Monday, February 09, 2009

Southwest Guitar Festival, Day Four

The main competition event, the final round, was at Travis Park United Methodist Church, just a block away from the Majestic in downtown, San Antonio (Don't get me started on the touchy-feely UMC business; I'm a Lutheran. LOL!). It was a nice venue in may ways, but it was down freaking town, so loud trucks passing by were a distraction from time to time. I know it's a historic church, but I think a more modern venue in a quieter location would have been preferable.

Our four finalists, Nemanja Ostojic, Florian Larousse, Pablo Garibay, and Austin Moorhead, were all excellent. There were a lot of plusses and very few minuses to each performer, so I was really glad I wasn't a judge (Yeah, yeah; like that would ever happen).

Serbian born Ostojic played pieces by Moreno-Torroba, Castelnuevo Tedesco, and Koshkin - Koshkin's The Fall of Birds was the only piece I wasn't familiar with, and I loved it. The others? Feh, I've heard them too much, but they are great competition pieces. I figured he'd come in second or third as everything was well played, but he didn't wow me. He won the grand prize, of course. LOL!

Florian Larousse of France was my personal favorite. He's only 20 and doesn't have very good stage presence, but I liked the subtlety and clarity of his playing. I also liked his selection of pieces: Fantasie by Napoleon Coste and the amazing Sonata by Antonio jose, which has become a competition staple, because it's like a frenetic novel for guitar. It's way to bombastic for my personal taste, but I can sure see why competitors love it, because it is positively epic and filled with bravura. Since I liked him best, Florian got third, of course.

Pablo Garribay of Mexico also played the Jose sonata, and everyone I talked to thought he played it better than Larousse did, so as far as I know I was in a minority of one. Typical. Story of my life. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. What I found irritating about Garribay were some of his showy mannerisms. He'd flip his right hand open after some chord plucks, for example, which I found distracting, and perhaps even a bit pretentious. I thought he should have been third, but he ended up second.

Austin Moorhead, the sole American in the final, was the only one I got right: He ended up fourth, but damn what a great field he was playing in. He played really, really well, but there wasn't any highly virtuosic and showy cap piece to his selections. It also didn't help that he played last and had the same Torroba piece in his set as Ostojic did. One thing I did like was his guitar, which had a really bad-ass, spruce-top, smack-you-in-the-eardrums, crystalline sound. He's been a GFA finalist a couple of previous times, so perhaps this just wasn't his day.

Well, that wraps it up for me, as I didn't attend the jazz concert or Sunday's festivities, as I had other business to attend to, which I'll post about tomorrow.

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