Part 1: “Wow, this guy is intense” The Polish classical guitar virtuoso Marcin Dylla earned international fame after winning, like…every international guitar competition…OK, that’s a slight overstatement, but he did spend his 20’s wracking up a ton of prizes at very prestigious guitar contests, including first prize at the 2007 Guitar Foundation of America competition.
I was in the audience for that event and it was clear that there was something very special about this guy’s playing. Yeah, he had the chops thing down, but there was something else. There was an intensity to his playing that drew the listener in and, and, and he kept you there until the final notes died away. When the spell was broken, it wasn’t broken by him. It was broken by the thunderous applause that followed his performance.
I was working as the Convention Manager for the Guitar Foundation of America, and I found myself backstage when Marcin was warming up for his concert, which as you recall, was the very first stop on his mammoth, 9-month tour of North America. He was gracious, but visibly nervous. And understandably so. I mean, there was a lot of anticipation leading up to his concert. And he had a lot to prove that night.
Under those circumstances, a lot of performers might choose to play it safe. You know, play pieces that they’ve played for a long time, maybe hold back on their tempos. But (laugh) that is not the way Marcin did things. He left everything on that stage that night, and I consider it one of the most profound concert experiences I’ve ever witnessed.
It wasn’t just his playing though…I mean, he also chose music that was equally profound, stuff you don’t always hear at a solo classical guitar recital. My favorite piece on his program that night was Nicholas Maw’s “Music of Memory”. “Music of Memory” is a sprawling masterpiece for solo guitar. It’s a set of variations on the intermezzo from Mendelssohn’s A minor Quartet.
In the seven years since his critically acclaimed GFA winner’s tour, Marcin Dylla has established himself quite comfortably among the vanguard of the classical guitar. I caught up with Marcin at the 2015 Syracuse guitar festival. He’d played a beautiful concert the previous evening, and gave a masterclass in the morning. I started the conversation by asking Marcin about his programming decisions, particularly his approach to Nicholas Maw’s Music of Memory:
Marcin’s concert in Syracuse featured a work by Peteris Vasks called Sonata of Loneliness. Much like Nicholas Maw’s Music of Memory, Sonata of Loneliness is a relatively obscure and musically dense work that may have never have seen the light of day without Marcin’s championing.
Part 2: The YouTube Marketplace Sean Samimi is Marcin’s Manager. Sean’s the founder and General Manager of Aranjuez Artists, which, since 2008 has established itself as a major player in the guitar scene. Aranjuez artists represent some of today’s leading players. But the company was originally founded for the purpose of promoting Marcin’s music. One of the trends affecting any professional musician right now is that recorded music just doesn’t sell. And, rather than continuing along the well-trodden path of making new music available in audio form, Sean and Marcin have opted to upload a steady stream of videos to YouTube, where Marcin’s fans can keep up with new rep that he’s working on.
I asked Marcin about a couple of his recent videos, which I suggested might mark a new direction in his playing, which to me embraces a more vocal approach. In particular, there’s a beautiful arrangement that he plays of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that Toru Takemitsu made.
Part 3: On Nihilism, Atheism, and Lint Brushes Before I interviewed Marcin Dylla, I asked Goes to Eleven listeners if they had any questions that they’d like to have answered. Here’s what happened.
“Cicadas at the Equinox” from Vapor Trail from a Paper Plane (2014). Written and performed by Matthew Cochran.
Intermezzo from Quartet in A minor, Opus 13. Written by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by Melos Quartet
“Music of Memory”, written by Nicholas Maw, performed by Marcin Dylla
“Sonata of Loneliness” written by Peteris Vasks, performed by Marcin Dylla
Variations sur “Folia de España” et Fugue, written by Manuel Maria Ponce, performed by Marcin Dylla
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” written by Harold Arlen, performed by Marcin Dylla, arranged by Toru Takemitsu
“Valses Poeticos”, written by Enrique Granados, performed by Marcin Dylla
“Allegro gentile” from Concierto de Aranjuez, written by Joaquin Rodrigo, performed by Marcin Dylla with CORda Cracovia, cond. By Daniel Stabrawa