A Master of the Classical Guitar in His Prime

United StatesUnited States  Mangore, Scarlatti, Bach, Rochberg, Ponce, Albéniz, Halffter: Eliot Fisk (guitar), Mannes Concert Hall, Mannes School of Music, New York City. 11.7.2013 (KC)

Agustin Barrios-Mangoré: Cueca, Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios, Vlas, Junto a tu Corazón
Scarlatti: Six Sonatas
J.S. Bach: Cello Suite No. 3 (BWV 1009)
George Rochberg: Selections from American Bouquet
Anonymous (arr. Alirio Diaz): Merengue
Manuel Ponce (arr. Diaz): Estrellita
Isaac Albéniz: Torre Bermeja
Ernesto Halffter: Habanera
Albéniz: Sevilla

The great American classical guitar virtuoso Eliot Fisk had reportedly not played New York City in quite some time, so this concert at the New York Guitar Seminar at Mannes was particularly well-attended. From the second that he sat down on his extended podium, Fisk’s performance was centered and well-focused throughout every moment of the evening. The guitarist is in his prime. I’ve heard him now and again since the mid-1980’s, and this performance was perhaps the best of all. Judging by the round of standing ovations from a roomful of potentially jaded guitarists, I’m not alone.

Fisk’s artistry is diverse, and all aspects of his talents were amply on display. Extensive Baroque masterworks by Domenico Scarlatti and J.S. Bach (in transcriptions both recent and from the guitarist’s youth), and featured true tours de force in ornamentation and technique. Fisk is renowned for his collaborations with some of the greatest living composers, and here he presented a sampling of American folk song settings from American Bouquet by George Rochberg. Hearing Fisk play the “Notre Dame Blues” from the Bouquet was almost disconcerting; I felt as if I were listening to a Blues great like Robert Johnson or John Lee Hooker!

South American works, another staple of Fisk’s repertoire, included a diverse set by Barrios-Mangoré and a set of arrangements by Alirio Diaz. Fisk’s connection to the great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia is enormous, and Sevilla and Torre Bermeja by Isaac Albeniz, as well as the seldom heard Habanera by the great Spaniard Ernesto Halffter, could be seen as nods to Segovia and his great artistic tradition. This concert was a welcome glimpse into a world of great culture, intelligence, technique, musical drama and bravura, and I can’t wait to hear him again.


Keith Calmes