After the success of our 2009 Classical Guitar Series, which plucked the heartstrings of community members and critics alike, we at the Davis Art Center are excited to present another spectacular slew of concerts by guitar ensembles, quartets and trios.
On Friday, March 11, the Art Center will welcome back the San Francisco Guitar Quartet, whose sold-out concert was a highlight during the ’09 series. Pacific Guitar Ensemble will perform April 22 and, lastly, Trio 7, a unique guitar trio of extended seven-string guitars, on May 6. All concerts start at 8 p.m. in the Davis Art Center’s intimate atrium setting, 1919 F St. in Davis. Tickets are $5 to $15, available at the door.
In March, the San Francisco Guitar Quartet — David Duenas, Mark Simons, Patrick O’Connell and Jonathan Mendle — will present a program of contemporary music. Among other post-minimalist compositions, the performance will include “Winchester Mystery House Suite,” featuring Mendle’s impressive work on the 11-string Archguitar.
“The suite was written by my friend and colleague Paul Bergel, and is inspired by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune,” Mendle said. “The result has been a joy to work on — a 13-movement suite, from which we will play selections, of short character pieces alternating with “Séance” movement.”
Mendle is a Fairfield native and former student of DAC guitar series organizer Matthew Grasso of Davis. Since attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he has performed in San Francisco at the Old First Church and in Germany for the Dresden Guitar Festival with SFGQ. Most recently, he toured with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.
Mendle will perform again at DAC on April 22 with the Pacific Guitar Ensemble along with another former teacher, San Francisco Conservatory of Music guitar department chair David Tanenbaum, and with Marc Teicholz, Michael Bautista, Lawrence Ferrara, Tony Kakamakov and Paul Psarras.
For Mendle, performing alongside these greats is an honor.
“David Tanenbaum, Marc Teicholz and Lawrence Ferrara are renowned soloists and pedagogues,” he said. “Other members of the group have won competitions in the past, and almost all of us have both released commercial recordings and toured extensively.”
Similarly, Tanenbaum applauds his student-turned-colleague’s talents: “With his choice of repertoire and his unusual instrument (11-string Archguitar), Jonathan Mendle was his own artist, even when he was a student,” Tanenbaum said. “He’s one of the most talented students we’ve ever had.”
The Pacific Guitar Ensemble’s repertoire features original music written by composers such as Brazilian guitar legend Sergio Assad, noted minimalist Belinda Reynolds, and the group’s own steel-string stylist Peppino D’Agostino, as well as fresh arrangements of great composers from Bach to Brahms and Dowland to Rossini.
Tanenbaum also praised Grasso, who will perform with Eric Rasmussen and Matthew Foley in Trio 7 to conclude the series in May.
“Pretty much everything about Matthew and his work is unique,” Tanenbaum said. “And what’s impressive is that he is thoroughly unafraid to be who he is.”
Trio 7’s focus is on the creation of unusual transcriptions of classical orchestral works to expand the guitar trio repertoire. The program will include works by Debussy, Bach, Rachmanioff, Stravinsky, Brahms, Faure and Grasso. Arrangements of movie themes ranging from the 1930s to the present also will be included.
In addition to organizing the current series, Grasso booked the highly successful guitar series at DAC in fall 2009, which proved DAC’s atrium stage is a superb venue for enjoying the rich tones of the acoustic guitar.
Mendle agreed with that assessment, saying he looks forward to playing the Art Center again.
“Intimate venues are my favorite places to perform,” he said, “and the Davis Art Center is great because I feel like I have a connection with the audience, rather than feeling like ‘I am the performer, and they are the listeners.’ ”
For more information on these concerts, visit http://www.davisartcenter.org, or call (530) 756-4100. Admission at the door is $15 general, $10 for students and seniors, and $5 for children 12 and under.
— Melanie Glover is publicity and program manager for the Davis Art Center. This column appears monthly.