Grammy Award winner Jason Vieaux has been described by NPR as “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation.” An avid chamber musician, he maintains an active teaching schedule at the Cleveland Institute of Music, The Curtis Institute and online with ArtistWorks. Given his dedication to guitar chamber music, it’s no surprise that he has deep experience with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Quintet for Guitar and Strings, op. 143. In fact, he recorded the piece in collaboration with the Escher Quartet on their 2019 CD Dance (Azica). Jason kindly shared his thoughts about this work.
Jason, what attracted you all to include op. 143 as part of Dance?
This is one of the most important and highest quality works for guitar and string quartet. I first performed it with the Cavani Quartet as a faculty member of Cleveland Institute of Music around 1998-1999.
What stands out for you about this work?
There are good melodic motifs to develop compositionally as usual, but for me, the density of voices between the five players is a striking feature, as is their frequent canonic interplay, given the relative volume of a classical guitar. This is a tough challenge for a guitar with any single string instrument in a live setting, so with string quartet, that challenge is multiplied somewhat.
Tell us a bit about your experience exploring Mario’s use of dance rhythms in the Quintet.
I find that the dance rhythms in this piece are more or less in the service of texture, harmony, melody and polyphony. The dance elements don’t necessarily stand out to me as a feature of the piece, although of course as a player, whenever I get the opportunity to indulge in more rhythmic playing, I always enjoy that.
While you were recording this music, what emotions did you feel?
My favorite movement is the Second movement.
The lyrical second movement, Andate mesto, seems to be the unanimous favorite among musicians and audiences alike. Congratulations to you and the Escher Quartet for your beautiful interpretation of Mario’s quintet!
Jason Vieaux interviewed by Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco in December 2021.
photo of Jason Vieaux by Tyler Boye.