MusicFest Vancouver: Daniel Bolshoy tames the guitar's bad-boy reputation
No one knows better than Daniel Bolshoy about the guitar’s reputation in classical music. Even further back than Andrés Segovia’s time, the long-hairs of their day looked down on the six-string as a wicked stepchild of compositional music—too popular to be taken seriously.
As head of the guitar departments at UBC and the VSO School of Music, Bolshoy has come to accept that characterization—just as he learned to cope with the nonstop allusions to the Bolshoi Ballet while growing up in Russia and then living in Israel and the U.S.
“I heard it all the time,” says the gifted guitarist, on the line from his Vancouver home, “so eventually I just started telling people my family owned the ballet.” Similarly, he embraced his instrument’s bad-boy rep, while studying and teaching the standard European and Latin American repertoire.
“What makes this such an exciting field, especially for teaching,” he explains, “is that the majority of students come from a rock ’n’roll background, and they bring that energy with them.”
The veteran teacher holds concerts featuring his top students and fellow instructors. And now he brings his curatorial skills to Guitar Day, a three-part string-bending extravaganza happening Sunday (August 12), as part of this year’s MusicFest Vancouver.
“The morning program, called Music of Our Time, is given to three wonderful guitarists from Calgary—Ralph Maier, Murray Visscher, and Brad Mahon—doing some exciting new works.”
The mid-section is given to two top players and composers based in Vancouver: Brazilian-born Celso Machado and Chilliwack alumnus Ed Henderson, who also has a stunning new solo-acoustic CD Guitar Wall. The Brazilian theme continues with Bolshoy’s own afternoon set, which finds him backed by cellist Ariel Barnes.
“I’ll be doing music by [Heitor] Villa-Lobos, of course, but also more modern things by Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim,” states the young impresario. “The music of Brazil, as well as Cuba and other Latin-American cultures, has been such an important discovery for me, as an artist and just a fan of music in general. Samba, bossa nova, and the other forms just have that extra something, that swing, on top of the precision of classical music, that really brings the guitar to life.”
The next morning (August 13), Bolshoy also performs with the Borealis String Quartet. It’s a modernist program, featuring the delightfully titled 100 Greatest Dance Hits, by Canadian composer Aaron Jay Kernis. (Hear an expanded version on the artist’s website.) Ballet it ain’t, but it does have a good beat.
Guitar Day runs on Sunday (August 12) at the VSO School of Music. Daniel Bolshoy performs with the Borealis String Quartet on Monday (August 13) at Christ Church Cathedral.