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CLASSICAL MUSIC / KENNETH HERMAN : Guitar Lineup Couldn’t Be Much More Stellar

Short of bringing back Segovia from the dead, it would be difficult to imagine a more stellar assemblage of classical guitarists than the array of performers scheduled to appear in local halls over the next 10 days.

Under the aegis of the La Jolla Chamber Music Society, the versatile, much-recorded British guitarist John Williams will play Symphony Hall on Thursday night, his first West Coast appearance in 20 years. The remainder of upcoming guitar events, however, are part of Grossmont College’s 11th annual guitar festival.

Wednesday’s concert by Celin and Pepe Romero at the East County Performing Arts Center is the festival’s first high-profile event. While the Romeros reside in North County, their reputation is as international as Williams’. In addition to their usual stylish interpretations of Giuliani and Granados, soprano Laurie Romero--Celin’s wife--will sing Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasilieras,” No. 5, arranged for soloist and guitar. After five varied guitar concerts and a number of instructional offerings, the Grossmont festival will close with a televised master class under the tutelage of Christopher Parkening on April 21.

The organizing chores and much of the requisite fund raising for this annual event are undertaken by Fred Benedetti, member of the Grossmont music faculty and a classical guitarist who performs frequently in various local venues. A performer with a more cynical eye for promoting his own career might wonder why Benedetti would invest so much of his own time in this annual ritual.

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Benedetti admitted that in the hectic days prior to a festival opening, he is tempted to come to the same conclusion.

“It is, however, the only local outlet for classical guitar in an organized manner,” he said. “And it wouldn’t happen unless someone took the time to put it together.”

In recent years, Grossmont College has become a mecca for aspiring guitar students. Benedetti explained that some 150 students study classical guitar on campus, and another 250 take steel-string or electric guitar courses and lessons.

“I believe that we have more guitar majors than San Diego State University,” he said.

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While Benedetti is most at home in an all-Bach recital or a program devoted to the Spanish classics, he is no purist. The festival’s April 15 recital features the popular jazz guitarist Peter Sprague, and the April 17 program is devoted to ragtime guitarist Richard Glick.

Parkening’s televised master class will be the festival’s unique facet. Anyone across the country with access to a satellite dish can hook up with the master class, which will feature three performers being coached by the noted performer.

“When they contact us for the hook-up, we give them a phone number they can use during the broadcast of the class. They can ask Parkening questions or comment on the reactions of those in the master class,” Benedetti said.

Wearing his laurels gracefully. Allowing his recently awarded Pulitzer Prize in music to go to his head would be quite out of character for UC San Diego composer Roger Reynolds. The first official celebration of Reynolds’ latest honor turned out to be a working night for new music’s veteran explorer and apologist.

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Thursday night at UCSD’s Mandeville Auditorium, Reynolds presided over a program that took the musical concept of variation from Schubert’s lieder to Reynolds’ own computer transformations of instrumental sounds and back to a set of easygoing jazz improvisations on “A Foggy Day in London Town.” This performance, which involved a dozen or so UCSD faculty members, was the dessert course for the “Arts at UCSD,” an annual fund-raising banquet.

Reynolds’ ever-persuasive commentary and live demonstrations of his own compositional techniques may have produced a few converts among even those most resistant to the electronic muse. Resident flutist John Fonville’s performance of Reynolds’ “Transfigured Wind IV,” a duo for flute and computerized alteration, provided the most compelling argument for the composer’s approach. He uses the computer to dissect sounds in the same way a scientist investigates a sample under a microscope, a technique that allows the composer to get inside a musical sound. Fortunately, Reynolds also possesses the composer’s ear to exploit these findings in artistically compelling forms.

University Chancellor Richard Atkinson was host at the preceding dinner in the faculty club, where Reynolds was presented with a laudatory state Assembly resolution by area representatives Sunny Mojonnier and Lucy Killea. For a more musical tribute to Reynolds, I suggest his students collect the voluminous “whereas” clauses from the Assembly document and transmute them into an electronic-music collage.

Humor is in, glitz is out. In line with modifications of the San Diego Symphony’s programming for this year’s summer pops season, the orchestra’s Superpops offerings in the recently announced 1989-90 season promise a radical reduction in glitz and show-biz flimflam. Complementing popular pianist Roger Williams will be the Canadian Brass and Peter Schickele’s impersonation of P.D.Q. Bach. While the Canadian Brass emphasizes physical humor, its musicianship is no joke, and while Schickele hardly eschews slapstick, it’s humor for the musically literate.

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The symphony’s brochure sums up the change: “No more Las Vegas! No more schmaltz!” Indeed.


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