In this very first classical Tiny Desk Concert, Jason Vieaux makes the guitar sing -- whether he's negotiating the sturdy architecture of a Bach Prelude or strumming a West African-inspired Argentine dance.
I first heard Vieaux play seven years ago, when we invited him to spend a week as a young-artist-in-residence on our classical-music program Performance Today. Going into that week, I remember a slight pang of worry: Can a guitar hold our attention for five days in a row? However lovely it might be in small doses, is a full week of classical-guitar intimacy going to get old quickly?
As it turned out, we didn't want the week to end. He may have been a "young artist," but Vieaux became our guitar hero. With his natural musicality and stunning technique, he sounded like a fully formed musician twice his age.
So it was a pleasure to welcome Vieaux back to NPR, and to notice that all the things I loved about him haven't changed. He may be a more revered guitarist now, with more recordings and tours to his credit, but he still plays with that clean, singing technique, free from the loud scrapes some players make when their fingers slide on the strings. He still has a huge appetite for diverse music, and an odd manicure regimen that includes gluing a slice of a ping-pong ball to the underside of his right thumbnail as a kind of extended, "press-on nail" guitar pick. (Hear about Vieaux's snip-and-clip routine on the left side of this page.)
For this Tiny Desk concert, Vieaux displays amazing fluency in three dissimilar pieces. He begins with a Prelude by Bach, where each of the stylized "broken chords" are built, note by note, with fluid grace. Then, flavors of Argentine dance, West African rhythms and rock 'n' roll swirl in the toe-tapping Candombe en mi by contemporary guitarist-composer Maximo Diego Pujol.
Vieaux closes with a Spanish classic, Francisco Tarrega's Capricho Arabe. With its gentle see-saw rhythm and Vieaux's subtle coloring, the music seemed to transform our bland, newsroom-style workplace into a quiet, jasmine-scented garden in Andalucia.
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