BY BLAIR JACKSON / PHOTOS BY MATTHEW WASHBURN
We wanted to share some nice photos and info about a great mid-April concert dubbed “The Maestros of 50 Oak Street,” featuring teachers from the guitar program of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, held at SF’s St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. (50 Oak Street is the Conservatory’s address in the city.) The annual affair, put on by the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, always showcases music from many eras and styles, reflecting the varied tastes of the guitarists—each an acknowledged virtuoso.
Some highlights from this year’s concert, in the order in which the five guitarists appeared:
Richard Savino opened the concert with a program that found him performing two pieces—by Domenico Pellegrini and Santiago de Murcia—on Baroque guitar, and then, switching to an “early classic guitar” for two movements from a pair of delightful 18th century guitar sonatas by Juan Antonio Vargas y Guzman. In what was billed as his final public performance with his fellow SFCM maestros, retiring teacher Lawrence Ferrara played an all-South American program that included two popular short works by Venezuelan Antonio Lauro—El Niño and El Marabino—followed by Sérgio Assad’s arrangement of fellow Brazilian Egberto Gismonti’s Palhaço. He concluded with strong and sensitive versions his own arrangements of works by Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, including Oblivion and Libertango. At the conclusion of his performance, Ferrara earned a long and very fond standing ovation from the crowd, which no doubt included a number of his past and present students. It was a nice capstone to the much-loved teacher’s nearly four-decade career. (Fun fact: Ferrara was the first guitarist to earn a master’s degree from SFCM!)
The first half of the concert concluded with a spectacularly played set of pieces courtesy of French guitarist Judicaël Perroy, who has been teaching at SFCM for the past two years. All three times I’ve seen him play, I’ve come away so impressed with both his fluidity and expressiveness. His short segment included pieces by Bach, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff (the last two, preludes.)
The second half of the concert was kicked off in style by current Chair of the SFCM Guitar Department David Tanenbaum, who can always be counted on to play something a bit off-the-beaten track—the instrument has few more ardent supporters of modern and new repertoire. On this evening he was joined by SF Bay Area–based soprano Ann Moss on a set of six of Benjamin Britten’s Folksong Arrangements from the late 1950s. Moss’ soaring voice filled every inch of the beautiful old church and Tanenbaum was brilliant playing Britten’s interesting and at times unusual guitar lines; an inspiring melding of tradition with more contemporary musical ideas. Some dark material in there, but such gorgeous settings!
Marc Teicholz was up next and he brought down the house with three of Roland Dyens’ jazzy arrangements of standards from the American Songbook: All of Me (by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons), ‘Round Midnight (Thelonius Monk) and Take the ‘A’ Train (Billy Stayhorn).
The concert concluded with all five maestros taking the stage together—Savino on Theorbo this time—for a sparkling, amazingly together version of the Orfeo Suite by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), who is often considered a “bridge” between the Renaissance and the Baroque. The arrangement let each musician shine in different parts, and the theorbo lent an occasional authoritative bass presence that seemed to hold the multiple parts together. Extremely cool, and a fine way to end a very special concert!
Here are two videos (not from this concert) of pieces performed during the program: