One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is encountering the work of outstanding guitarists I’ve never heard of. Like the marvelous player in this week’s Video Pick: I was roaming the internet trying to find out who had won the Guimarães International Guitar Festival in Portugal in late-December and saw that one of the artists who performed a concert there was a young Polish woman named Katarzyna Smolarek, a name new to me. That sent me to YouTube, where I found this gem—a 2017 performance by Smolarek in the fabulously ornate Peles castle in Sinaia, Romania, during that city’s International Guitar Festival. After winning the first prize in that competition, she was asked back to play at Sinaia in 2018 as a performer, rather than a competitor. She actually has a strong competition record in Europe, winning or placing in around 20 contests, so I guess I should have heard of her; now I have!
Here, she performs a pair of pieces—the attractive second movement of Manuel Ponce’s 1927 Sonata No. 3, and Joaquín Turina’s exciting Sevillana (Fantasía), Op. 29 from 1923. Both were premiered by Andrés Segovia in the late ’20s. I like Katarzyna’s dynamic takes on each. —Blair Jackson