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Jose Antonio Escobar: Reviews

What the experts say

"... I rarely have the opportunity to listen to someone so well prepared, whose every note is played with soul, sincerity, love and musical intelligence."

Eliot Fisk

The first time I heard José Antonio Escobar was at the International Guitar Competition in Alessandria (Italy) in 2003. There, I got to know him as a guitarist with extraordinary abilities. Even more important to me seems the fact, though, that he unites – besides his virtuosity and sense of sound – all the virtues in his play, which are nowadays so hard to find on the guitar: A musical expressiveness, which always lends itself to the content of a composition. The truthfulness of the musical presentation of his interpretations are so extraordinary that I would like to call José Antonio Escobar an exceptional musician. Musical intensity, the composition/arrangement of large phrasings, a sense for complex architectural structures, variability of sound, and the necessary technical ability for all this - to be able to choose tempi freely: All these are parameter, which are being expressed in his performance very naturally. In December 2006, I had the pleasure to hear José Antonio Escobar again during the “Darmstädter Gitarrentage” (Guitar Days in Darmstadt), this time for a sonata evening (with works of José, Ginastera, and Brouwer). During this concert, my impressions from 2003 were not only confirmed but it also became evident that his musical potential has further evolved in the most wonderful way. José Antonio Escobar represents his instrument in the music world in a very dignified way. I wish him all the success that this great musician and guitarist deserves.

Tilman Hoppstock (Jan 12, 2007)

"... a brilliant technique that has always been directed by his musical intellect, as well as his great personality as an interpreter."

Franz Hálasz

Recording Reviews

Sei Corde Guitar Magazine

by Angelo Gilardino

José Antonio Escobar: What an artist!!

This Chilean guitarist, winner of many competitions which offered prize recording contracts, has recorded recitals where you can recognize interpretations that really go straight to the essence of music. In Ginastera's Sonata, as an example, surprising because of its color richness, he shows the Argentine master under a completely new light.


I must admit that I am not an enthusiastic listener when it comes to recordings by winners of guitar competitions which offer recording contracts as a prize. It is fairly common that these turn out to be outbursts of technical dexterity, completely lacking in originality. It may be because of this that I had missed the CDs by a guitarist who received half a dozen first prizes in the most important European competitions between 2000 and 2006, and who shows that he really is someone to reckon with. Therefore, I am writing to remedy my lack of attention.  I cannot and should not miss the opportunity to speak in favor of one of the most remarkable musicians devoting their talent to the guitar. His name is José Antonio Escobar, a Chilean from Santiago, age 39.

The recital he recorded for the Naxos label as winner of the "Tárrega" competition in Benicasim (Spain) in 2000 will prevail as time goes by, because it is one of the most beautiful recordings I have ever listened to in the last ten years. From Bach with Sonata in G Minor (BWV 1001) to Colectici íntim by Asencio, including Tárrega, Aguado, Albéniz, and above all the Quatre pièces brèves by Frank Martin, I immediately and constantly felt the exquisite air of interpretations that resolutely go straight to the essence of music, without the slightest affectation. When it comes to a musician of this caliber, we not only have to recognize his talent but also feel and appreciate the balance with which he uses his virtuosity, dissolving all traces of self-centeredness.  I was in awe when I listened to the famous Rondo in A minor by Aguado as played by Escobar.  That combination of passion and serenity that was one of the most solid characteristics his great compatriot Claudio Arrau had; I imagine he has dedicated many hours to listen to Beethoven as recorded by the celebrated pianist.  I believe that, in addition to his education at the conservatory in Santiago and later in Germany, Escobar selected his model much farther away from the realm of guitar tradition.

At this point, I was very curious as to how he plays Frank Martin.  It is not easy to keep control when dealing with Aguado, but the Calvinist severity of the Swiss master has trumped hundreds of guitarists, who feel embarrassed or diminished, finally ending up battered and crushed by the Quatre pièces. Escobar does not even flinch, and seems to not have to "face" the enigmatic piece. The tone of his interpretation, serious and gallant, never rhetorical, respects the rocky profile of the music from the very first notes of its thematic profile, as though the composition were a clearly legible open book.

In another Naxos CD dedicated to Chilean composers (Javier Contreras, Horacio Salinas, Antonio Restucci, Juan Antonio Sánchez and even the singer/songwriter Violeta Parra) Escobar finds himself at home.  He easily communicates how comfortable he is when dealing with music inspired by nature, always credible but not exciting. This is not his best recording.

Instead, it is indeed exciting to listen to a CD entitled Sonatas Iberoamericanas para Guitarra, recorded in 2005 after he won the "Arcas" competition in Spain. Escobar has played here at his best, gathering four truly prodigious sonatas by Javier Farías (1973), Alberto Ginastera (1976), Leo Brouwer (1990), and above all Sonata para guitarra by Antonio José (1933). The similar names of the composer from Burgos and the guitarist from Santiago de Chile seal a profound artistic harmony. I have heard dozens of recordings of this composition and my vote to select the best one goes, without the slightest doubt, to this one. I prefer it because it shows that particular capability of musical thought that, while emphasizing every minute detail of the composition being played, also manages to trace its architecture.   It establishes proportions that allow the listener to perceive how music is above all a construction: the dynamic, and the timbre colors, are no longer, in such high level interpretation, purely expressive resources of the moment, but are used above all for their formal properties.

This CD also includes an interpretation of Alberto Ginastera's Sonata which is totally out of the ordinary, with a wealth of unquestionable musical depth that leaves you awestruck, magnified with unusually moderate tempos. The listener gets the impression of suddenly seeing the masterwork of the Argentine master under a totally new light, revealing unknown passages.

It is a must for us to do whatever possible in order for a musician of this elevated category, who plays the guitar, to avoid having to regret it. Therefore, listen to him and make others listen to him.



Outside a small group of specialists the music of Chile is pretty much unknown in Europe. Of the names mentioned on this disc only Victor Jara and Violeta Parra can claim to be – or have been – anything approaching household names and then only within a more popular genre with political and/or social undertones.
The five composers represented here – four of them contemporaries – have assimilated elements from popular music or folk music and amalgamated them with academic compositional principles. The outcome is a programme with evocative rhythms, beautiful melodies and in some cases harsh harmonies.
What is also evident from the outset is the technical flair and brilliance of the playing. José Antonio Escobar is a fabulous guitarist, whose playing is so assured that it sounds more or less improvised. It sounds effortless – and that is not a euphemism for bland and unengaged – but he gives the impression that technical intricacies are no big deal; he can concentrate on shaping the music.
Javier Contreras is the youngest of the composers on this disc and he is also the boldest, harmonically speaking. Euclidica is virtuoso music, also requiring the player to treat the guitar as a percussion instrument. That also goes for Tonada del Retorno and Tonada a mi madre, which is fluent and vital music. The homage to Victor Jara is tranquil and here the composer has adjusted to the style in which Jara himself played.
Horacio Salinas was in the 1980s leader of the group Inti-illmani, which cooperated with John Williams; Cristalino is a reminder of that relationship. It is a movement from a longer work that would have been interesting to hear complete. It is beautiful and melodious, changing directions constantly.
Antonio Restucci’s music is also virtuosic and he has a nice feeling for melody. It is rhythmically attractive and there is more than a whiff of Argentina about it.
With Juan Antonio Sánchez we find this mix of popular and serious elements mentioned above very pronounced. It is paired with a sense of improvisation, which turns out to be truer than I first understood. For this is exactly the case: he allows the player freedom to use his imagination. Chiloética has much of this sense all through, though I don’t know to what degree Escobar plays ad lib. The guitar sonata, like so much else on this disc very recent music, has an opening movement that is dominated by the rhythmic elements, often jagged and ‘backward’. The second, Dulce, is exactly that: soft and contemplative. The third movement is quickly walking but with sudden pauses, and in the finale rhythm is again to the fore – most of it is percussive.
The sonata is a tribute to Violeta Parra, who is herself represented by 5 Anticuecas from 1961. These pieces were not written down. They were transcribed from her recordings after her death. One can hear phrases that are reminiscent of her songs but by and large this is music that stands out as highly original, not sophisticated but ‘real’. The simile may limp but this might be seen as a Chilean variant of blues. No. 5 is especially intense and – yes, bluesy.
The last word goes again to Sánchez, whose Tonada por despedita is intimate and melodious in a popular vein. One almost expects the player to start singing. As in every good encore he adds zest to the end through a sudden dramatic outburst.
Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver have provided ideal sound as usual. Juan Pablo González, Instituto de Música, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, gives much useful information on the composers and their music, even though I wish he had been allotted more space, since this is a field that is largely unknown to me.
Guitar aficionados need to hear Escobar’s absolutely stunning playing. Having played the disc three or four times I have come to terms with the music and found that it opens up and has something new to offer every time.
Göran Forsling
Largely unknown in the international world of music, contemporary Chilean composers are producing a wide range of guitar works, a selection here stunningly played by Jose Antonio Escobar.

Most were written in the last decade, the one major exception, and rather unusual contribution, coming from Violeta Parra. The distinguished Chilean singer was born in 1917 her life experiences related in five Anticuecas. It washer performances preserved on disc that were used after her death in 1967 to create the published scores. They seem like a series of short sound-bites that sometimes end in mid-air, but are harmonically fascinating. Generally the music on the disc would, in the classical world, be described as ‘light’, though it is often exceedingly difficult in its fast flowing intricacy. For an example turn to track 7, the Tonado del Retorno by the twenty-four-year-old, Javier Contreras, a gifted composer who flits between a classical and popular idiom. He is a major contributor to a disc that contains works by Horacio Salinas, Antonio Restucci and Juan Antonio Sanchez. It is Sanchez’s finale to his Guitar Sonata, with its percussive effects, that is certainly the most ear-catching track on the disc (track 18) and makes a good introduction to the disc in general. I suppose those outside the guitar zone will find the release in the mode of that rhythmically pulsating music they hear in trendy bistros. But anyone fascinated by the sheer technical brilliance of the performer will be blown away by the playing of Escobar, the one-time winner of many of the world’s great guitar competitions and now the young mentor to the next generation of guitarists. It is not simply the dumfounding speed of his left hand, but the precision of his right as fingers pluck out the most complex notation. Thankfully we hear little of the left-hand mechanics, the recording from Naxos’s Canadian recording team placing the guitar up-front with clarity the main benefactor.

A fresh and brilliant reading. This is a must-have record. (*****) The self published Modinha CD by the Chilean virtuoso José Antonio Escobar is not only a great addition to any self-respecting guitar player, but a joy to listen to for anyone who enjoys the romantic music of the 20th century.   Escobar's reading of this text is a must-have. Escobar is an intelligent musician, not a vain virtuoso trying to shine with sheer speed and loudness.  Escobar avoids all the traps, and equally avoids syrupy interpretation of the more romantic segments, in the slow part of Prélude 3 for instance. His choices of tempi help the music rather than demonstrating that indeed, he can play fast, as is required by the text in several places. The beautiful music of Villa-Lobos shines all the way through this album, transcending the technical difficulties. Escobar navigates brilliantly between the pensive self-absorption, frightening flights of fury and passion, complicated rhythms, and lyrical moments. Escobar's technique is remarkable in clarity and precision and his sound is rich without being too soft, and never harsh....Escobar's version is definitely among the very best in the modern generation of guitar players. In most places, surpasses the historic versions recorded by the likes of Andrès Ségovia, Julian Bream, and John Williams, if only for the freshness of the intention and the brilliant execution through which the text shines.

Chilean Guitar Music

by Jeffrey Rossman

Guitar Music of Chile. Jose Antonio Escobar, guitar. Naxos 8.570341, Copyright 2008, 70:43, $9.98

Since its founding, Naxos has been a great supporter and friend of classical guitarists throughout the world. Its “Laureate Series” and other projects that entailed complete collections of several guitar composers was, and continues to be, a blessing to listeners, the recorded artists and the entire classical guitar community. For many years now, a recording contract with Naxos has been one of the coveted prizes for many guitar competitions, including the prestigious annual Guitar Foundation of America. This has helped launch careers and, more importantly, has created an atmosphere that encourages the recording of many new and unknown works that most other labels would consider financially prohibitive.

Another series in the more than 200 releases on this label that features the classical guitar is “Guitar Music of ______.” Previous titles have covered Argentina, Cuba and Brazil and now we can enjoy a disc dedicated to the music from Chile — a country that doesn’t immediately come to mind when the guitar is mentioned. The featured performer is José Antonio Escobar, born in Santiago and winner of several important international competitions. Glancing at the program of this recording, even to those of us familiar with the guitar repertoire, I am struck with the fact that every composer is unknown to me and quite young — one only 24. But, this is the hallmark of Naxos’s recording philosophy and a welcome one in a world that often plays it safe and cheap.

One exception to the under-30 rule here is a set of songs called 5 Anticuecas, written in 1961 by the Chilean singer Violeta Parra. These are wonderfully evocative and emotive miniatures that make it a musical crime if the sheet music does not soon become available to the public. This singer’s importance to Chile is honored in the sonata Homenaje a Violeta Parra written by Juan Antonio Sanchez.

The music of Javier Contreras is featured in several cuts, including the opening Euclidica which is based on the cuceca, the national dance of Chile. This work, along with his Tonada del Retorno, is written almost as a dare to up the ante on guitar technique.

Escobar is an expressive, mature artist who has transcended the nitty-gritty of technique and gets to the essence of the music. In addition, the reliably excellent engineering of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver makes this a sonic joy. Highly recommended.
Jeffrey Rossman - CVNC (Mar 26, 2008)
Chilean guitarist Jose Antonio Escobar has an impressive record on the international competition scene. Among several awards is a first prize at the 2000 Tarrega competition in Spain. This recording, part of Naxos's Laureate Series, is a direct result of the Tarrega victory.
It is sometimes hard to know how to approach these laureate discs. On the one hand, they represent a great way to hear the best and brightest up-and-coming performers. (And they do sound great--Naxos's production continues to be top-notch.) But on the other hand, the programs are often standard competition fare and the playing often has that ultra-polished, middle-of-the-road quality that these events seem to breed. It seems that one needs to search a little harder on these releases to find what it is that distinguishes these players artistically from the other technically brilliant players on the international circuit.
So beyond the sterling technique and sound musicianship that one would expect from such a laureate, what does Escobar's playing have to distinguish it? Two traits are immediately apparent. First, his tone is outstanding. It does not vary widely, but in terms of depth, clarity, and warmth, this is a model guitar sound. At several points in listening to this I was reminded of David Russell--the consistent beauty of his sound.
The second distinguishing trait--much more general but at the same time more compelling--is the interpretive refinement. Every moment is guided by a musical intelligence and sensitivity that is rare. The result is music-making that does not always draw attention to itself, but proceeds with remarkable focus, direction, and purpose. This intelligence is felt particularly in the weightier works here; the Martin is given an eloquent, touching reading, the Bach Sonata is commandingly shaped, and Aguado's exciting Rondo is given a performance that brings out both its virtuosity and architecture. Escobar is also at home in the more solidly Iberian works by Tarrega, Albeniz, and Asencio, bringing out not only their pervasive melancholy, but also a refreshing playfulness.
(American Record Guide by Steven Rings)
Steven Rings - American Record Guide
"Escobar is superb throughout. Clarity, even in the most complex passages of the Martin, is exemplary, his intonation right in the centre of every note, and he moves around the instrument quietly and effortlessly. Rarely do you hear such beauty from the instrument as Escobar produces in the Asencio pieces. If there is any justice in music, this young man is destined for the top. Superb sound quality."
(The David’s Corner Review, about his Naxos recording)
"The opening track, the Adagio from Bach's G minor Sonata BWV 1001, gives you an idea of the quality of this young guitarist from Chile. Clarity with warmth are watchwords in present-day Bach (at least on the guitar), and Escobar gives you both in generous measure. In a way, it is a pity that the works are presented in chronological order, because the Bach is so well played that almost anything would sound anticlimactic. But not for nothing did Escobar carry off the Tárrega prize in Benicásim: he can not only adapt easily to the huge gulf between 18th-century German Baroque and 19th-century Spanish Romantic, he can very nearly bring the latter up to the level of the former. Take "Sueño", for instance, a simple and rather charming mazurka; by emphasising its Chopinesque qualities, Escobar forces us to look at it in the context of general European music, and the result is a greater stature.
And so it continues. Aguado and Albéniz, a thoughtfully shaded Quatre Pièces Brèves, and finally Asencio's often underrated suite Collectici intim, pinpointing some of the better emotions, like serenity, joy, elation, and the calm pleasure of looking at the flower that Shakespeare called the flower-de-luce.
The admirable recording captures some guitar sound of true quality. It is a convincing recording debut by a guitarist who has already proved his ability by winning a number of major competitions. Naxos continues its onward march, in an upward direction."
(Colin Cooper in "Classical Guitar Magazine", about his Naxos recording)
Colin Cooper - Classical Guitar Magazine
"Originally written for unaccompanied violin, the Sonata in G minor, BWV 1001, is presented here in a transcription for guitar. The transition from bowed strings to plucked strings may seem rather difficult, however Bach was the first one to attempt and succeed at making this sort of adaptation. This is why José Antonio Escobar performs this piece "with a clear conscience," in the words of John Duarte which appear in the introductory text. His serenity is enhanced with the feeling of a job well done because his style is flawless throughout.
The Tárrega pieces take us to a totally different musical universe. The composer's personality is so attractive, and guitarists owe him so much, that we gladly forgive some of his works which excessively reflect the style of the times, being extremely romantic but of less than perfect taste. J. A. Escobar, first prize at the International Tárrega Competition in Benicasim, 2000, could not leave this composer out in this case. His choice of five brief pieces is quite appropriate, except for Rosita, where the cumulative glissandi are deplorable: we must recognize that Escobar plays these with a lightness that resembles humor and were it not for his charm, the piece could become unbearable.
By Dionisio Aguado, guitarists play almost nothing but his Etudes. This Rondo II in A Minor, full of dynamism, which perfectly highlights the value of this instrument, will be a welcome discovery for some because Escobar presents it enthusiastically. The transcription of Mallorca by Albéniz is a success and the interpretation is exemplary: excellence in the legato imbues the song with all its lyricism, relief perfection, poetic atmosphere, and delicate subtleties. With a more elevated and rhythmic style, we find the same qualities in Torre Bermeja, to which we must add the perfect technical ease of the young Chilean soloist.
We know that Segovia paid little attention to the Quatre Pièces Breves by Frank Martin, who dedicated them to him. The composer was rewarded belatedly but abundantly by other interpreters and audiences, which shows that the public does not systematically close itself to this language - what it actually rejects in certain contemporary pieces is much more their emptiness than their modernity.
Even though Vicente Asencio is Valencian, his music evokes the air of popular Catalan songs. Both melodic phrasing and harmonies often remind us of Federico Mompou, particularly La Serenor, first movement of the Collectici íntim, and Falla would not negate certain accents found in La Joia or La Gaubança. The titles clearly point to the composer's intention: to write music that is focused inward, musich that strives to express the most delicate mood subtleties and rejects simplistic effects.
The mastery, intelligence, and sound of José Antonio Escobar on such diverse pieces undoubtedly position him among the excellent guitar interpreters of our times."
("Les Cahiers de la Guitare" magazine, France.)
Les Cahiers de la Guitare, France
"José Antonio Escobar's playing displays a confident air with mature phrasing... Escobar gives a satisfyingly involved reading of this work (Bach’ Sonata BWV 1001), the 'Adagio' having an improvised quality about it, the "Siciliano" a more serene atmosphere after the intensity of the 'Fuga' and before the brisk concluding 'Presto'... This (Asencio’s Collectici intim) puts unusual demands on the performer, as a work of this nature requires a more intuitive approach to give it any credibility. Escobar delivers a convincing account of the pieces, the technical difficulties not being apparent."
(Andy Daly, about his Naxos recording)
Andy Daly

Concert Reviews

José Antonio Escobar
Purcell Room, London
12 April 2007

The Chilean guitarist José Antonio Escobar dedicated this London recital to the works of Villa-Lobos in celebration of the 120th anniversary of his birth. The one exception to the programme was the premiére of a work by the young Chilean composer Christian Vásquez (b. 1969) called Alucinación; the work is dedicated to José Antonio Escobar. This piece really explored the non-note timbres that the guitar could produce in a very creative way and Christian Vásquez developed quite a range of them, teasing the audience with the occasional real note on the instrument, which we soaked up like thirsty listeners. Surprisingly, for a composer who managed to create such a broad palette of sounds on the guitar, he himself is a flautist. Part of that sounscape was the fluttering of the Queltehues, a Chilean bird. The pieces was well-structured and full of atmosphere; it was an experience to listen to and one could not help but listen – liking it, of course, was a different part of the equation.

It was a pleasure to hear the Villa-Lobos Five Preludes and Twelve Studies complete. For the Studies, Escobar has looked at the manuscripts of Villa-Lobos, so there were variations from the Segovia edition, but nothing that grated on the ear. More significant, however, was the fact that José Antonio Escobar managed to add interpretational touches that were quite personal and distinctively his own yet did not detract from the composer’s ideas. This is indeed the great challenge and on his part, it was a great achievement, in the performance of the very well known repertoire. Escobar’s performance was very measured and musical in Study No. 8 and Study N.9 the melodic line was carried beautifully, particularly during the fast arpeggios passages. His technical abilities were really on show in Study No. 7 which he played at an exhilarating pace.

The concert was organised by the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Association (LACCS), directed by Juan R. Monroy, in colaboration with the Chilean Embassy.

José Antonio Escobar on the South Bank Amongst the many musical anniversaries to be commemorated in 2007 is the 120th of the birth of Heitor Villa-Lobos, who died 48 years ago. It was a welcome experience to be reminded of Villa-Lobos’qualities at LACCS concert at the Purcell Room on 12 April given by the Chilean guitarist José Antonio Escobar, who began with a very fine account of the Five Preludes, each being beautifully characterised. They were followed by the World Premiere of a new work, Alucinación, by the 42-year-old Chilean composer Christian Vásquez. This sonata-type piece was remarkable for the variety of new sounds and manner of playing the instrument that the composer extracted from the guitar. Although he appeared to rely too much on texture at the expense of developmental thought. None the less, this was clearly a committed and impressive performance. Finally, José Antonio Escobar gave us Villa-Lobos’ 12 Studies, in the original 1928 version, demonstrating that he is one of the finest young players to have emerged from South America in recent years, fully worthy of the wholehearted support the Chilean Embassy in London gave him on apperance. Musical Opinion, Issue number 1458

JOSE ANTONIO ESCOBAR Chilean Embassy, London
13 March 2006
Much has changed in Chile in recent years and one of the great musical changes is the number of excellent young guitarists that Chile is now producing. Jose Antonio Escobar is becoming better known throughout the world because he has braved the international competition platform and done very well. He has won first prizes in many international competitions, such as the Francisco Tarrega Competition in Spain, the Stotsenberg Competition in the USA, the Villa-Lobos Competition in Brazil and the Alirio Diaz Competition in Venezuela, among others.

On this first concert visit to London he focused on contemporary Chilean repertoire with its inspiration rooted in pieces by some of Chile's significant folk musicians such as Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, both part of the Latin American musical movement called `Nueva Canción' (New Song). Violeta Parra (1917-1967) was a singer-songwriter during a difficult time in Latin America's political history and like Victor Jara she delivered her protests through her songs. But something very distinctive about Violeta Parra was her personally idiosyncratic style of playing. The 5 Anticuecas by Violeta Parra which Jose Antonio Escobar played were a great reminder of this. Her music was very much part of people's lives, so young composers such as Juan Antonio Sanchez (b.1965) have drawn her work. His Sonata Homenaje a Violeta Parra was written for Jose Antonio Escobar and was given its premiere performance on this evening. It is a substantial work in four movements, Misterioso, Dulce, Rapido subito and finale, but is not in strict sonata form; the second movement is a development of a phrase from one of Parra's anticuecas but the work as a whole links in with ideas in contemporary composition. José Antonio Escobar also played Juan Antonio Sanchez's arrangement for solo guitar of La Partida by Victor Jara.

Horacio Salinas (b.1951) is perhaps better known to us for being a member of the group Inti Illimani. His Suite del Tiempo Ausente (1987) was dedicated to John Williams; Escobar played the delicate Cristalino movement from that suite. Three other beautiful works on the programme were the Tonadas by Javier Contreras (b.1983): Tonada a mi Madre, Tonada Nocturna and Tonada del Regreso. They were very well written, with poetic melodic lines that stayed with you after the end of the concert, as did Juan Antonio Sanchez's Tonada por Despedida, which expressed a deep sadness. It is usually a taxing thing to play a full programme of recently written works but Jose Antonio Escobar is a player with a strong technique and excellent musical taste, so it was a pleasure to listen to. Hopefully these works will be published so that many more players can enjoy them.
A Master of Soft Notes
Masters Class Concert by Guitarist José Antonio Escobar.
José Antonio Escobar, the 30-year-old Chilean guitar virtuoso, bade farewell to his teacher, Franz Halasz, from the Masters Class Podium of the Augsburger Musikhochschule.
Escobar studied in the Masters Class for two years and was also employed as an assistant to his instructor, Prof. Franz Halasz. In March he will become a professor at the Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia. During the first half of his program, with works by Isaac Albéniz and Antonio José, the winner of numerous international competitions proved that he is among the most talented classical guitarists of his generation.
His performance demonstrated concentration and technical mastery from the very first note. Thus, his interpretation of the finale from Antonio José’s Sonata completely and fully realized the “Allegro con brio”. Still, the simplicity and intellectualism of his virtuosity ensured that Escobar’s playing was anything but cliché, even for Spanish classics like Albéniz’s “Sevilla”. But above all the Chilean proved to be a master of soft notes. His musical sensitivity and the utterly contemplative quality of his playing converged in the more tranquil movements such as Albéniz’s “Mallorca” and José Antonio’s “Pavana Triste”.
Cuban Bells
Compositions by Leo Brouwer (1939 - ), the Cuban guitar virtuoso, dominated the second half of the concert. Brouwer’s classic modern musical painting in “Paisaje cubano con Campanas” seems perfectly suited to Escobar. With his perfect dynamics, the guitarist conjured in the inner eye of the listener the picture of a lifeless Cuban landscape shimmering in the noonday heat, with the sound of a village bell floating above it. The next piece led the artist to his native soil. Escobar interpreted three pieces by his countryman Juan Sánchez, and thrilled the audience with spirited and melancholy music from Chile.
Beethoven and Bolero
The concert ended with Brouwer’s Sonata. Traditional forms like the fandango, bolero, and saraband were filled with new sounds, as well as familiar sounds like those from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Escobar’s intellectual and musical penetration of the challenging piece was captivating, exciting curiosity about Leo Brouwer, the composer, who is largely unknown to the average audience member in Germany. The soloist took his leave amidst deserved and enthusiastic applause.
One consolation for guitar enthusiasts in Germany: Escobar has already recorded a number of CDs for the Naxos label.
(Augsburger Allgemeine, Thursday)
Augsburger Allgemeine
"Secure, inspired, with a good sound, he knew how to interpret the Aranjuez, communicating with confidence to the orchestra, with no fear and, most importantly, knowing how to maintain with it a smooth dialogue."
(Levante, Spain)
Levante, Spain
"... from the very beginning he was in command of the situation. He was a winner from the moment he uncovered the guitar...".
"Inspired, temperamental, with a powerful, wide sound (almost pianistic), he ruled over the orchestra imposing tempos and character to the speech. His version of the Concierto del Sur was great."
"... in Tárrega's works, he showed the caliber of his musicality... he had moments of a really magic communication. These conditions predominate over a good performance, and define a remarkable and imaginative artist, more than simply a good player."
(Ritmo magazine, Spain)
Ritmo Magazine, Spain
"Escobar knows how to transmit to the public the emotion given by his guitar."
"... the sound, the quality of the guitar and his capacity to transmit emotions, all point to him as one of the favorites."
(El Periódico Mediterráneo, Benicásim - Spain)
El Periódico Mediterraneo, Spain