Guitarist Jason Vieaux and harpist Yolanda Kondonassis have been passing each other in the halls of the Cleveland Institute of Music for years. These concert artists and conservatory instructors exchanged more than pleasantries when they encountered each other a few years ago.
“Yolanda asked me if I’d be interested in playing (Alan) Hovhaness’ Sonata for harp and guitar with her,” recalled Vieaux. “I thought it would be a great idea. But it didn’t happen right away. I was busy with other collaborations and recitals.”
Two years ago Vieaux and Kondonassis performed their first duo recital together at the Cleveland Institute of Music. On the program were the only works for guitar and harp they could find.
“Part of what we’re doing is trying to expand the repertoire for guitar and harp,” said Vieaux. “We think the combination of these instruments is beautiful, marvelous and fantastic.”
Vieaux and Kondonassis are the special guests of the Los Alamos Concert Association next Sunday in Duane Smith Auditorium. They play music from their first recital including Sonata, Op. 374 by Hovhaness, “Suite Magica” by Maximo Diego Pujol, “Fantasia” by Xavier Montsalvatge and “Knock on Wood” by Keith Fitch as well as a newly commissioned work by Vieaux’s longtime collaborator, flutist and composer Gary Schocker.
“I’ve been playing duets with Gary since 1998,” Vieaux explained. “We’ve performed two works he wrote especially for us and one work he wrote for another guitarist. Gary has been teaching himself how to play the harp for the past few years. He’s really into it. His work ‘Hypnosis’ is the first piece he’s written for guitar and harp. I know that his interest in the harp means that he’ll be writing more works for harp and guitar in the future.”
A great work for harp and guitar, Vieaux says, allows both instruments to shine equally. In Schocker’s piece, the harp and guitar take turns playing the melodic lines. Fitch’s work is a good example of how these two instruments can create sonic palettes that end up sounding like one instrument.
“To accomplish our long-term goal of commissioning more works for guitar and harp we need to get the word out about our collaboration,” said Vieaux. “We’re doing that through concerts and by putting together a CD of the works that we perform together. I hope the CD will be out near the end of 2014.”
A renowned soloist and chamber player, Kondonassis made her debut at the age of 18 with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Zubin Mehta. She has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras worldwide such as the English Chamber Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Dallas Symphony and Orquesta Sinfonica de Puerto Rico.
In addition to many concerto appearances, Vieaux collaborates in recital with a variety of musicians including accordion/bandoneón virtuoso Julien Labro. His passion for new music has resulted in premieres of works by Dan Visconti, David Ludwig, Jerod Tate, Eric Sessler and José Luis Merlin.