Gordon Crosskey Celebration: RNCM Guitars 1973-2014


I first met Gordon Crosskey through his student Stephen Gordon who was then studying at the Royal Northern. He was a quietly spoken man with definite ideas on technique and the importance of finding accurate and original source material. He was also not adverse to a bit of fun although I recall that he used to go to bed a bit earlier than the usual carousers at the Prussia Cove Summer School.
Other students at the time included Richard Wright, Pete Batchelar, Forbes Henderson and Joe Fung.
Later students of this unassuming pedagogue included Cheryl Grice, Nicola Hall, Paul Galbraith, Jonathan Leathwood, Graham Anthony Devine and many others.

It is typical of Gordon that there is very little biographical information on him. he was highly recommended as a teacher by John Williams in the 70s and rapidly became professor at the Royal Northern College of Music, but most references to him are from his past students.

Now celebrating 50 years as one of the world’s leading guitar teachers, seven of Gordon Crosskey’s most successful students come to perform at the RNCM in a spectacular evening.

A student of Gordon’s in the 1980?s, Greek guitarist Elena Papandreou is one of the world’s leading players and has had many works written for her by composers including Nikita Koshkin and Roland Dyens.

The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet are more recent graduates and have established a major role for themselves in the UK music world as Chandos recording artists with a busy series of engagements and regular appearances on BBC Radio 3.

Tom McKinney has a busy performance career in the world of contemporary and chamber music and as a broadcaster and presenter on BBC radio. He has commissioned many cutting-edge works and his extraordinary abilities have seen him rise to become the leading UK-based guitarist in the world of serious contemporary music.

Craig Ogden studied with Gordon in the early 1990?s and began teaching at the RNCM straight after he graduated. He has established a diverse career encompassing solo, chamber, concerto, session and recording and his work for Classic FM has seen him become one of the most recognized names in the UK.

Venue: Carole Nash Recital Room
Date: Wednesday 25 June 2014 7:30 pm

Gordon Crosskey is also a leading authority on old Sheffield plate!

Daniel Stachowiak and “lesser known Iberian music”

Prog2 Prog1
When was the last time you saw a programme like this (unless you were lucky enough to attend the Oxford Guitar Society meetings)?
Daniel Stachowiak refreshingly original programme was performed with great panache as well as being scholarly. The most crowd pleasing pieces were probably the Bacarisse or the Pedrell (Carlos, who was the nephew of Felipe Pedrell). There were also rare pieces by Andres Isasi, a Basque composer who wrote many orchestral and chamber works, but only a handful for guitar. This is the sort of territory explored by Ricardo Iznaola, Eugenio Tobalina etal and takes in the Jose Sonata, amongst other significant guitar works which are just coming to light.
This was definitely not rent-a-programme!

Daniel’s first programme for the Oxford Guitar Society was:
Beyond Torroba: Iberian Guitar Music from the 1920s and 1930s
Peacock-Pie (Tres Piezas Infantiles), 1923 – Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989)
Giga Op. 3, 1930 – Rodolfo Halffter (1900-1987)
Sonata del Escorial No 1 Op. 2, 1928 – Rodolfo Halffter
Española, 1930 ca. – Rosa Garcia Ascot (1902-2002)
Corranda (Ancienne Danse Catalane), 1926 – Agusti Grau (1893-1964)
Romancillo, 1923 – Adolfo Salazar (1890-1958)
Romanza, 1921 – Jose Maria Franco (1894-1971)
Homenaje a Matteo Albeniz, 1930 ca. – Gustavo Pittaluga (1906-1975)
Pavana (Heraldos Op. 2b, No 3), 1920 ca. – Salvador Bacarisse (1898-1963)
Tempo di Valse, 1930 ca. – Andres Isasi (1890-1940)
Impromptu (Tres Piezas Op. 45), 1930 ca. – Andres Isasi

I managed to have a word with Daniel afterwards. He spoke about his interest in obscure original guitar repertoire and his journey as an avid guitar student from the age of six until the present day.
Being a purveyor of recherché guitar music myself, I was fascinated to hear his story, and see some of the scores.

Daniel Guitar 1

Here is Daniel’s Story:

I started playing the classical guitar at the age of six.  I had a visiting guitar teacher come and teach at my primary school in Italy and that’s how I picked it up.  My parents were always very supportive of my musical development.
My dad is from the USA and for a while he used to play the clarinet and sax in a band in his twenties in upstate New York to support himself.
At school, I was the kid that always figured out all the new songs quicker than the others in guitar lessons and my first guitar teacher decided that he wanted to teach me privately on a one to one basis.  From there, I quickly enrolled into a specialised music school and, shortly after, I auditioned to enter into the local state music conservatory under the guidance of Pierluigi Corona.  He is very fond of left hand technique and I credit him for helping me develop a strong left hand as we would spend hours together just working on left hand exercises.  In terms of repertoire, we played a lot of Giuliani, Regondi, Bach, Torroba and Dyens.

Daniel Guitar 2 I also studied with Marko Feri who instilled into me an obsessive attention to right hand sound production.  I was so engulfed with left hand exercises and technique that I really did not pay attention to my right hand posture and the way it affects the sound you make.  Marko Feri really helped me develop my right hand and also, as I grew older, a musical understanding of the pieces I was playing.  At the time, we played a lot Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
My last mention goes to Frederic Zigante, who instilled in me my current interest into researching lesser known guitar music.  He pioneered the music of Alexandre Tansman and focused on his lesser well know pieces.  To this day, I consider Tansman’s Preludio from the Cavatina, Danza Pomposa and Mazurka to be amongst some of my favourite guitar music of all time.

Independently, whilst studying for my IB diploma at the United World College of the Adriatic in Italy, I started investigating and playing as much guitar music as I could get my hands on written by non-guitarist composers.
I played a lot of Ponce and Mompou during that period alongside my favourite Tansman tunes. It’s through the latter’s posthumous works published by Berben in Gilardino’s The Segovia Archive series that I became fascinated with all of the music composed by mainly non-guitarist composers which Segovia never really played or paid much attention to for one reason or another.
To this present day, I am still working out and performing pieces from that series.  Currently I am working on the pieces written by the Catalan composer Jaume Pahissa.

In 2005, I graduated from the state music conservatory with full marks.  The final test required giving a 75 minute recital.  I played transcriptions of lute music by Molinaro, works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Berkeley, and some Bach and Giuliani.  The same year, I left Italy for the UK for a three year stint at Oxford University, reading music at St Peter’s College.  As a classical guitarist fresh from graduation, I was hoping that the world of Oxford academia would be an ideal place to pursue further my musicological interest in 20th century guitar music written by non-guitarist composers.  I quickly discovered that I was the only classical guitarist reading for a degree in music and, in a insular world dominated by choral music and organ scholars, I did not really feel part of Oxford’s musical scene.  Back in Italy, I started transcribing lute music for guitar from tablature and this side interest of mine became my main field of interest at Oxford University.  I borrowed a lute and taught myself how to play the lute and read music straight from tablature.  I then took lessons with the Oxford lutenist Matthew Spring and started playing the lute full time and pretty much retired my guitar for the moment.R Halffter Sonata Title Page-page-1 Isasi Tres Piezas Excerpt-page-1

I finally felt I had something to offer in Oxford and was in constant demand as a lutenist.
I was very popular with singers and played many lute songs at the time.  My Oxford experience culminated in 2008 with a critical edition of a hard-to-find anthology of lute music compiled in the 17th century by Pietro Paolo Raimondi along with a lute recital at the Holywell Music Room.Gombau Valse Excerpt-page-1

How did I return to the classical guitar? Well, in 2008-2009 I took a PGCE course at Oxford Brookes University training to be a secondary school music teacher and in 2009-2010 I worked towards a masters degree in music.
The Oxford bubble of early music, countertenor singers and lutes of various sizes was behind me.  During those two years I slowly started revisiting my favourite Tansman, Ponce, Torroba and other ‘golden oldies’ and in 2010 I joined the Buckinghamshire Music Service as a peripatetic classical guitar teacher.
I fully regained my command of the guitar and I even think I managed to improve my technique since my days as a keen guitarist in Italy.  I resumed my research into lesser known guitar music composed by non-guitarist composers and was lucky enough to get in touch through the Internet with a group of keen South American collectors of rare guitar music who helped locate a lot of the music I perform these days.

Salazar Romancillo Excerpt-page-1At first, my recitals were based around the theme of Segovia, presenting both music he liked to play and music which unfortunately he wasn’t able to fit into his busy concert schedule.  I particularly enjoyed playing Albert Roussel’s Segovia, Gustave Samazeuilh’s Serenade and of course Tansman’s Mazurka.  All three works were written for Segovia in 1925 as a result of his Parisian debut concert in the hall of the city’s Conservatoire the year before.
Currently, my main interest is investigating Iberian guitar music written between the 1920s and 1950s beyond the Torroba, Turina and Rodrigo canons.  Some of the music belongs to the sphere of Segovia such as the works by Jaume Pahissa, Jose Antonio de Donostia, Gaspar Cassado Pedro Sanjuan and Vicente Arregui, but a lot of it belongs under the umbrella of music composed for Emilio Pujol, Regino Sainz de Maza and Narciso Yepes.  In it, we mainly find guitar music composed by the forward thinking group of Madrid composers known as the Grupo de los Ocho (Ernesto Halffter and his brother Rodolfo, Juan Jose Mantecon, Julian Bautista, Fernando Remacha, Rosa Garcia Ascot, Salvador Bacarisse and Gustavo Pittaluga).
Other composers worth also mentioning are members of the Catalan Group of Eight (El Grup dels Vuit) Agusti Grau, Federico Mompou and Roberto Gerhard, the Basque Andres Isasi, the eclectic Gerardo Gombau and finally Adolfo Salazar, Jose Maria Franco and Eduardo Lopez-Chavarri; composers who were part of the broader group of artists known as the Generation of ’27.
Remacha Preludio excerpt-page-2
All of this goes without even having mentioned Antonio Jose and his monumental Sonata para Guitarra.  I seem to have a mental block against the piece and still haven’t found the courage to work it out properly.  Personally, I prefer to drift from one short piece to another grouped together under a common research umbrella.  In order to offer a broader story line to these groups of composers, I also include in my performances a couple of cheeky transcriptions from piano works mostly done in the 50 and 60s by the Basque guitarist Jose de Azpiazu.

Remacha Preludio excerpt-page-1


I firmly believe that all of this mostly forgotten Iberian guitar music should be more well known as most of it, in my opinion, is very playable, audience-friendly and doesn’t require excessive editing.

Currently, the challenge of this repertory is tracking it all down as much of it remains still in manuscript form or published by small specialist publications in Spain.

For example, I am yet to get my hands on Juan Jose Mantecon’s Danza del Atardecer and Jesus Bal y Gay’s Pastoral both composed in the 1930s for Regino Sainz de la Maza.  Maybe sometime in the near future, I will make the pilgrimage to Spain and visit the Juan March archives in Madrid where all of this excellent guitar music is kept.

This was certainly an enterprising programme containing most interesting and musical material.

Congratulations to Daniel – may his spirit of adventure continue, and congratulations to the Oxford Guitar Society for having the acumen to put on such an adventurous programme and performer. Vivant!
Daniel’s YouTube Channel including music by Isasi and Halffter.

Chinese meditation IBMT prompts double positive punch in brain white matter (eh?)

This interesting observation from the University of Oregon means something like this:

Scientists studying the Chinese mindfulness meditation known as integrative body-mind training (IBMT) say they’ve confirmed and expanded their findings on changes in structural efficiency of white matter in the brain that can be related to positive behavioral changes in subjects practicing the technique regularly for a month.

So this might be a good way to reprogram me those bad habits and possibly even Focal Dystonia, as it seems that real physical changes happen in the brain’s white matter.
As you can see from this brief explanation of IBMT, there is much overlap with Body Mapping.
There are measurable increases in axon density and myelin formation after 11 weeks of meditation.
Neural plasticity change is the key here. It is a term that refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury. So the brain is no longer seen as a static object.

Read all about it here

The economics of classical music and the Spanish guitar

From the Philippines (land of my forbears) – plus news about Berta Rojas‘ project there.

The propensity for classical music might be genetic, or the taste might be acquired, or most likely both. What is indisputable is that, on the demand side, the market has been on the decline worldwide for decades, even before the preponderance of digital media and internet piracy and sharing.

If classical music in general is on the wane, the fate of the Spanish or classical guitar suffers a worse fate. The classical guitar has had a long battle to be a solo or even a chamber concert instrument.

In the Philippines, there was a major effort to promote classical guitar music since the early 2000s by visionaries Tonyboy Cojuangco and Greg Yu.

Read more

More on the guitar in the Philippines

Selected Filipino Guitar music posted by Raffy Lata

Some samples of Harana (courtship songs) arranged for guitar

Please, don’t lock up prisoners’ guitars too – Billy Bragg and others

Letter in the Guardian:

As musicians, we are concerned to hear that the use of steel-strung guitars is being prohibited in prisons. We believe music has an important role to play in engaging prisoners in the process of rehabilitation. However, this ability will be seriously undermined if inmates are unable to practise between group sessions.

As most guitars owned or used by inmates in our prisons are steel-strung acoustics, this ruling will mean that these instruments are kept under lock and key until time for a supervised session, if the prison in question has provision for musical tuition.

The stipulation that only nylon strings can be used will not alleviate this situation. There are several practical reasons why nylon strings are not suitable for a steel-strung acoustic guitar, not least the differing methods by which nylon and steel strings are attached to the instrument.

We understand that there must be security protocols when steel-strung guitars are used in prisons, but, until this ruling, access has been at the discretion of staff.

There has been a worrying rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in the period since this ruling was introduced. Since October 2013, when only one death was reported, there have been a total of 50 self-inflicted deaths, over double the figure for the same period last year.

We would like to know whether the recent changes to the treatment of prisoners – which includes restrictions on books and steel-strung guitars – could be at the root of this steep increase in fatalities.

We urge the minister for justice, Chris Grayling, to urgently look into the causes of the rise in self-inflicted deaths in prison since the introduction of the recent prison service instruction and to explain why steel-strung guitars have been singled out for exclusion.

Billy Bragg Jail Guitar Doors, Johnny Marr, Speech Debelle, Dave Gilmour, Richard Hawley, Scroobius Pip, Guy Garvey, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway, Seasick Steve, The Farm, Sam Duckworth

Thanks to Nigel Warburton for bringing this to my attention

Marcel Proust playing air guitar

c.1892: Marcel Proust playing air guitar on a tennis racket


Thanks to Retronaut

There is no record that Proust ever played the guitar, but the literary savant probably played tennis.

Actually Marcel Proust drew freely from musical works in order to cross-breed and transcribe them into novels – he uses music to transport the reader into various access points of memory, and writes in a very musical manner, cross-referencing themes, moving back and forth through time.

Vinteuil is the fictitious composer to whom Proust refers throughout À la recherche du temps perdu. But we know that it was in fact the amalgam of several composers who deeply influenced and affected the writer.

Composer Jorge Arriagad attempted to realise Vinteuil’s violin sonata for this scene in Raoul Ruiz’s 1999 film Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained), which takes its title from the final book of À la recherche du temps perdu, but dips liberally into the entire novel. This scene replicates the kind of private salon gathering at which Vinteuil’s music would have been performed in the world of Proust’s novel.




Leo Brouwer: live at 1979 Eztergom Festival playing Weiss, Joplin, Brouwer, & Falla

selftaughtgirl’s recording of a radio broadcast from the 1980’s

Weiss: Sarabande
Joplin: Elite Syncopation
Brouwer: Danza Altiplana, Cradle Song
Joplin: The Entertainer
Falla: Danza del Corregidor
Brouwer: Study #6

It was around this time I went to the ORTF summer school in Arles instigated by Robert Vidal – heady days. We studied modern music (aleatoric and otherwise) with Leo in the morning and Baroque ornamentation with him in the afternoon. We were also part of his ensemble playing a piece by Juan Blanco. Other attendees included Ichiro Suzuki, a very young Costas Cotsiolis, Forbes Henderson, John Taylor, Raymond Couste, Alison Bendy, Steve Wingfield, Ben Verderey and many more.
At Arles I first heard the music of Bussotti, Mestres Quadreny, Ohana and of course, Brouwer, whose Canticum, Espiral Eterna and Parabola I played regularly in the late 70s and 80s. I wonder if there are some photos of the occasion. In the following year, I travelled again to Arles with John Williams.

Leo Brouwer, as he was when we first met

Brouwer at West Dean in 2009
Brouwer 2009

There’s a Menuhin Test?!

Having spent some time with child prodigy guitarists in China, the following article in the Spectator struck a resonant chord with me – probably putting a strain on my own sense of loyalty as well as East-West relationships!
NYGE is also no stranger to the Yehudi Menuhin School (which has a similar background ethos to the Menuhin Test). As well as using the school for our courses and concerts, we have also had talented musicians from its students.

‘The truth is,’ says Gordon Back (the legendary accompanist for Yehudi Menuhin) , lowering his voice, ‘that if the violin finalists from the BBC Young Musician of the Year were to enter the Menuhin Competition, they wouldn’t make it to the first round.’ Not through the first round, note, but to the first round: they wouldn’t be good enough to compete.

Back is artistic director of the Menuhin, held every two years in a different country. In effect, it’s a search for the next Yehudi Menuhin, who recorded the Elgar concerto with the composer at the age of 15.

Contentious words and I often wonder about why Eastern musicians have taken so readily to Western classical music. It isn’t a question of lack of cultural background either.

Here’s an interesting story…
and here’s an article on (mis)appropriation to stir your little grey cells this Sunday morning.



In March 2014, the University of Surrey will launch the International Guitar Research Centre. The research centre aims to establish an international hub for guitar-centred research in all styles of music.

Surrey has had a strong association with the guitar since the 1960’s when Reginald Smith-Brindle was Professor. In more recent times, the Guildford Guitar Weekend has become a permanent fixture in the annual cycle of significant guitar events in the UK. The University has a large cohort of guitarist PhD students and alumni.

The research centre will work in close affiliation with various partner institutions including the IGF (International Guitar Foundation, King’s Place, London), the IGRA (International Guitar Research Archive, CSUN, Los Angeles, California) and the University of São Paulo (Brazil).

The launch will comprise a two-day event on 29th and 30th March that will include academic papers, seminars, public discussions, lecture-recitals and concerts. Guest artists will include John Williams, Xuefei Yang, The Amadeus Guitar Duo, Bridget Mermikides, Declan Zapala and Michael Partington.

Here is the programme

Download (PDF, 548KB)