I found a scrap book that my mother kept which contained this Oregon Symphony program of my performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez in September of 1991. This was the first of three performances of this masterpiece that I performed with the Oregon Symphony Pops, conducted by Norman Leyden. In this first performance I mostly remember being terrified.
The performance was on a Sunday afternoon at 3 pm, rehearsal at 10 am. I was looking forward to running the work at least once with the orchestra but there was only time to work on the orchestra entrances. As soon as I started a solo passage Norman stopped the orchestra and moved forward to its next entrance. The rehearsal was about 15 minutes for a 23 minute work. Certianly no time to get my ‘whistle wet’.
The worst part was sitting in my dressing room for 4 1/2 hours, waiting for the stage call, wondering how it would feel to play the piece for the first time.
Finally I walked onstage to a full house – main floor, dress rehearsal, and balconey – filled. In there somewhere was my wife, mother, and reluctant 8 yr old son David. His more ‘fortunate’, younger brother, was being taken to an amusement park by our neighbors. You can imagine my older son’s disappointment.
Things went well, Norman was a great and kind conuctor and made me feel comfortable in front of many musicians whom I knew. I played well and afterwards my family went to celebrate at the Heathman restaurant. When asked what his favorite part was of the concert was, my son David said “When they came and got your footstool and I knew it was over.” Leave it to kids to bring you back to earth.
I went on to perfom the work with the Coos Bay Music Festival, the Sunriver Music Festival, the Rogue Valley Symphony, Lewis & Clark’s Palantine Hill Orchestra and again two more times with the Oregon Symphnony, Murry Sidlin conducting.
It was this last performance that was the most memorable. At the request of the composer, the background to the beautiful second movement was never allowed to be told from stage, until after Rodrigo’s death. The inspiration for this emotional movement was based on the death of Rodrigo’s still born child. Now the story, familiar to guitarists, could be shared with the audience.
Prior to the performance a pre recorded video of Pepe Romero appeared on the big screen behind the orchestra. Pepe told the story in a beautiful and poetic way. It was quite a feeling to walk on stage in front of another full house with the weight of that story on my shoulders .
One of the most memorable performing moments of my career came after the guitar cadenza in the second movement. The beautifully written guitar solo builds to a ferocious and angry crescendo of guitar rasqueados, followed by a thunderous orchestral entrance further revealing Rodrigo’s anger and pain. I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck. At that moment I happened to look down at the audience and in the front row saw my good friend Jon Dickinson – with tears streaming down his face. I then noticed every sinlge audience member within eyesight had been equally moved. I felt like I was part of something big, fortunate to be part of the voices telling that story.
The themes from this movement became part of a work written for the Chvatal/Kritzer Duo with orchestra. Janet and I asked composer Glenn Morley to write a work combining the Aranjuez with Puccini’s E Lucevan a Stella from the opera Tosca. Fantasy on E Lucevan, written for the Chvatal/Kritzer Duo by Glenn Morley will be released on Monday, February 14th on all streaming platforms.