By now I’m sure you can see just how much harp guitar we pack in at these Gatherings – and we’ve still a ways to go for HGG14, where we last finished up with some new luthier surprises.
Ever since my first, long-winded (and still unfinished!) lecture on Chris Knutsen at the inaugural Harp Guitar Gathering in 2003, we’ve included a historical component, in either a lecture or performance context, and often, both!
That’s the case again this year, when we invited New Jersey classical guitarist Stanley Alexandrowicz to give his unique presentation, “The Evolution of the Romantic Multi-String Guitar.” As you can see from Stanley’s PowerPoint slide (which photographer Chuck Thompson CHGP so kindly provided me for my notes), in 60 minutes or less he gave us the illustrated guide to “the evolution of the romantic multi-string guitar (and concordant instrumental, technical, harmonic and stylistic developments) as experienced in the post Sor/Giuliani generations (starting with Napoleon Coste and concluding with the transcendent virtuoso Johann Dubez).”
With “musical accompaniment” no less.
That’s a lot of serious ground to cover, but Stanley managed to both educate, illuminate and entertain us with his serious scholarship and inimitable sense of humor. He is a man clearly passionate about this stuff!
Most of the music Stanley played has not been heard played on the appropriate instrument – if at all – since it was created almost two centuries ago. This included a solo piece for 10-string guitar by Croatian virtuoso Ivan Padovec (shown on the screen). Stanley recently recorded this, along with Padovec’s duets for 6-string guitar and voice, with partner Dominika Zamara.
The Dubez music was indeed lovely and impressive. It was the unusual 10-string guitar with a “cutaway” once owned by Dubez (now in Brigitte Zaczek’s collection) that inspired both of Stanley’s instruments, both built by Gary Southwell in the U.K.
One follows the historical plan (it even has the floating Stauffer-style second back!), the other, which Stanley performed on, is in the style of Gary’s distinctive A-series. It sounded pretty spectacular, and I was reminded of what Gary said during the Harp Guitar Panel at the Guild of American Luthiers convention many years ago when constantly grilled about how to get the subs to work. He just kept answering along the lines of “I don’t worry about them, the basses always take care of themselves.” And it’s true; anyone thinking they need a giant hollow arm to produce killer bass should hear this instrument (and yes, it was all balanced out to the highest trebles).
Here are the two Southwells in Stanley’s music room.
All in all, we got an earful and brainful of rarified Early Romantic harp guitar repertoire – along with a new lifelong harp guitar friend and colleague, who’s already keeping me abreast of harp guitar news on his travels.
Such as: his duo partner Dominika last month at the Cremona Violin Museum alongside a lovely Monzino harp guitar.
Next: Andy Wahlberg’s Surprise