The Metropolitan Museum of Art currently showcases several concert videos on their official Youtube channel featuring leading artists who were invited to perform five different historically significant guitars from their musical instruments collection that are in playable condition.
“Five different Spanish guitars from our collection are performed by extraordinary artists—David Starobin, Jorge Caballero, Vladimir Gorbach, Ernie Jackson and Mattias Jacobsson. Our endeavor is to make the sounds of these historic instruments available to public,” says Jayson Kerr Dobney, Associate Curator in the Department of Musical Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “These video-recorded concerts are an ongoing project. We hope to create more videos with the other instruments from our collection that can be safely played and video-recorded
“We also have a monthly gallery concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an artist performs on one of these instruments and it is free to the public,” Dobney says. “Often the concerts are toward the top of the month. That’s not just the guitars but includes other instruments in our collection as well.”
The current recorded artists for the historic guitar concert video series includes David Starobin, who teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and is known for his Grammy-award winning recording work through his Bridge Records. He performed Wenzeslaus Mateigka’s Menuetto (Presto) in G major, op. 20, no. 10, Francesco Molino’s Rondo in D Major, op. 11, no. 4 and Fernando Sor’s Leçon in C Major, op. 31, no. 13 on the museum’s 1835 René François Lacôte guitar built in Paris that happens to have a label inside signed by guitar legend Fernando Sor.
“I very much enjoyed performing on the Metropolitan Museum’s Lacôte guitar,” Starobin says. “It’s a fine example of a small early 19th century guitar–perfect for interpreting Parisian music of the period. That this guitar bears the signature of Fernando Sor, the greatest Parisian guitar composer of the period, draws the player closer to the spirit of this great man and his milieu.”
Jorge Caballero performed the Johann Sebastian Bach’s Allemande from the Partita in A minor for solo flute BWV 1013, Isaac Albéniz’s Evocacíon and El Puerto on the museum’s 1940 Hermann Hauser, made in Munich, on loan from the Augustine Foundation.
“The repertoire was selected to reflect the heritage of the guitar and of Julian Bream who had it last in his possession,” Caballero says. “The repertoire had to be easy to record as well. I submitted two pieces, and since they were recorded quickly, I played a third one, Albéniz’ Evocacíon.
“Playing the Hauser posed some interesting challenges. Since this guitar hadn’t been played for some time, some notes were uneven. So, constructing phrases and separating lines required precision. The action on the second string was inaccurate and caused the open string to buzz. To be honest, though, you don’t really think so much about these aspects of the instrument when you come face-to-face with so much history,” Caballero says.
In case you are wondering if the Met Museum’s Segovia Hauser will be played for a video, the answer is, it will not.
Stephen Griesgraber, President of the Augustine Foundation, explains, “There are two Hauser guitars in the Met’s collection. One is from the estate of Andrés Segovia and the other is on loan from the Augustine Foundation. There was a stipulation with the “Segovia” Hauser that it cannot be played. The “Augustine” Hauser can be played, however, and Jorge Caballero used it for his performance in their historic guitar video series. This “Augustine” Hauser was on loan to Julian Bream until 2008 and Maestro Bream can be seen playing it in the documentary My Life In Music. The Augustine Foundation is a sponsor of The Met’s historic guitar concert video series.
Guitarist Ernie Jackson performed W.H. Ruliston’s Rochester Schottische, arranged by Justin Holland on the museum’s 1867 Martin guitar.
“I received an email from a former student of mine, saying that the Met was looking for someone to perform American classical music on an American classical guitar. I had two weeks with that guitar and I hadn’t played classical guitar in ten years. I mean, I was done,” Professor Jackson says.
Jackson, who teaches audio engineering full time at Queensborough Community College now plays jazz and funk. A few years earlier, he had researched, transcribed manuscripts and published a book on the work of notable African-American guitarist, composer and arranger Justin Holland (1819-1887)–the perfect music to be heard on the Met’s 1867 Martin guitar.
“I played a guitar very similar to this Martin once before,” Jackson says. “I live on Staten Island, where we have the Mandolin Brothers store. At one time, they had a Civil War-era guitar that was selling for $5,500 and they had me play it,” Jackson says.
“What else can I tell you about that 1867 Martin? It was in perfect condition, no joke. It felt like it was 50 years old at best. There I am in the video, 6’5’, 270 lbs., playing this tiny guitar. My hair looked good and it was working. It was a great honor for me to be able to record a video included in this collection along with those of my teacher, David Starobin.”
Mattias Jacobsson plays “Slow and Quiet” from Britten’s Nocturnal on a Barcelona-made Ignacio Fleta guitar made in 1953, of spruce and rosewood. This guitar is a partial gift to the Met Museum from author Jonathan Kellerman.
“I put my regular strings on this guitar, Augustine Regal with Blue basses, which was nice since I know and love those strings. They balanced the guitar toward a weightier character, which I enjoyed. My biggest challenge with this guitar was to become adjusted to the smaller fretboard and distance between the strings, and to get to know its dynamic responses,” Jacobsson says.
Vladimir Gorbach performed Miguel Llobet’s El Mestre and Sonata B minor by Domenico Scarlatti on a 1967 José Ramírez III formerly owned by Christopher Parkening. Gorbach was unavailable for comment about his experience with this project.
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For more information on The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Upcoming Concerts and Performances, please visit their website and check under the Events tab.
In case you missed this one exhibit of Guitars at the Met, here it is, in book form: Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsman From Italy To New York (Metropolitan Museum Of Art Bulletin Winter 2011)