La Guitarra Arpa California

My title is meant as a little play on La Guitarra California, the name of the growing classical guitar festival held every two years in San Luis Obispo (a very lovely town, by the way).  “Arpa” being my little reference to the first inclusion on their program of a (borderline) “harp guitarist” – the great classical / early romantic guitarist Raphaella Smits.  For this program, she exclusively played her new Bernhard Kresse copy of an 1843 8-string Stauffer.  The two floating strings were used for every piece, whether tuned to a D and C as written by Mertz or Coste, or a low B for a Sor arrangement.  (She confirmed for me that it was her own adaptation; while Sor advocated the use of extra strings a la Coste, he never did it himself, beyond his one Harpolyre extravaganza).  Her concert was unamplified, and from our second row seats, the rather petite instrument projected loud and clear, with wonderfully robust basses.  Most effective was her exquisite encore of the Bach Chaconne.

She has also used her c.1830 7-string (one floating) from time to time, though more often than not plays more modern fully-fretted modern 8-strings.

We (Frank Doucette and I) only spent a few brief minutes with Raphaella, but made a nice connection with a new Belgian (Antwerp) friend.

The harp guitars didn’t end there.  Jim Forderer once again displayed his antique guitar collection, which included his fantastic Mozzani (but sans Maccaferri, which he was kind enough to pass along to me this year).

We also had another unexpected harp guitar surprise that I’ll blog separately about next.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed two other fantastic concerts: favorite Roland Dyens, great as always, and, new to me (but not Frank), Pavel Steidl, my new favorite classical guitarist.  “Virtuoso” is just one aspect of what he does.  Much is made of his deliberate “facial expressions and gestures” – not so much a “warning” to the audience as a testimonial to how truly magical and musical his wholly original (and to me, often “Muppet-like”) performance practice is.  While he should be heard, he must be seen.  If you ever get a chance to see him close up (we were 3rd row), do not pass it up.  I laughed, I cried, but mainly felt, and have never loved guitar music more.

What a great weekend!

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