A concert interview with soloist Masakazu Ito
"[Concierto de Aranjuez] happens to be the most performed concerto among all concerti today. The second movement...there aren't many musical moments that are more beautiful, emotional, and haunting than this theme."
Masakazu Ito is recognized as one of today’s premiere guitarists, acclaimed for his mastery of the instrument and its repertoire. Following his solo debut in Tokyo, he won top prizes worldwide. A performance of Concierto de Aranjuez with Colorado's National Repertory Orchestra marked his concerto premiere, and since, he has collaborated with countless orchestras and ensembles.
JSO: In 3 words, describe the concerto you're performing with JSO.
Masakazu Ito: "Passionate, (1st movement); Emotional, (2nd movement); Playful, (3rd movement)."
What are 2 moments audiences should anticipate when listening live to the concerto performance?
MI: "The second movement starts out with gentle strums of the guitar immediately joined by the English Horn with the signature melody—there aren't many musical moments that are more beautiful, emotional, and haunting than this theme.
"Another moment is when the same melody comes back after the second of the two guitar cadenzas (solo passages), with the full force of the orchestra ...not that any of you can possibly miss it!."
"The day I received the delivery of my guitar, I had a dress rehearsal of Concierto de Aranjuez with Timberline Symphony (now Boulder Symphony) with the performance the following day. My guitar successfully made its debut that weekend."
Share some facts about your instrument.
MI: "My guitar was made by an Australian maker, Greg Smallman. It is unquestionably the most powerful classical guitar ever produced and the balance of low, mid, and high couldn't have been more perfect. It has a clear and warm tone, and the sound sustains for days.
"In 1994, I helped out Greg Smallman's apprentice, Eugene Phelp, meet local guitar communities when he was coming through Denver. When Eugene was leaving Denver, I expressed my desire to possibly make contact with Greg Smallman about building an instrument for me. That was April and I didn't hear anything from anyone until I received a letter from Greg himself in October.
"He told me that my name can be put on his wait list if I was interested. He also said the waiting period was about seven years. I immediately responded that I was thankful and willing to wait. No contact was made between us till October of 2001; that's when I received another letter from Greg saying that my guitar was ready! And this guitar has been my concert instrument ever since."
What is 1 reason the piece you are performing is unlike any other?
MI: "This composition, though composed for a non-mainstream instrument, happens to be the most performed concerto among all concerti today. There can be many reasons for this, but I can safely say that the success of the 2nd movement in terms of emotional content should be mentioned as the number one reason. Other factors such as the acrobatic solo guitar part and the accessible melodic content throughout the composition also contributed to the popularity of this concerto."
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our symphony audiences?
MI: "Concierto de Aranjuez was conceived with Madrid-based guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza, to whom it was dedicated and premiered, in 1940 in Barcelona. In my youth, I studied guitar with two teachers, Takeshi Tezuka and Ricardo Iznaola, and both were de la Maza disciples in the 1970s in Madrid. I acquired the original manuscript of the Concierto de Aranjuez from them, which is slightly different from the published edition, and will be performing the concerto based on this unpublished edition."