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“Whoops and roars” at a …Classical guitar concert?

» 23 April 2008 » In Reviews » No Comments

At the intermission of the April 23 classical guitar concert featuring Ricardo Cobo and Christopher McGuire at UNLV’s Doc Rando Recital Hall, I overheard two different groups of friends jokingly refer to their hanging out between acts as “tailgating.” It made me laugh, then think. Classical guitar in Las Vegas? Of course, there is no cultural reference point for this in a city of clubs, neon and millionaire productions. So Las Vegans at such an event must import concepts from that world to make sense of what they’re seeing and hearing.

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Aaron Shearer

» 23 April 2008 » In News » No Comments

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

IMG_1406

Aaron Shearer is the Father of American Classic Guitar. For those of us who studied with him, ‘Mr. Shearer’ revealed a powerful and comprehensive method that transformed our lives. As a teacher he was uncompromising with his musical and artistic integrity and awe-inspiring in his precision and clarity. As a person he was profoundly generous and deeply concerned about each and every one of us. He would take a handful of students for summer sessions to Lewiston, ID, where he grew up. Throughout the hot, dry summer he would regularly ride his bike, to teach daily lessons and performance development classes. Summers in Lewiston were a kind of “special ops” guitar study- we were immersed in playing, visualizing, and performing all day. It was Mr. Shearer’s favorite time of year. For us, it was magic.

The six years I studied with Aaron will remain the most significant and defining period of my life both as a student and professional. He was like a father to me and remained a dear and caring friend throughout my career. Aaron’s passing represents a monumental loss for the guitar and music world. 

Aaron codified a revolutionary pedagogical method that redefined the Art of the Guitar and gave birth to an entire generation of players and teachers. Aaron didn’t just write about the guitar, he made it a formal discipline backed by a lifetime of extensive research and developed the Gold standard by which players are judged today.

– Ricardo Cobo, Las Vegas, NV

Ricardo is probably the finest student I’ve produced in seventy years of teaching. He represents the fruits of my labor. As a player, no one can touch him.”

-Aaron Shearer November 15, 2007. Dana Auditorium, Guilford College, Greensboro.

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Las Vegas Sun

» 24 November 2006 » In Interviews » No Comments

Colombian leads musical journey across Latin America

By Timothy Pratt

Fri, Nov 24, 2006 (7:05 a.m.)Click here to find out more!

Given today’s climate – when Hispanic in many people’s minds means “Mexican” and Mexican means “illegal” – Colombian guitarist Ricardo Cobo’s sold-out concert Tuesday night at UNLV’s Doc Rando Hall somehow acquired added meaning.

Not that Cobo crafted his nearly all-Latin American program with any stated political intent.

But cultural displays from an artist with the talent and sensibility of the sort Cobo possesses have a way of making a point sometimes, beyond the beauty of the displays themselves.

Cobo – who left his native city of Cali as a teenager and became the first Hispanic to win consecutive prizes at the Guitar Foundation of America International competition – comfortably engaged an audience of 300 on a musical trip from Brazil up to Cuba, with stops in Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela, and a side trip to France.

The guitarist, who has lived in Las Vegas since 2000, visits his tropical valley birthplace when he can and spends six months a year on the world’s classical music stages. It’s a life that adds up to a performer and person who breathes both U.S. and Latin cultures , and is expert at bridging the two.

From the start, Cobo dipped into the Latin American grab bag of intense emotions, with a lyrical piece by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer that he reprised at the end of the concert, dedicated to his father.

Then he switched things up, announcing, “We’re going to start the dancing part early,” with a fast tune from the Venezuelan plains written for harp. The speed challenged Cobo at times, but the rhythmic force of the piece carried him forward.

Before lovingly launching into “Dos Valsas,” two pretty pieces by Brazilian composer Dilermando Reis, Cobo told the audience they were about to hear “high-class schmaltz.”

He knows how north-of-the-border eyes see the romance in Latin lives.

Then, without being pedantic, he added, “This was before bossa nova, before samba.”

About to tackle Argentine Maximo Diego Pujol’s homage to his radical compatriot, Astor Piazzolla, Cobo noted: “If you don’t know his (Piazzolla’s) music, you’re missing a whole universe of music in the 20th century.”

His right hand, relaxed as a tai chi master, strummed and slapped through the Argentine avant-garde, strongly displaying that country’s melancolia.

After the intermission, Cobo stopped in Cuba with a modern piece by Eduardo Martin that somehow manages to fit the head-bopping Cuban dance rhythm, son guajira, under the same musical roof as dense, contemporary classical flourishes.

“A lot of unusual things have come out of Cuba,” Cobo said before playing the piece, “but we never hear of it.”

After the song, he riffed, “You gotta love the Cubans. Rock ‘n’ roll, blues and all of the above.”

More bridges built.

The rest of the program featured three tangos, all Cobo’s arrangements – including an impressive musical wrestling match with the difficult maestro himself, Piazzolla.

Dressed in black and equally modest in character, Cobo called the piece “a little more virtuosic” than the rest.

But though he had no problem with the technical demands of the complexly urban but lyrical composer, what most reached the listener was Cobo’s feeling for the music.

It was clear the music Cobo played for a full house, from the rich and immensely varied continent of his birth, is in his blood.

And his hands.

 

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The Washington Post

» 25 July 2006 » In Reviews » No Comments

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grace Notes Elevate Alexandria Guitar Festival

The annual Alexandria Guitar Festival is one of the undiscovered gems of the summer music scene, bringing some of the planet’s best classical guitarists to town for a week of intimate and always interesting recitals. The seven-concert series closed, alas, over the weekend — but not before showcasing some spectacular talent.

The Colombian guitarist Ricardo Cobo may be one of the finest guitarists of our time — certainly he’s a first-rank interpreter of Latin American music, as he showed in the tango-flavored second half of Saturday’s program. From the driving “Acrilicos en Asfalto,” by Eduardo Martin, to smoky cafe music from Horacio Salgán and the classic “La Muerte del Angel,” by Astor Piazzolla, Cobo has the smoldering sensuality of Latin music deep in his blood, and played with heart-clenching passion.

— Stephen Brookes

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American Record Guide. Spring 2004

» 01 April 2004 » In Reviews » No Comments

March/April 2004

American Record Guide
Piazzolla, Brouwer, Pujol, Carlevaro, Reis, 
Salgan, Villoldo, Pereira
Ricardo Cobo—Naxos 557329—60 minutes

It was initially hard for me to muster enthusiasm for yet another potpourri of Latin American guitar miniatures. But when the guitarist is Ricardo Cobo it doesn’t much matter that there is a glut of such releases. The Colombian-born Cobo, a winner of several international competitions in the late 80s, is a world-class talent, possessed of stunning technique, penetrating musicianship, and a beautifully refined sound. I cannot imagine more satisfying or engaging interpretations of this music; his readings are incisive and vigorous in the fast pieces, dark and soulful in the more contemplative works, and every phrase is shaped by an impeccable musical instinct.

Several works here are presented in new arrangements by Cobo, including Piazzolla’s well known tangos ‘La Muerte del Angel’ and ‘Primavera Porteña’, which serve as bookends to the program. His arrangements offer refreshing new insights into these often played pieces; the works sound fresh and alive, as though one were hearing them for the first time. Considering the ubiquity of Piazzolla these days, both on the guitar and in other settings, this is no small feat.

The works that come between the two Piazzolla tangos range from the unassuming waltzes of Dilermando Reis, which Cobo plays with incomparable poetry, to the more ambitious Elegía por La Muerte de un Tanguero by Máximo Diego Pujol, a three-movement homage to Piazzolla. This piece is harmonically richer than some of Pujol’s other works, especially the haunting ‘Melancolía’ movement, and Cobo invests even its simplest passages with an expressive depth and interpretive commitment that make the whole utterly persuasive. This charismatic interpretive voice is everywhere in evidence here, transforming what initially appears to be an ordinary recital into a truly extraordinary listening experience. With each sterling passage Cobo confirms his position as one of the finest guitarists of his generation.

RINGS

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San Antonio Express-News

» 22 October 2000 » In Reviews » No Comments

October 22, 2000

Guitarists strum up success
Festival features Cuban composer, additional talents

The guitar world enjoyed a love fest Friday night when Cuba’s Leo Brouwer, the most revered living composer for the instrument, conducted his own “Toronto” Concerto and other works for the Southwest Guitar Festival. Travis Park United Methodist Church was nearly filled with about 1,000 listeners, including locals and registrants for the Guitar Foundation of America’s international convention, which ran concurrently with the festival.

Conducting a San Antonio Symphony chamber orchestra, Brouwer opened with music from Mexico – Silvestre Revueltas’ “Homenaje a F. García Lorca” and Manuel Ponce’s “Concierto del Sur,” with guitar soloist Gonzalo Salazar. Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti was represented by “Sert¢es e Veredas I” for strings.

The finale was Brouwer’s Concerto No. 4, composed for John Williams and first performed in Toronto. The soloist here was the remarkable Ricardo Cobo. Brouwer began his career as a nationalist, then followed the European avant-garde of the ’50s and ’60s, and finally, tiring of hermetic modernism, settled into an attractive, individual romanticism, the style of this concerto. Two traits unite all of Brouwer’s styles – a highly fluid form of rhythmic complexity, recalling the African influence on Cuban music, and generosity of spirit.

This is music by a man who has discovered wonderful sounds and rhythms and is eager to share them with his friends. Though craft and virtuosity and intellect undergird every bar, the music comes across as natural, joyous and humane.

The “Toronto” Concerto is notable for Brouwer’s wonderful way of combining the colors of the guitar and the instruments of the orchestra; Brouwer painted as a young man, and this is painterly music. Cobo’s performance, too, was characterized by generosity of spirit, to say nothing of knockout virtuosity. His playing was extrovert, lyrical, rhythmically alive. Every line knew where it was going. His tone had a deep gloss and brilliant highlights. Salazar’s patrician style and elegant technique were well suited to Ponce’s concerto. The Revueltas piece desperately needed more rehearsal, but Gismonti’s, a sort of Brazilian hoedown, came off well.

mgreenberg@express-news.net
Memo: MUSIC. Section: Metro / South Texas
Edition: Metro Page: 3B Record Number: 515213
Copyright 2000 San Antonio Express-News

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Soundboard Magazine: Cobo’s Brouwer Vol I

» 15 October 1999 » In Reviews » No Comments

Just for the Record.  James Ried.  Fall, 1999. Comments – The several times I have seen Ricardo Cobo perform, I have been very impressed by his combination of facility, musicality and intensity. All these characteristics are abundantly present on this fine disc. Every selection is carefully and convincingly rendered down to the last note. In the “Etudes Simples”, for example, he can be lyrical and tender, or fiery, according to the needs of each study. In his performance of his “Danza Característica,” articulation and a wide dynamic range are combined to craft a powerful interpretation. The “Fugue No. 1” is an example of wonderfully clear contrapuntal playing, and the “Guajira” that follows is equally impressive, as it represents the romantic side of Brouwer’s personality. As I listened to this CD, I was reminded of what a powerful composer Leo Brouwer was and still is. These pieces, mostly examples of his early works, speak as forcefully now as they did when they were first written, and one could not ask for a more eloquent interpreter of these works than Ricardo Cobo.  

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Los Angeles Times: Cobo, Guitar Duo Show Rare Prowess

» 01 July 1996 » In Reviews » No Comments

 July 1996.

Cobo, Guitar Duo Show Rare Prowess

Setting-and raising-standards for students and public alike is part of what programs such as CSU Summer Arts is all about. Today at Cal State Long Beach’s Daniel Recital Hall, the guitar and lute faculty continued to do its part, with fresh, highly effective performances from Ricardo Cobo and the Newman and Oltman Guitar Duo.

Indeed, Cobo set the bar so high that despair must have been as much a part of the package as inspiration for the students in the audience. Armed with a cup of coffee as well as his guitar, Cobo strode onstage clearly ready to melt nylon and mesmerize listeners. By way of unscheduled introduction, he offered a movement from Leo Brouwer’s tricky “Decameron Negro” and then delivered a pair of Astor Piazzolla tangos with rare definition and’ characterful nuance.

No matter what the pace, the Colombian guitarist neither contorts the rhythmic spine of the music nor cheapens the colors, as he proved deftly in the fanciful Sonata that Brouwer’ wrote for Julian Bream. ‘ And then he turned to display pieces. Graceful musicality was as evident as superhuman technique in an unhackneyed troika from Eduardo Sainz de la Maza, Antonio Lauro and Roland Dyens.

For the second half of the evening, Michael Newman and Laura Oltman offered the series’ first ensemble installment. Having performed together for almost 20 years now, they form an assured and synergistic partnership. They” too, are able to play expressively at speed, as they demonstrated with the motor energies of “Horo,” by the young Bulgarian composer Atanas Ourkouzounov. Dusan Bogdanovic’s rhythmically punchy Sonata Fantasia, also Balkan folk-inspired, gave them greater opportunity, to display their interpretive prowess. Their loving arrangements brought a measure of revivification to five Isaac Albeniz staples, although the rubato-laden performances often bordered, on over-interpretation. In encore the duo offered a sprightly account of John Dowland’s four-hands, one-instrument novelty “My Lord Chamberlain, His Galliard.”

JOHN HENKEN

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer

» 01 April 1996 » In Reviews » No Comments

Monday, April I, 1996 C3 
MUSIC REVIEW 
Cobo’s remarkable show played tribute to Seattle’s own Morrant

By RM. CAMPBELL 
P.I MUSIC CRITIC

Guitarist Ricardo Cobo’s concert at Seattle Pacific University’s Bach Theatre Friday night was remarkable for its impeccable taste, fluid technique and clarity of design.

As such, the recital by this hugely talented Colombian-born musician was a fitting tribute to Wynn Morrant- The longtime president of the Seattle Classic Guitar Society who died last year.

A well-known teacher of guitar who taught at SPU and Seattle University, Morrant was one of the city’s most important exponents of classical guitar. Her activities were wide-ranging, not only in Seattle, and always aimed at achieving a wide audience for the singular beauties of the guitar.

As president of the 38-year-old society for more than two decades, Morrant was responsible for bringing to Seattle a number of notable guitarists, including Julian Bream, Benjamin Verdery, Paco Pena, David Russell, Oscar Gighlia and William Kanengeiser.

Cobo is the sort of artist she would have booked, for he demonstrates the quality of his breeding at every turn. Invariably he delivered the goods with textural clarity, control and passionate musicianship.

His program was almost entirely derived from this century: A polonaise of the 19Ih-century French composer and guitarist Napoleon Coste was the only exception.

The rest of the evening included works ranging from those of the Cuban-born composer Leo Brouwer to a couple of tangos by Astor Piazzolla of Argentina and a waltz by Nikita Koshkin of Russia, as well as works by Eduardo Sainz de la Maza, Antonio Lauro, and Roland Dyens.

Cobo has high regard for Brouwer and calls him “one of the great 2Oth-century figures in the history of the guitar.” As such, Cobo is recording a great deal of his music. Thus, be said at Friday night’s performance, the generous inclusion of Brouwer’s music: a fugue to open the concert, followed by the suite, “El Decameron Negro,” which takes its programmatic inspiration from Boccaccio’s 14th-Century “Decameron,” and a Sonata composed in 1990.

The concert probably would have been better off with less Brouwer. While each work has its merits, they blend together when heard in rapid succession.

Nevertheless, “EI Decameron” has plenty of individual color and charm, which Cobo elucidated with his suave manner.

The Sonata was equally diversified: especially the imagined conversation between Antonio Soler of 18th-century Spain and Beethoven of 19th-century Germany in “Fandangos y Boleros,” and the scattered hints of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin in “Sarabanda de Scriabin.” Cobo’s response was one of soft warmth and power.

Interwoven with his Brouwer mix was a handful of engaging works by Piazzolla and Koshkin. The two Piazzolla tangos, “La Muerte del Angel” and “Primavera Porteña,” possess the composer’s characteristic combination of beguiling melodies and piquant rhythms. Cobo has obvious sympathy for Piazzolla’s unique style which he delivered with his uncommon sense of lucidity and graciousness without robbing the music of its robust flavor.

To Koshkin’s “Usher Waltz,” based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Cobo brought intensity coupled with lightness of touch.

Proceeds from the concert will help the McKenna-Morrant Scholarship Fund at the Seattle Classic Guitar Society.

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Cobo’s Remarkable Show Played Tribute to Seattle’s Own Morrant

» 01 April 1996 » In Reviews » No Comments

By RM. CAMPBELL P.I MUSIC CRITIC Guitarist Ricardo Cobo’s concert at Seattle Pacific University’s Bach Theatre Friday night was remarkable for its impeccable taste, fluid technique and clarity of design.

As such, the recital by this hugely talented Colombian-born musician was a fitting tribute to Wynn Morrant- The longtime president of the Seattle Classic Guitar Society who died last year.

A well-known teacher of guitar who taught at SPU and Seattle University, Morrant was one of the city’s most important exponents of classical guitar. Her activities were wide-ranging, not only in Seattle, and always aimed at achieving a wide audience for the singular beauties of the guitar.

As president of the 38-year-old society for more than two decades, Morrant was responsible for bringing to Seattle a number of notable guitarists, including Julian Bream, Benjamin Verdery, Paco Pena, David Russell, Oscar Gighlia and William Kanengeiser.

Cobo is the sort of artist she would have booked, for he demonstrates the quality of his breeding at every turn. Invariably he delivered the goods with textural clarity, control and passionate musicianship.

His program was almost entirely derived from this century: A polonaise of the 19Ih-century French composer and guitarist Napoleon Coste was the only exception.

The rest of the evening included works ranging from those of the Cuban-born composer Leo Brouwer to a couple of tangos by Astor Piazzolla of Argentina and a waltz by Nikita Koshkin of Russia, as well as works by Eduardo Sainz de la Maza, Antonio Lauro, and Roland Dyens.

Cobo has high regard for Brouwer and calls him “one of the great 2Oth-century figures in the history of the guitar.” As such, Cobo is recording a great deal of his music. Thus, be said at Friday night’s performance, the generous inclusion of Brouwer’s music: a fugue to open the concert, followed by the suite, “El Decameron Negro,” which takes its programmatic inspiration from Boccaccio’s 14th-Century “Decameron,” and a Sonata composed in 1990.

The concert probably would have been better off with less Brouwer. While each work has its merits, they blend together when heard in rapid succession.

Nevertheless, “EI Decameron” has plenty of individual color and charm, which Cobo elucidated with his suave manner.

The Sonata was equally diversified: especially the imagined conversation between Antonio Soler of 18th-century Spain and Beethoven of 19th-century Germany in “Fandangos y Boleros,” and the scattered hints of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin in “Sarabanda de Scriabin.” Cobo’s response was one of soft warmth and power.

Interwoven with his Brouwer mix was a handful of engaging works by Piazzolla and Koshkin. The two Piazzolla tangos, “La Muerte del Angel” and “Primavera Porteña,” possess the composer’s characteristic combination of beguiling melodies and piquant rhythms. Cobo has obvious sympathy for Piazzolla’s unique style which he delivered with his uncommon sense of lucidity and graciousness without robbing the music of its robust flavor.

To Koshkin’s “Usher Waltz,” based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Cobo brought intensity coupled with lightness of touch.

Proceeds from the concert will help the McKenna-Morrant Scholarship Fund at the Seattle Classic Guitar Society.

Continue reading...