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“[Eliot Fisk is] the king of the American classical guitar.” —The New Yorker

“[Paco Peña is] a genuine virtuoso, capable of dazzling an audience with technical abilities beyond the frets of mortal man.” —The New York Times

Eliot Fisk, guitar
Paco Peña, guitar

Various composers: Solo pieces to be announced
SCARLATTI: Sonata, K. 33 (trans. Fisk/Peña)
SCARLATTI: Sonata, K. 461 (trans. Fisk/Peña)
MENDELSSOHN: Lied ohne Worte in G major, Op. 62, No. 1 (trans. Fisk/Peña)
BACH: Prelude in D minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, BWV 875 (trans. Fisk/Peña)
BACH: Praeambulum in F major from Clavier-Büchlein for W.F. Bach, BWV 927 (trans. Fisk/Peña)
Various composers: Selected Farrucas
Various composers: Selected Colombianas


Join us for a pre-concert interview with Eliot Fisk and Benjamin Verdery of Yale University at 6:30 pm.


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

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Classical Duende: Eliot Fisk and Paco Peña in duo recital

By Eliot Fisk

It is a great pleasure to return to the stage with my dear friend and revered colleague, Paco Pena. Paco and I first met in September 1983, when we performed separate solo recitals at a now-defunct guitar festival in Mettman, Germany. This was also the first time I had the chance to hear Paco live, and even now, more than three decades later, I can still recall many moments from that concert.

Paco and I became friends at once, but it was not until about six years later that we began to perform as a duo. Since that time I count Paco as one of my great musical inspirations. Due to the fullness of our individual careers we have only occasionally toured together, yet the result has always been memorable.

In teaching me by ear the flamenco pieces heard tonight, Paco not only gave me an introduction into the fascinating universe of flamenco but changed and expanded my conception of music as a whole. Many of the techniques I first learned from Paco found their way into compositions composed for me afterward by leading contemporary composers such as Beaser, Berio, Rochberg, Maw, Balada, Schwertsik and others. Those same techniques also came in handy when I turned to transcribe virtuosic solo violin music by Cristobal Halffter, George Rochberg and John Corigliano.

The classical guitar is a famously tricky instrument. Many of the great composers are actually apprehensive to approach an instrument when they’re so unfamiliar with its nuances, and even the most skillful of those willing to do so are often grateful for the suggestions, sometimes quite extensive (!), of a proficient interpreter.

Sensational as it is, flamenco guitar is never un-idiomatic. Like the impeccable sense of rhythm that even amateur flamenco players typically possess, this natural way with the instrument is a great source of inspiration for classical guitarists. Much as he sometimes railed against flamenco, Andres Segovia’s solutions to guitar fingering owed a lot to the flamenco tradition that he absorbed by osmosis as a child in Spain.

For me, working with Paco has also reminded me of the age-old crosspollination of popular and classical styles, of the impulse that led Bach to throw two folk songs into the final Quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations, Beethoven to develop Russian tunes in the “Razumovsky” Quartets, or Bartok to write down and later transform in his own works Hungarian and Romanian folk music. We classical guitarists feel the pull of flamenco not only in original guitar music but just as strongly in the music we like to transcribe by masters of the past like Domenico Scarlatti, Isaac Albeniz or Manuel de Falla.

After a first half of solo playing, Paco and I come together in the second half outside of our comfort zones. We begin with two of the Spanish–sounding sonatas (years unknown; 4 minutes each) by Domenico Scarlatti (born in Naples, October 26, 1685; died in Madrid, July 23, 1757). Neapolitan by birth, Scarlatti famously settled in Spain with his patron, Maria Barbara of Portugal, who had married the King of Spain. Scarlatti spent the rest of his life in Spain where he fused the lyricism of Italian opera with the fiery rhythms and daring harmonies of Spanish folk music. As the great harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick (source of the Scarlatti catalogue “K” numbers) once explained, in so doing Scarlatti endowed the binary form with unsurpassed beauty, variety and eloquence.

Felix Mendelssohn (born in Hamburg, February 3, 1809; died in Leipzig, November 4, 1847) composed dozens of Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte) for solo piano. The one heard here is the first of a set of six dedicated to Clara Schumann (composed in 1844; 4 minutes). Here Paco takes the melody to my accompaniment. We conclude the classical segment with two contrasting Preludes (composed c. 1740; 3 minutes/ composed after 1720; 1 minute) by the greatest and most universal of all composers, J. S. Bach (born in Eisenach, March 21, 1685; died in Leipzig, July 28, 1750). As Paco does not like to read music and is accustomed to play by ear, he learned his part in the classical selections by ear from informal recordings that I made for him.

A similar process enabled me to learn my part for our flamenco selections. Paco learned the Farrucas by ear from Sabicas’s recording and sent me a cassette of himself playing both parts separately. From this informal recording I wrote down my part. The Colombianas is one of the flamenco forms influenced by the breezy rhythms of the Caribbean and fuses New World swing with the inevitability of the Spanish compás.

During our early tours Paco often taught me still other flamenco numbers and falsetas by ear. We recall the variety of these informal sessions, which happened spontaneously in various hotel rooms of the world, by adding little personal touches of our own in both the classical and flamenco parts of tonight’s program.

© 2014 Eliot Fisk

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Artist Bios

Eliot Fisk, guitar

Tonight’s concert is the first of a four-city American tour for guitarists Eliot Fisk and Paco Peña, supported by the upcoming release of their first duo CD on Nimbus— a groundbreaking crossover project featuring Mr. Fisk’s transcriptions of classical works and Mr. Pena’s flamenco compositions. Eliot Fisk has participated in numerous crossover projects throughout his distinguished and prolific career. He also enjoys ongoing collaborations with such classical artists as clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, tenor Nicholas Phan and cellist Yehuda Hanani, and he has recorded two CDs with his long-time chamber music partner, flutist Paula Robison.

Additional projects for Mr. Fisk in 2014 include a recording with cellist Yehuda Hanani and solo recitals featuring Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in D minor and Berio’s Sequenza IX for solo guitar, dedicated to Mr. Fisk. This June at the Boston Guitar Fest, with its theme of “American Odyssey,” Mr. Fisk, the festival’s artistic director, will perform Robert Beaser’s Guitar Concerto; Ralf Gawlick’s Kollwitz Konnex, a mammoth song cycle for soprano and guitar inspired by Kathe Kollwitz; and a new guitar concerto by Anthony Paul De Ritis. In August he will make his debut at the Shanghai Festival along with his wife, virtuoso guitarist Zaira Meneses, and his daughter, 13-year-old pianist Raquel Fisk.

Mr. Fisk has revolutionized the guitar repertoire with innumerable transcriptions by composers ranging from Bach to Albeniz and through many works either commissioned by him or dedicated to him by the foremost composers of our time. His recent premieres include a new arrangement for two guitars and orchestra of William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost Rag by Payton McDonald, and the solo suite Ein kleines Requiem by Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik, which was released to great acclaim in 2010 by Wildner Records. That year Wildner also released Fisk’s The Red Guitar, featuring his transcription for solo guitar of John Corigliano’s Red Guitar Caprices, along with works by Relly Raffman, Robert Beaser and George Rochberg; popular songs by Hoagy Carmichael and Harry Warren, and more.

Mr. Fisk was the last direct pupil of Andres Segovia, and he participated in the 92Y Segovia Tribute Concert this past October. He is currently professor at the Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg where he teaches in five languages and in Boston at the New England Conservatory. His website is

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Paco Peña, guitar

Paco Peña embodies both authenticity and innovation in flamenco. As guitarist, composer, dramatist, producer and artistic mentor, he has transformed perceptions of this archetypal Spanish art form.

Born in the Andalusian city of Cordoba, Mr. Pena began learning guitar from his brother at the age of six and made his first professional appearance at age 12. In the late 1960s he left Spain for London, where his recitals of flamenco music captured the public imagination.

Since then, venues for his solo performances have ranged from the intimate Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London to the monumental Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall in New York and Royal Albert Hall in London. He made his 92Y debut in a duo program with Eliot Fisk in April 2003 and returned two years later for a solo recital. Mr. Pena has shared the stage with other guitarists, singers and instrumental groups, bridging diverse musical genres, including classical, jazz, blues, country and Latin American.

Since 1970 Mr. Pena has performed regularly with his own company of dancers, guitarists and singers, the Paco Pena Flamenco Dance Company. The company has regular seasons in London and has appeared at festivals in Adelaide, Amsterdam, Athens, Edinburgh, Israel, Istanbul, Singapore and Hong Kong. One of its landmark productions was the 1991 Misa Flamenca, a setting of the Mass that juxtaposed Pena’s company with a classical choir. Its premiere at London’s Royal Festival Hall featured the Choir of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The company’s 1999 production, Musa Gitana, was based on the life and work of the painter Julio Romero de Torres of Cordoba.

Among his recent shows, Quimeras told the story of a group of people traveling from Africa to Spain. Flamenco Vivo was a tour of the history of flamenco, and his current show, Flamencura, explores the rhythms of flamenco. The show is having its Australian premiere this month. Many of these shows have been recorded and are part of Mr. Pena’s extensive discography of more than 30 albums.

In 1981 Mr. Pena founded the Centro Flamenco Paco Pena in Cordoba, later becoming artistic director of the celebrated annual Cordoba Guitar Festival. In 1985 Rotterdam’s music conservatory Codarts named him the world’s first professor of flamenco guitar, and he still serves on its faculty. In 1997 Mr. Pena was named Oficial de la Cruz de la Orden del Merito Civil, and in May 2012 he was awarded the Kennedy Center Gold Medal in the Arts; both honors were bestowed on him by King Juan Carlos of Spain. His website is

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