The problem with classical-guitar programs is repertoire. There’s the Hispanic lode, pretty much mined out and, by this time, so predictable in its harmonies, rhythms and emotional vapors, and posturing. Astor Piazzolla and a couple of other tango specialists have come along to freshen it up a bit, but they are not enough. And then, of course, there are the arrangements, mostly of baroque music, that appear on so many programs.
Guitarist Jason Vieaux pretty much sidestepped the arrangements and found some deliciously fresh material to include with the old standbys for his concert in Bethesda at the Westmoreland Congregational Church on Saturday, the opening salvo in this season’s John E. Marlow Guitar Series.
Stanley Myers’s “Cavatina,” from the score of the movie “The Deer Hunter,” projected long lyrical lines over gentle and sometimes unexpected harmonies. Pat Methany’s “Always and Forever” and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “A Felicidade” were spiced with a cool, sophisticated jazz flavor, and Hans Werner Henze’s “Drei Tentos” (three interludes) toyed delicately with wandering tonalities. Vieaux ended the evening with Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” and topped it off with an arrangement of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” as an encore.
Vieaux, whose latest CD, “Play,” won a Grammy a year ago and who co-founded the guitar department at the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia, makes everything look and sound easy. An uncommonly relaxed figure onstage, he seems immersed entirely in the moment. Every note comes out fully formed, but nothing he does feels premeditated, and the music, just a little understated, speaks eloquently for itself.