A tribute from GRAHAM WADE

Another of the eminent maestros of the 20th century classical guitar has passed on. Konrad Ragossnig, who died at age 85 in Antwerp, Belgium, on January 3, was not only one of the finest guitar and lute performers of his era but also a tireless recording artist, editor, author, and teacher, as well as taking part in many guitar juries around the world.

I was fortunate to meet Konrad on various occasions. He played a recital at my Summer School in England in the 1970s, and when I was kindly invited to lecture at the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts, Konrad was on hand to introduce me to the audience. His magisterial presence in the front row was both a pleasure and a stimulating source of inspiration. In 2011, I observed how he presided over the Koblenz Guitar Jury with a quiet, patient dignity; his was a personality of great inward serenity.

Konrad Ragossnig was a supremely cultured artist, deeply imbued with Viennese musical value. Vienna, the city of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, as well as the focus for countless other great musicians over the centuries, was his natural habitat, and he was professor of guitar there for many years.  But at the same time, he was a truly international recitalist, touring continually throughout Europe, the USA and the Far East.

His repertoire encompassed the entire range from the Renaissance to the avant-garde. His six-part anthology of lute solos recorded in the 1970s covered the music of Poland, Germany, England, Spain, and Italy. The pieces were played on a Renaissance lute using a Bream-like nail technique in the right hand, and were performed with immense subtlety and clarity. The German magazine Fono Forum judged these releases to be Record of the Century in the Renaissance section.

Over the years, Konrad recorded over 70 albums covering solo guitar, concertos, and chamber music. He published some excellent Albéniz transcriptions, as well as many other editions, and also wrote Handbuch der Gitarre und Laute, which eventually extended to three revised editions. Another classic publication was his Gitarrentechnik kompakt, one of the pioneering texts in the genre of high level technical instruction for intermediate and advanced players.

Konrad was born in Klagenfurt in southern Austria, and began to play the guitar at the age of nine. He furthered his guitar studies in Vienna with Karl Scheit, the famous editor of many guitar pieces, and Konrad also studied with Segovia in Spain in 1960. The following year he won the Concours International for Guitar in Paris, at that time the most prestigious of all guitar competitions. From 1964 to 1983, he taught at the Music Academy in Basel, Switzerland, and in 1984 was appointed as full professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. From 1989 to 1997 he was visiting guest professor at the Zurich Conservatoire.

For those not well acquainted with the playing of Konrad Ragossnig there is a superb selection of his recordings available on YouTube. In particular his playing of Villa-Lobos’s Choros No. 1 (which you can hear below) is a worthy indication of his virtuosic technique and his life-long dedication to the art of the guitar.

And here he is playing a Fantasia by Francesco da Milano on the lute: