Monday, March 25, 2013

A Moment of Guitar from the Alhambra

As recently noted in an article about guitarist Valerie Hartzell by Mike Dunham in the Anchorage Daily News:
Fanfare Magazine called guitarist Valerie Hartzell "a master at creating moods." Classical Guitar magazine praised her "impeccable musicianship and technique." Top reviewers on Amazon have chimed in on her CD "Ex Tenebris Lux," B. Noelle Huling saying the performance is "absolutely breathtaking" and Luz Sirbenet saluting Hartzell as an "extraordinarily talented performer ... a classical guitarist of major importance."
And as written on her website, Valerie Hartzell:
...was a prizewinner at the Portland Guitar Competition, the ECU Competition and Festival, and the Appalachian Guitar Festival and Competition. She has won 1st prizes at the 10th International Guitar Competition “Simone Salmaso” in Italy and at the Concours de Guitare Classique Heitor Villa-Lobos in France. At the Peabody Conservatory, Valerie studied with Manuel Barrueco on scholarship earning her Bachelor’s Degree in 1997. She was awarded a Graduate Teaching Fellowship at Radford University and was placed as Adjunct Faculty while studying for her Master’s Degree in Music, receiving her performance degree in May of 1999.
The article and the website provide more details about Hartzell's life and music, including her mix of commitments which leave her regularly traveling between Alaska and Texas. But they both miss one key fact: for half a year she lived on the same dormitory floor as me at the Peabody Conservatory.

During my years at the conservatory, I often heard the sounds of musicians with their guitars in the school's practice rooms (also in the dorm rooms, dorm lounges, courtyard, cafeteria, hallways, stairwells, and elevators). Although I never studied classical guitar, my appreciation of it certainly grew. And I think most of the guitarists I knew would agree with Valerie on this point:
"One thing I hate is when people call the guitar a 'relaxing' instrument," Hartzell said. "It's so diverse. It can be Spanish and fiery, royal, dynamic, yet romantic and lyrical. It's such a chameleon."
In addition to the article, the Anchorage Daily News produced a video of Valerie performing the piece Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra) by Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909). Valerie's performance is impressive not only for its display of technical prowess, but also for the unique expressive voice brought to the music. I share it here to bring more attention to a style of guitar music that is too often overlooked or mischaracterized and, of course, to "show off" my college friend Valerie.

Valerie Hartzell plays "Recuerdos de la Alhambra".

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