Video Pick of the Week: Jan Depreter Plays His Gorgeous Piece ‘Moreliana: Homage to Sergei Rachmaninoff’

What can I say? I love Belgian guitarist Jan Depreter! His playing epitomizes all the qualities I most admire in a guitarist: precision, fluidity, expressiveness, lyricism, and taste. (He’s also a really fine fellow!) This wonderful recent performance for Guitar Salon International completely swept me away with its beauty, elegance, and emotional depth. It’s one of Depreter’s own compositions, called Moreliana (Homage to Sergei Rachmaninov), which originally appeared on his fine 2012 album Wit. Rachmaninoff (alternatively, “Rachmaninov”) was, of course, the great late-Romantic Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (1873–1943), who, following the Russian Revolution in 1917, moved to America for what turned out to be the rest of his life. One thinks of Rachmaninoff as quite florid and dramatic in approach, but he is also unfailingly melodic, and Depreter’s homage certainly captures that! (Incidentally, the guitarist published the music for Moreliana in a 2014 collection of his original compositions published by Ricordi called Northern Lights.)

I’ve long been intrigued by the title of this piece, so I asked Depreter about it. He responded: “The title of my musical tribute to Sergei Rachmaninov—quoting thematic material from his Third Piano Concerto in several variations—is derived from the Mexican city of Morelia, where l wrote the love theme in D-major in the opening. ‘Moreliana’ is a female inhabitant of the city of Morelia, whose identity will remain hidden forever, for obvious reasons of decency and privacy; a tragic, impossible love story between a woman engaged to be married and a fascinating artist only passing through, but leaving a whirlwind of emotions behind. I felt even though she can never be named, the young woman—for the intensity of the feelings she inspired—deserved to be immortalized in the title.

The piece was finished later that year when l was performing at the Vladimir Horowitz Festival in Kiev with the National Philharmonic. I was the only guitarist performing there. But there was a magnificent Russian pianist playing an impeccable ‘Rach lll’ [Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3] that l got to witness from the Tsar’s box, directly overlooking the pianist’s fingers. Somehow, this unforgettable powerful experience inspired me to finish Moreliana in the shape and form it eventually came out.” 

We should note, too, that Brilliant Classics has released a brand-new Jan Depreter album called Klavierbüchlein für Anna-Magdelena Bach (1725), devoted to world premiere guitar interpretations of pieces from J.S. Bach’s famous 1725 notebooks of (mostly) keyboard works, which the composer presented to his second wife, Anna Magdalena. Depreter tells us that ten of the tracks on the disc album were recorded in 1999, and the other 21 two decades later, in 2019, “with the same sound engineer [Peter De Wint] and microphones, but different guitars.” I can’t wait to hear it! —Blair Jackson

Sergei Rachmaninoff