ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Grammy Award-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux will perform what he considers a future classic when he takes the stage of Popejoy Hall on Saturday, Jan. 25.
The world-renowned musician will play Baltimore-based composer Jonathan Leshnoff’s “Guitar Concerto,” along with a more familiar work, Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major, RV 93, originally written for lute, with the New Mexico Philharmonic. The orchestra will play Mozart’s “Overture to the Marriage of Figaro” and his Symphonies No. 25 and 35, the “Haffner.”
“Jonathan Leshnoff is a fantastic composer,” the guitarist said in a phone interview from his Cleveland home. “He’s had quite a lot of success with major orchestras performing his work.”
Vieaux recorded the concerto with the Nashville Symphony in 2019.
“It’s really a star vehicle for guitar and orchestra,” Vieaux continued. “The melodic lines are as virtuosic as (Spanish composer Joaquín) Rodrigo. It can be very dramatic and sweeping, almost cinematic in scope.”
The New York Times deemed Leshnoff “a leader of contemporary American lyricism.”
Vieaux grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., listening to his mother’s Beatles and soul records, as well as his father’s jazz recordings. His mother bought him a guitar when he was 5 years old. Then the Buffalo Guitar Quartet came to his school when he was 7.
“We didn’t know there was such a thing as classical guitar,” he said. By the age of 8, he was studying with quartet guitarist Jeremy Sparks.
“I just absorbed it,” he said. “I got this sense that what I was actually studying was much more difficult note for note than playing a Zeppelin riff.”
By age 12, Vieaux was giving full-length recitals around Buffalo. At 14, he was playing with the Buffalo Philharmonic.
Today, he has performed as the soloist with more than 100 orchestras and at guitar festivals in Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. He was the first classical musician to play on NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concert series. Vieaux teaches at both Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute (he co-founded the classical guitar department) and at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2012 he launched the first online classical guitar academy for ArtistWorks.
For 25 years, Vieaux has sliced a crescent from a ping-pong ball whenever he breaks a thumbnail.
“It’s very rare to grow perfect, God-given nails,” he said. “That’s the number one substitute.”
His next CD will be “Bach, Volume II,” a collection of the composer’s works for violin. No release date has been set.