The weekend of November 2-4 brought a slew of guitar programs – several recitals and a quasi-chamber evening took place in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill (all over, in other words) and in Inez, up in Warren County. Even though we CVNCers are four (plus some stringers), we didn’t get to all of these–and that may be just as well, for a surfeit of guitar music might cause some sort of addiction.

A reader whose musical judgment we trust sent an email about the Bull City program, presented in the Nelson Music Room on November 3. He reported, off the top, that the recital was well attended, which is a healthy thing, given the drop-off in crowds at many area events since 9/11. The capsule review continues, “In addition to a few solo works [played] by Randy Reed, considerable time was devoted to flute/guitar works with Alma Coefman and to vocal (soprano) works with Randy’s daughter Ariel, who is very good indeed. [She] holds a recent BM degree from Peabody, currently sings the role of Little Red Riding Hood in Triangle Opera’s Outreach Program, and looks forward to playing Mrs. Gobineau in The Medium with Long Leaf Opera [next] spring. One of [her] numbers was an Aria (Cantilena) by Villa-Lobos that was mostly hummed. The piece was most unusual, very striking and well done.”

We missed that concert but were assuaged to a certain extent – and got our guitar fix, too – at a recital presented by the Triangle Guitar Society the following afternoon. The venue was the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist, and the guest artist was Jason Vieaux, who, according to his PR material, plays a “Taut” guitar made by Paul Fischer in 1998. The young artist, who currently heads the Guitar Department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has won a flock of prizes, including the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Competition in 1992 (which probably means he’s not quite as young as he looks!). He’s made a bunch of CDs, too, and some of them were on sale at the concert – which practice seems to be all the rage nowadays.

A reasonable crowd was on hand – these events rarely require police presence at the gate – for a program that covered a lot of territory. It began with Ponce’s Sonatina Meridional, which means that, for this listener (and doubtless for many others, too) it was Old Home Week. That’s because this wonderful short work was written for Segovia and recorded by that master for Columbia. My father bought his copy of it – ’twas an old blue-label Lp – just a little over 48 years ago. It was, as a result, my first introduction to Segovia (whom the jacket credits as the “arranger”) AND to the subtle art of the classical guitar. Either Vieaux knows the recording pretty well or he and Segovia played from the same sheets of music, but in any event, the Chapel Hill rendition was everything it ought to have been. From Ponce to Hans Werner Henze is a bit of a jump, but three of the German’s solo guitar interludes (Tentos) from a larger 1958 work, written in Italy, proved both attractive and immediately accessible. A Bach lute suite, announced in advance publicity, was replaced by the First Sonata, S.1001, intended for solo violin. The transcription was remarkably faithful to the original, and Vieaux gave it an insightful interpretation.

Another Ponce Sonata – No. 3 of the five he wrote for Segovia – began the second half of the concert. It proved more expansive and somewhat less successful than the opening work, so we’re thinking that the two pieces probably should not be paired on the same program. Vieaux added a Prelude and Dance by Orbón that spoke far more concisely and with exemplary directness. The last group might well have been encores, but they were all realized with the same exceptional care and technical facility that had earlier distinguished Vieaux’s playing. Short works by Albéniz (including the ubiquitous “Asturias” (“Leyenda”)), Merlin and Samuel Ward (yep, “America the Beautiful” was given a dark and poignant reading) brought the afternoon to a close. It was, overall, an exceptional experience in which high art was conveyed directly to a small band of aficionados who clearly relished everything they heard.

Oh yes, those CDs. Well, as our colleague William Thomas Walker recently observed, Naxos’ titles generally sell for $5.99 or so, but at this recital the going rate for Vieaux’s Naxos releases was $10. Go figure!