began with Sibelius, but grew to include the Armenia of his father, and Indonesian and Japanese music. He was deeply admired by composers such as Henry Cowell, John Cage and Lou Harrison, he collaborated several times with choreographer Martha Graham, and he was championed by conductors Leopold Stokowski and Andre Kostelanetz, as well as the critic Virgil Thomson.

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is another devoted advocate of his music, playing in the Seattle Symphony’s Hovhaness memorial concerts in 2001, and performing and recording much of his harp music, including “Spirit of Trees” with guitarist David Leisner. “Spirit of Trees” was written for Yepes and Zabaleta, and performed at their New York debut mentioned above. Spacious in sound and spirit, it displays Hovhaness’ characteristic gifts for modal melody and exquisitely gauged sonority. There is more than a hint of gamelan in the chiming textures, and his experimental urgings come to the fore midway through in the guitar’s bent slithers over ostinato harp strumming.

© 2015 John Henken

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GARY SCHOCKER: Hypnosis For Guitar and Harp

GARY SCHOCKER

Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, October 18, 1959
Hypnosis For Guitar and Harp
Composed in 2014; 12 minutes

A stylistically omnivorous composer who is also an accomplished flutist (often performing as a duo with Jason Vieaux) and pianist, Gary Schocker has written three musicals and a distinguished body of songs in addition to chamber music for most orchestral instruments. Much of his compositional energy has been devoted to flute and piano, but he has become very interested in the harp, creating a wide range of recent works featuring that instrument. His website is garyschocker.com.

“Entrance,” of course, initiates a state of hypnosis, but the ceremonial authority of the guitar’s opening melody over the strummed harp chords also suggests a Renaissance entrada, a musical introduction of ideas and/ or personalities.

In this context, “Entrance” into hypnosis triggers something like a sequence of free-association reveries. In the same 2/2 meter and similar tempos, “Elysian” and “Floating Out” seem like a diptych of modal jazz gymnopedies, with a Brazilian feel in “Floating Out.” “There is a relaxed, warm climate suggested by the rhythms in the guitar,” Schocker says, “But the spacing of the melody, and the coolness from the harp, which is an instrument sans vibrato, creates more a heavenly walk in the clouds instead of on the beach.” “Together” is an instrumental love song, with the guitar singing— and developing—an idea of touching simplicity over caressive harp triplets.

“Awaken” is the snap out of hypnosis; alert, energized and ready for rhythmic and metrical play. The harp has its greatest string lengths in flat keys, which Schocker loves, so he asks the guitarist to quickly tune his instrument down a half-step so that it can share the resonance.

© 2015 John Henken

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KEITH FITCH: Knock on Wood for Guitar and Harp

KEITH FITCH

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, May 24, 1966
Knock on Wood for Guitar and Harp
Composed in 2012, 7 minutes

Keith Fitch, who heads the composition department at the Cleveland Institute of Music and directs its New Music Ensemble, has been composing since the age of eight. The double bass was his instrument of study, but he has written for a wide range of ensembles, as well as for solo instruments and voice. His music has been performed by such ensembles as The Philadelphia Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra, and he has enjoyed multiple residencies at The MacDowell Colony, among others. In recent seasons he has written new works for the Colorado String Quartet, the Da Capo Chamber Players, violinist Lina Bahn, and the Orchestra of the League of Composers. His website is keithfitch.com.

Knock on Wood was written for Yolonda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux, colleagues at the Cleveland Institute of Music. According to Fitch, “much of the duo repertoire tends to be rather dreamy. I wanted something different—very virtuosic and rhythmic.”

Early on, he made the decision, as he writes:

that the piece would essentially contrast two types of music, both very natural to this combination—‘wet’ (resonant) and ‘dry’ (articulate). As such, the work is based primarily on three different ideas: a chordal progression heard in the opening bars, a ‘walking’ bass figure first heard in the harp, and a bell-like passage presented in harmonics. These ideas alternate, combine and transform in various ways throughout the course of the piece (although never straying too far from their initial form).

The title of the piece came to Fitch very early in the compositional process, suggested, of course, by some of the sound elements employed. He was also thinking of the phrase in its colloquial invocation of good luck, “knock on wood.” The creation of Knock on Wood was made possible by a generous grant from the Ohio Arts Council.

© 2015 John Henken

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CARLOS SALZEDO: Chanson dans la Nuit

CARLOS SALZEDO

Born in Arcachon, France, April 6, 1885; died in Waterville, Maine, August 17, 1961
Chanson dans la Nuit
Composed in 1927; 4 minutes

The child of two musicians, Carlos Salzedo was a precocious early achiever, entering the Paris Conservatoire as a pianist at the age of nine. He took up the harp as a second instrument and at the age of 16 won the premier prix in both harp and piano at the Conservatoire. He performed widely in Europe as a pianist and harpist, and in 1909 he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to play harp in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which introduced Salzedo to the US. He concentrated on the harp, concertizing regularly, composing and arranging numerous works, and teaching prominently in Europe and the US.

Salzedo wrote several pedagogical volumes, and Chanson dans la nuit is No. XV of the “Preludes for Beginners” in his harp method published by G. Schirmer. The last of the Preludes, it is hardly beginner fare, nor is it in any way somnolent; nocturnal, perhaps, in the sense of an animated serenade, with Bartokian rustlings. Its robust strumming and rapping on the body of the instrument makes it a pertinent sequel to Knock on Wood.

© 2015 John Henken

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XAVIER MONTSALVATGE: Fantasía for Guitar and Harp

XAVIER MONTSALVATGE

Born in Girona, Spain, March 11, 1912; died in Barcelona, Spain, May 7, 2002
Fantasía for Guitar and Harp
Composed in 1983; 15 minutes

The Catalan musician Xavier Montsalvatge lived most of his life in Barcelona, although he became fascinated with the West Indian music of the Antilles, which was, as he said, “originally Spanish, exported overseas and then re-imported into our country, and which finds a place at the periphery of our traditions as a new, vague and evocative manifestation of musical lyricism.” A neoclassicist from his student days, Montsalvatge always held to a lyrical ideal, although it could be expressed in polytonal and avant garde contexts in his later music.

He was championed by most of the important Spanish artists of his time, including Victoria de los Angeles, Alicia de Larrocha, Monserrat Caballe and Pablo Casals. His Fantasia for Guitar and Harp was another piece written for Nicanor Zabaleta and Narciso Yepes. A relatively late work, it mixes blithe neoclassical tunes and spiky folkloric dance gestures with astringently spiced polytonal passages and extended techniques. Montsalvatge is also interested in tuning and resonance, to pungent effect. The three movements trace a cresting narrative with a big finish.

© 2015 John Henken

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Artist Bios

Guitarist Jason Vieaux & harpist Yolanda Kondonassis

Tonight’s concert marks the New York City debut of the duo of guitarist Jason Vieaux and harpist Yolanda Kondonassis. Ms. Kondonassis and Mr. Vieaux first played together at a Guitar Society event in 2011, performing Alan Hovhaness’s Sonata, Op. 374, “Spirit of Trees.” They recognized both the beauty of their instruments in combination, and the compatibility of their music-making; they have since performed together across the country and commissioned new works. Last month they released their first duo CD, Together, on Azica Records.

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Jason Vieaux

Guitarist Jason Vieaux has earned an enviable reputation for putting his expressive gifts and virtuosity at the service of a remarkably wide range of music. He made his 92Y debut in the 2006 Spanish Guitar Marathon and in October 2013 he inaugurated the new 92Y at SubCulture series in another pairing—with accordionist/bandoneon player Julien Labro.

Mr. Vieaux has given solo recitals at every major guitar series in North America, as well as many of the important guitar festivals in Asia, Australia and Europe. Recent and future highlights include returns to the Caramoor Festival and Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and performances at Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colon and Oslo’s Classical Music Fest. Mr. Vieaux has appeared with more than 50 orchestras across North America, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Houston and Toronto symphonies, IRIS Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Earlier this month, Mr. Vieaux won a 2015 Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for Play, a selection of audience favorites celebrating his 20 years of professional touring, on Azica Records. Last summer NPR named Play’s track of Sainz de la Maza’s Zapatadeo as one of their “50 Favorite Songs of 2014 (So Far).” Among his previous eleven commercial albums are an Azica disc of Piazzolla’s music with Julien Labro and A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra; Bach: Works for Lute, Vol. 1, which was in the top 20 of Billboard’s Classical Chart; Images of Metheny, featuring music by the American jazz legend; and Sevilla: The Music of Isaac Albeniz, which made several Top Ten lists.

In 2012 the Jason Vieaux School of Classical Guitar was launched with ArtistWorks Inc., an unprecedented technological interface that provides one-on-one online study with Mr. Vieaux for guitar students around the world. In 2011 he co-founded the guitar department at The Curtis Institute of Music, and he has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 2001. His website is jasonvieaux.com.

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Yolanda Kondonassis

Yolanda Kondonassis is celebrated as one of the world’s premier solo harpists. Since making her debut at age 18 with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, Ms. Kondonassis has appeared as soloist with such major orchestras as The Cleveland Orchestra, Buffalo and Hong Kong philharmonics, Detroit and Dallas symphonies, English and Philadelphia chamber orchestras and Sinfonica de Puerto Rico. Other solo appearances have included Avery Fisher Hall and Taiwan’s National Concert Hall. This is her second appearance at 92Y.

Chamber music is a passion for Ms. Kondonassis. Recent seasons have included a tour of New Zealand with a trio of flutist Alexa Still, violist Roger Chase and herself, and frequent appearances at US festivals such as Marlboro, Santa Fe, Spoleto, Tanglewood, Bravo! Vail Valley, Strings in the Mountains and Mainly Mozart. Her concert collaborators have included the Shanghai, Rossetti, JACK, Jupiter, Biava and Vermeer string quartets; pianist Jeremy Denk; flutist Marina Piccinini, and numerous others.

With Play, Ms. Kondonassis has made 19 recordings, which have earned universal critical praise, as she continues to be a pioneering force in the harp world. Her most recent solo CD, American Harp, released in 2013 by Azica, features works by John Williams, Lowell Liebermann, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Stephen Paulus and Norman Dello Joio. She received a Grammy nomination for Air on Telarc, with music by Takemitsu and Debussy, and her other recordings include Solo Harp: The Best of Yolanda Kondonassis on Azica, celebrating 20 years of critically acclaimed recordings; the world-premiere Telarc recording of Bright Sheng’s Harp Concerto, written for Ms. Kondonassis; and the first-ever recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on the harp with The Orchestra of Flanders.

As an author, composer and arranger, Ms. Kondonassis has published three music books to date, all for Carl Fischer Music: On Playing the Harp, The Yolanda Kondonassis Collection and The Yolanda Kondonassis Christmas Collection, featuring popular arrangements from her acclaimed disc, Dream Season: The Christmas Harp. Royalties from several of her projects are donated to earth causes, and her first children’s book, entitled Our House is Round: A Kid’s Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters, was released in 2012 by Skyhorse Publishing. Her website is yolandaharp.com.

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