Video Pick of the Week: Rovshan Mamedkuliev Plays Tárrega’s ‘Gran Jota’

We posted this video a couple of years ago to accompany our report on what turned out to be the final edition of the La Guitarra California festival, but I like it so much I think it’s worth repeating as a Video Pick! Azerbaijani/Russian guitarist Rovshan Mamedkuliev is definitely one of my favorite current players. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him play a couple of times and he always stuns me with his sheer brilliance. At that La Guitarra event in 2017, the 2012 GFA competition winner served as the “opener” for a special award presentation for Christopher Parkening, and he brought down the house with his performance, which concluded with this piece, Francisco Tárrega’s 1872 Gran Jota, an incredibly demanding and virtuosic work (which scholars believe Tárrega reworked from Julián Arcas’ earlier Jota aragonesa). Listen to all the different tonal colors Mamedkuliev elicits from his instrument, and the confidence with which he navigates the piece’s many twists and turns. Like Bach’s mammoth  Chaconne, the Gran Jota is almost a rite of passage for top guitarists by this point, and Mamedkuliev passes this “test” with flying colors. If he comes to your town (or country!) don’t miss him! —Blair Jackson