Peter Fletcher - Classical Guitarist







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Marcel Proust – “Swann’s Way” (Scott Moncrieff translation)

A few days ago I finished reading this very important work of great literature.  What can I say about this plumb that has not been said before, and  can easily be found on the internet or from the numerous commentaries which have been published over the years? It is a book that I have thought about reading for many, many years, and felt that June 1 was a good time to take it on.  I think that I was first introduced to the name Proust back when i was an undergraduate, by way of Artur Rubinstein (who lamented not being able to read his beloved Proust and Joyce after going blind, in his later years). 

As everyone knows, this is the first of seven volumes. It is like nothing I have ever read before, with it’s unbelievably long descriptions and sometimes confusing  time-line.   The name of the narrator is never revealed, although it should appear in later volumes.  The denseness of the prose was overwhelming and it was easy to get bogged down.  Almost every time I read a paragraph, I felt that I needed to re-read it.  It is slow reading, and a book which needs to be re-visited over and
over again. 

Proust has many things to say about the past, such as this excerpt:

“And so it is with our own past. It is a labor in vain to attempt to re-capture it: all the  efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the  reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us)  which we do not suspect. And as for that intellect, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

Also, consider this:

“The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished…”

Quite a few ideas were presented in regard to art, music and literature. I was delighted to see Franz Liszt’s “St. Francis Preaching to a Flock of Birds”  – a work I have loved for years, and discovered on my own (thank you Alfred Brendel). That Proust would have it be a viable part of the novel puts a smile on my face – great minds think alike!  

In addition the book bears directly on all sorts of psychological issues (such as separation anxiety), Truth and Beauty, 
the class system in fin de siecle France, family life, sadism,  and many varieties and permutations of love.  All of this was laid out in a very, very deep and thorough way, with paragraphs that sometimes went on for several pages. 

“Proust creates an interior monologue that features stream-of-consciousness and time shifting.”  These techniques can also be found in Faulkner, Joyce and Conrad. 

So, what did this book mean to me personally? It’s hard to say, because it was so dense.  Never in my life have i been presented with so much information in the way of detail.  I would have to say that it confirmed some of my beliefs and attitudes, and helped me look at certain things in a new light, such as distant memories and the feelings associated with these memories. It is primarily a book  of feeling – a heart book rather than a head book 

How Proust Can Change Your Life  is a book that several of my friends have read and recommended. One does not need to read Proust to enjoy this particular book.  

Challenging as it was,  it  made for engaging reading, and I look forward to the next volume,  “In a Budding Grove.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful Spanish Guitar

Last November I had the very good fortune and the rare honor of  playing a remarkable instrument, the Ramirez 3339, at the Guitar Salon in Santa Monica, CA.    

 As a rule I have never been a great fan of the world-renowned Ramirez instruments, although I love all of Christopher Parkening’s EMI recordings, Julian Bream’s Romantic Guitar album on the  RCA Victor Gold Seal label,  and the sound of  almost all  the recordings maestro Segovia made in the 1960s.   
 
In addition, in the Spring of 1985, I attended a Segovia concert in Charleston, SC, and when he played the descending melodic line of Villa-Lobos’s Prelude No. 3 the audience literally melted. Never in my life have I seen such an intensely powerful effect on an audience. My mother drove me to the concert from Atlanta, and after this piece was over  we looked at each other, and my mother said “that was unbelievably beautiful.”  Parkening has shared similar experiences, and the instrument cannot be discounted. 
 
However, the Ramirez guitar was never the right instrument for me
 
In 1987, Christopher Parkening gave me   first option of purchasing  a beautiful  Ramirez guitar which he owned and played.  The occasion was Parkening’s  Masterclass in Montana, and Mr. Parkening was kind enough to allow me to play his guitar for my two lessons with him.  Mr. Parkening, and several of the students at the class, felt very strongly that I should own this guitar. 
 
Moreover, in 1995, Jim Sherry invited me to his original shop in downtown Chicago, where I played several of his Ramirez guitars, all of them pre-1974 (for what that is worth). 
 
All of these guitars, especially the one owned by Parkening, were excellent. However, my feeling was that although the treble was always exquisite,  the bass did not have the clarity that I desired, especially for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Also, I was always disappointed with the mid-range. I was interested in  a more well-rounded guitar, and I did not wish to sacrifice all  aspects of tone for an extremely warm and sweet treble.  
 
 
In addition, the Ramirez guitar had become the official instrument of the likes of Segovia. Parkening and Liona Boyd – all international stars – and I wanted to create my own original path. I searched for my own luthier – someone to get to know and grow with. 

 
My opinion changed when I played the Ramirez 3339. Immediately I was drawn to the sui generis sound of this particular guitar. It had the typical gorgeous, sweet tone in the treble, the mid-range did not sound nasal, in fact it was velvety, 
And – to my total surprise – the bass was as clear as any spruce top guitar. This instrument was easy and delightful to play – I was not strained by the long string length. I felt at one with the instrument. 
 
 The Ramirez 3339 is the greatest instrument I have ever played. 
 
Please see a video of me playing this guitar on the Guitar Salon Blog – http://www.guitarsalon.com/blog/?p=15736
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Samadi-Keene Duo at the Spectrum NYC

It has been quite a while since I have contributed to this blog, and I intend to be more prolific in 2015. I endeavor to give my thoughts on performances that I am able to attend and my personal views on literature, as reading is my great love outside of music. The occupation of a performer who tries to nurture a wide range of works leaves little room for the discipline of writing. A great deal of the musical performances I have attended and will attend in the future, mostly on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, will not appear in this blog.  My attitudes, feelings and beliefs on most of the classical guitar repertoire that I actually perform and record will remain unwritten as long as I am able to put forward my arguments as a practicing musician, by playing the guitar.

Be that as it may, I had the good fortune of attending a recital by the Samadi-Keene Duo last week. The initial reason for attending was to hear the world premier of a work by David Mitchell, whom I grew up with, played duets with and eventually went to college with in Atlanta. We were both students of John Sutherland. Also, piano/guitar duos are extremely rare.

I was intrigued.

The venue seemed to be in the living-room of a rather large home on the Lower East Side (the last cool neighborhood in New York City). The audience, mostly young, were seated on comfortable sofas. High-end sound equipment was pervasive and we were literally surrounded by an impressive book collection, neatly organized on wall to wall shelves. It was the perfect place for two instrumentalists to make music, and this was the sort of thing that certain American families did to keep themselves entertained by the fire in the years before television put a bullet into the national brain.

The first half of the program was devoted to “The Classical Era in Vienna.” Generous portions of Anton Diabelli, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Mauro Giuliani were presented with rather pristine and careful, however stylistically correct readings. Personally I feel that a little goes a long way with guitar music from this era, and maybe it would have been a good idea if the first half was titled “Music of Two Centuries” with, in addition to one or two of the classical sets, a major Baroque offering. Johann Sebastian Bach would be the obvious choice, but doubtless there exist some suites by perhaps such masters as Handel, Pachelbel, Purcell, Sweelinck, Buxtehude or Vivaldi that would sit well on the guitar.
It would have given the program a more three-dimensional quality, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I simply wanted to hear what such polished musicians could do with music from the Baroque Period.

After the intermission we were treated to “Works of the 20th and 21st Century.”

The Fantasie, Op. 145 by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was my favorite piece on the program. This composer, one of the most important in the development of classical guitar in the 20th Century, wrote countless solo works for Segovia and a popular guitar concerto. Almost every classical guitarist has played his music at least one point of his or her life, and he is quite famous for his gorgeous slow movements.

David Mitchell’s Lake Avondale: A Beautiful Day, is also a beautiful piece. This might be my second favorite on the program. It begins with an effective use of a glass bottle rubbed across the guitar strings, and then gives way to a series of absorbing melodies, all with a tonal center.
There is a short percussion section on the actual guitar which works great, but I think I could have done without the guitarist snapping his fingers and the pianist clapping her hands.
Bravo David! I did not know that you had it in you when we were chums back in the 90s. I would love to hear this piece again, and will seek out your other works.

The concert ended with Fantasie by Hans Haug – a remarkable piece which is almost never performed.

Guitarist Dan Keene has a solid technique and a truly great instinct for ensemble music. He has an amazing right hand, and his warm tone can be listened to forever. He took great pains to use different tone colors, and for this I admire him tremendously. He was always at ease with everything he was doing and I do not think he ever played a wrong note.
If seen through the lens of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Apollonian and Dionysian duality, his interpretations would lean more toward Apollo’s approach to the art of sculpture. Perhaps I could have heard a little more passion and blood-and-guts in the first half of the program, but in the second half he was right on the money.

Equally impressive was pianist Kristin Samadi, whose understanding of and sensitivity to the soft, intimate voice of the guitar cannot be matched. Never in my life have I heard a pianist better matched with classical guitar. She has a light touch which always resonates well, and her phrasing was not only beautiful but intelligent, original and convincing.

She also happens to be easy on the eyes.

Together, these two musicians have the ability to breathe life into music – an ability which can never be taken for granted. This holds true today as well as in the past.

What a lovely and memorable evening.

Mrs. Samadi and Mr. Keene are serious about their craft. There is talk of a debut CD, and this is a duo to look out for.

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Happy New Year!

Last night, to ring in the new year, I had dinner at Petrossian, the famous caviar house located on 58th street and Seventh Avenue. Since it was my first time, I ordered the pre fixe and the food was nothing short of excellent, almost as good as the service. I love the art deco, and tasteful use of mirrors. There is not a bad table in the house.

Reading-wise: I am about to finish “Absalom, Absalom!” by William Faulkner. This is a truly great book which moved me very deeply. For me this is Faulkner book no. 6, and the one which has impacted me the most. The book IS readable, albeit dense and heavy — I would suggest reading slowly and patiently. The Chronology and Genealogy, which Faulkner offers at the end, are not necessary (ie everything you need to know eventually appears in the book proper) and should not be consulted until the end to avoid spoilers.

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Today

Today will be a fulfilling one of good practice and exercise.
I plan to have a nice long run through Central Park.

My plans tonight are to attend a piano recital at Alice Tully Hall.
I will post a review so please come back tomorrow.

Reading: Hawthorne is great but his prose is sometimes fussy and it can be tedious. It’s anything but easy reading – but it is – of course – meaningful reading.

Coleridge’s letters – on the other hand – are great fun –

‘Quid sumus, et quid victuri gignimus’

Thank you for visiting.

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No place like home.

I returned from my concert tour last Saturday. Since being home I have mainly relaxed and taken it easy – however I have been organizing my belongings and as of yesterday (Thanksgiving) I have begun practicing again.
Reading wise I have taken on “The Blithedale Romance” by Hawthorne, “A Prayer Journal” by Flannery O’Connor and Coleridge’s letters. The latter is to help me understand some of the premises of American transcendentalism, a movement which was introduced to me in sophomore and junior year of  high school. Eventually I want to read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
I basically collect three things 1.) music scores 2.) recordings (LPs and CDs) 3. books. I am a fastidious bookman and always prefer to own a book if I take the time to read it.
One of the things I did upon returning was to organize and curate my book collection. I do not want to have any books that I do not eventually intend to read, and always keep the books I read.
I will be interviewing several individuals next week for a PR assistant position.
The next tour begins at the end of January, and until then I will be juggling two balls 1.) maintaining current repertoire and
2.) learning new repertoire. The later will include John and BJ Sutherland’s arrangement of the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”, the fugue from the first violin sonata of Bach, “Larghetto and Allegro” by Mozart and other works by Rodrigo, Tansman and Beaser, not to mention the repertoire for my Christmas album to be released fall 2014.

Below is a description of the concert for the next tour.

I plan to post more regularly here, so please come back!
Event item:
This concert is part of a nationwide tour, under the auspices of Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, to promote Fletcher’s new Edvard Grieg CD, to be released in February by Centaur Records.
Fletcher will perform selections from this new CD, an all-Grieg album in which he himself wrote the guitar transcriptions. CDs will be available at the concert.
Other works will include Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Courante from the Third Cello Suite and Prelude in C minor and Fugue in G minor, BWV 999 and 1000.
Fletcher has transcribed two movements taken from the second of five Divertimenti by Mozart, written in Vienne in1783. The original manuscript is lost, but we do have an arrangement for wind, published posthumously. Their delicacy makes them particularly suitable for the guitar and together the Larghetto and Allegro contain the very essence of Mozart’s genius.
Fletcher will also perform music from Michael Praetorius’s Terpsichore; a passacagli by Girolamo Frescobaldi and the ever popular Leyenda by Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz.
In addition he will perform a very special version of the traditional Shaker Hymn, Simple Gifts, transcribed by John and B.J. Sutherland. The last half of this guitar setting modulates down a step to C major. To accommodate this key change, the bass string of the instrument must be tuned down one whole step in performance, producing a sound reminiscent of a country fiddler.

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Program notes for the new work I am performing this Saturday

Program Notes
Diario dun Camiño (2013)

When Peter Fletcher commissioned me to compose this work for solo guitar, we decided that it would reflect on the music of Frederic Mompou, whose 120th anniversary is this year (2013). For some time prior to Peter’s request, I had wanted to walk the famous Camino Francés, an ancient pilgrimage route that winds, at its end, through Galicia and ends in Santiago de Compostela. That Mompou lectured at Música en Compostela for many years was a coincidence I could not pass up, and I decided to make the pilgrimage and compose this piece en route.

Beginning in Samos, at its imposing medieval monastery, I walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, each day keeping a sonic diary of the trip. Besides the morning bells at the monastery of Samos (O mosteiro de Samos), which symbolically began my journey (and begins this work), my “entries” included notations of birds (paxaros), evening bells (campás no serán), a hypnotically asymmetrical ticking clock (reloxo}, and musical depictions of fog and wind (brétema e vento), double rainbows (arcos da vella), and a solitary willow (un salgueiro solitario). Easily one of the most naturally beautiful areas I’ve visited, the geography of Galicia itself was a continuous inspiration, as was the quiet and deliberateness attending the walk itself.

I assembled the work from these sketches upon arrival in Santiago de Compostela, the fortunate beneficiary of the use of a fine piano situated in a chapel in the stunning Parador “Hostal dos Reis Católicos,” a hotel on the northern side of the Praza de Obradoiro that was commissioned as a hospital for sick pilgrims by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1499.

While walking the Camino Francés, I imagined that my piece would end majestically, with an evocation of the great Catedral, or inspired by the ancient and important Codex Calixtinus; instead, the work ends quietly, depicting the ticking of a clock in a tiny church of Santiago (igrexa de Santiago) in the equally tiny village of Boente. The moment of reflection that this clock represents, sitting quietly, resting, while time limped on its inexorable way, seemed much more reflective of the “meaning” of the Camino than the overwhelming grandeur of the great city. It also brought me back to Mompou, the original inspiration of the work, whose music so often magically evokes a time-outside-of-time, and aspires to a measured, meditative quiet.

Jeremy Gill, January 2013

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The tour proceeds apace

I am having a super good time on this tour! I really wish I had more time to write — but I will get caught up when I am back in NYC — March 29th.

The new piece by Jeremy Gill — which I will premier at Carnegie Hall on April 6th is beautiful!

Here is some feedback from the patrons who attended my concert in Sarasota, FL last month:

“Wow went to library and was able to listen to a primo classical guitar presentation. I love the Fruitville Library.”
“I have visited Spain-loved the atmosphere created by the music. Thank you.”
“Superbly sensitive performer.
“Fantastic guitarist.”
What a talent! Thank you for presenting this program.”
“Warmed a Canadian snowbirds heart on Valentine’s day.”
“Wow, thank you!”
“He is one of the best guitarist we have heard. Thank you for this program!”

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New CD by Daniel Brondel

It gives me great pleasure to review organist Daniel Brondel’s 2012 CD release, ‘The Glory of the Organ’ (Jav Recordings).

I began listening to this disc back in September on my home stereo, and then later in my car while on tour.

This is extremely high caliber music played by a serious musician, who has full understanding of musical form and analysis.

I wanted to give it several listenings before writing about it.

It was recorded at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and the microphones were boldly placed to showcase the grandeur of the organ.

How nice it is to have a professional recording of such mainstream numbers as David Johnson’s ‘Trumpet tune in D’ and Henry Purcell’s ‘Trumpet Tune and Air.’
I know these well from live performances, but this is my first experience to hear them on CD.
Both are played with enthusiasm, and he is able to make the joie de vivre of the music come through.

But it is the ‘Apparation de l’Englise eternelle’ by French composer Olivier Messiaen that makes me want to listen over and over.
Messiaen’s music is larger than life — I heard his orchestral music in 2008 at the New York Philharmonic.
This was a first time for me, and my initial response was that this music can ONLY work live.

Brondel’s execution is well-nigh faultless, and he performs this very deep work with great conviction. When heard on a good sound system, this recording is the next best thing to a live performance. It is indeed a tour de force.

Brondel, who is fluent in three languages, and is a thinking musician, has further distinguished himself with a deep understanding and appreciation of the human voice.
His knowledge of the voice is highly evident in this recording, which is a must have.

I plan to write about the other pieces when my tour is finished.

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tour 2013

Hello everyone — and I truly apologize for not posting sooner. I am way behind!

Well I am on tour and things are going well. Putting the finishing touches on the liner notes for my all-Grieg album which will be released later this year.

My concert in El Dorado, Ar last Saturday was an absolute joy and I had a great time in Grapevine TX as well!!

Tomorrow it’s off to Artesia NM.

Last January I finished an excellent book which came out in 2012 ‘Reinventing Bach’ – I would highly recommend it.

Now I am reading ‘The Glenn Gould Reader’

Thanks for visiting and I promise to post more very soon!

Peter

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Summer 2011

Hello everyone – It has been quite a busy Summer – with the Grieg project, ‘The Divan of Moses-IBN-Ezra’ rehearsals with DavidMichael Schuster, and my solo repertoire. This Friday I will leave for a very short tour of Indiana and Kentucky.

It’s late tonight – I will plan to write more details tomorrow evening.

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Beginning of a New Year!

2010 was an exceptionally busy year, with my concert at Carnegie Hall in March, the recording project of Victor Frost’s piece for PARMA in CZ, the beginning of my collaboration with tenor DavidMichael Schuster, and a catch-as-catch can ensemble performance with flutist Viviana Guzman in the San Francisco Bay area.

2011 will be much more streamlined and  focused, with three exciting endeavors:

1.) Maintaining my concert repertoire, and learning new pieces (Turina and Paganini, TBA)

2.) The Grieg project for Centaur Records, of which I am writing the guitar transcriptions, to be completed this Summer. It has been a long time coming.

3.) My collaboration with Mr. Schuster – we will be performing ‘The Divan of Moses-IBN-Ezra’ at Carnegie Hall in January, 2012, along with much by Schubert and Mompou. In addition we have commissioned a new work for guitar and tenor by composer Clarice Assad, of which we are extremely excited about. I will post more information about this concert early in June.

My lengthy tour begins this weekend in Port Orange, FL and will go until the end of May – the longest tour I have ever taken.

During the first leg of this tour I will have my suave assistant with me, Rob Savitsky.

Rob has done a spectacular job with PR and social networking, with most of the later pivoting around Facebook and Twitter. He has some excellent ideas, executes everything with finesse  and is a HUGE asset to my career.

Fiction-wise I just finished ‘The American’ by Henry James. Now I am reading ‘A Distant Mirror’ by Barbara Tuchmnan.

This is the year to purchase new stereo equipment:

ARCAM FMJ 18 integrated amp (this British component has a lovely sound)

ORTOPHON 2m Bronze cartridge for my turntable (the sound is nothing short of amazing – yes – I prefer LPs)

I am thinking of upgrading my speakers to some Bowers and Wilkins 600 series, but not until later this year.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sincerely,

Peter

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Summer 2010

It’s been a truly wonderful Summer – I just got back from Prague, CZ, and I will be performing in Boone, NC next Tuesday.
Please come back for a visit as i will be posting more in the future.

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