Ana Vidovic has made San Francisco a regular concert stop for many years, and the Croatia-born, Baltimore-based guitarist is clearly a favorite in the area: Her December 8 concert at the gorgeous and acoustically perfect St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in SF—site of many a great show in the Omni Concerts guitar series—sold out far in advance.
It’s easy to see why: Vidovic is unquestionably a top-echelon player—fluid, precise, powerful, emotional—and she usually plays crowd-pleasing, popular pieces. You’re not likely to encounter some atonal, “difficult,” modern work at one of her concerts. Which actually can cut two ways. It means you’re probably not going to be surprised or challenged by the repertoire. But she plays so beautifully, even classical-guitar “standards” sound fresh and alive in her very capable hands. This concert was a case in point.
Actually her opening number was slightly off the beaten track (as Bach pieces go): The Bach Flute Partita in A minor BWV 1013. I felt like it took her a couple of movements to get fully into the swing of the piece, but by the “Sarabande” she was completely in control, and the concluding “Bouree anglaise” was masterful. Then we went into more familiar territory with Giuliani’s Gran Sonata Op. 50 and four pieces by Tárrega, the first three of which are among the most-played pieces in the entire Spanish guitar canon: Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Capricho árabe, and Lagrima; all were excellent. The first half closed with Danza mora—slightly less-played, but still among those popularized by Segovia, so not a rarity.
The “hit” parade continued in the second half with Barrios’ La Catedral; again, played as well as one could hope for. A return to the Baroque with two short Scarlatti sonatas followed—always a pleasure, and the second one (in E major, K380, L.23) was probably my favorite piece of the night. Scarlatti wrote more than 500 keyboard sonatas, and I’ve only heard a fraction of them (and frankly I don’t know any of them by number), but I recognized K380 from listening to John Williams’ essential recording, The Baroque Album. The piece has three memorable motifs (we call them “hooks” in the pop world) and it absolutely elevates my mood every time I hear it.
The regular part of the program concluded with two pieces from Piazzolla, and again she distinguished herself nicely, negotiating both the tango passages and the more balladic moments of Verano porteño with equal fire and/or finesse. For her encore, she asked the crowd what they wanted her to play, and I heard a number of interesting suggestions. The one she picked out from the shouts, however, was perhaps the most obvious: Astrurias, which she handled fantastically well… of course! —Blair Jackson
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All you Ana Vidovic fans will be happy to learn that she will be gracing the cover of the Spring 2019 issue of Classical Guitar (out in February). CG writer Mark Small interviewed her in Baltimore in late November, and she was nice enough to grant us a photo session for the cover a couple of hours before the San Francisco concert. The shot below shows CG art director Joey Lusterman taking shots during Ana’s sound check. (That photo, as well as the one up top, by Regan McMahon.)
And here’s a cool video of Ana playing Four Pieces by Piazzolla: