Q & A with Martha Masters, March 19, Louisville, KY

I traveled two hours south to Louisville, the University of Louisville School of Music and the Comstock Concert Hall to attend a solo recital from Ms Martha Masters sponsored by the Louisville Classical Guitar Society .  I have enjoyed ms Masters Naxos CD release (GFA winners’ CD release) for several years now but did not know her resume before last night.  BA and MS from Peabody Conservatory; under Manuel Barrueco.  GFA 2000 first prize.  Winner, Andres Segovia International Guitar Competition, amongst other (and no less prestigious) competitions.

Ms Masters has several recent recording projects as well as an intermediate-level technique book (which I purchased and am very impressed with).  She drew from both new CDs for the program.  The program was divided into 2-3 piece segments featuring a different musical or historical theme.  Ms Masters explained each piece thoroughly and was really quite intriguing.  Most performers I have seen don’t take any time to converse with or speak to the audience.  She did so with authority; but not assuming the audience was educated on the music she presented.  I appreciate that.

I will have to say, in conclusion, the concert was very well done (understating that I really, really enjoyed this performance and learned a few things as well).

Q & A With Martha Masters

My first time hearing you is with your Naxos ‘Guitar Foundation of America’  (GFA) CD release in 2006 (when I became a fan).   Do you approach your concert performance preparation differently now?

That is an interesting question.  Due to family and other professional obligations, I have much less time to practice now than I did when I was in graduate school and in my first year or two of professional life.  And on top of that, I do more programs (solo, chamber music, etc), so the demands are greater.  As my career and family life started expanding, at first it was a struggle to figure out how to do it well, and I’d say that there were some things that didn’t go as well as I’d want them to.  However, I think in the last year, the many lessons I’ve learned over the past several years have really started to coalesce, and I’ve figured out what it takes for me to do what I want to do, and to do it consistently well.  For me, the keys involve picking the right repertoire – at this point in my career, more often repertoire that suits me, rather than stretches me.  I LOVE stretching, but it has to be done in balance in a professional career.  So discovering that has been huge.  Then making time for technical practice has become a priority as well.  I have always hated technical practice- but I know it’s necessary.  A little dose of medicine is a good thing!  So I would say those are two things that have changed for me recently.

Your program was fascinating (at the Louisville KY Concert, see archives).  As I wrote in this post, I appreciate the information about the composers, time periods and pieces you provided before each piece or segments.  What was the inspiration in presenting the pieces in this way?

I’ve always enjoyed communicating with an audience; and as an audience member, I enjoy when the artist communicates with me.  So speaking comes naturally for me, as it helps the audience to understand a bit about the music, and what it means to me.  Glad you enjoyed it!

I purchased your book ‘Reaching the Next Level’.  The book is very well done, indeed.  Was writing the book easy for you?  (does teaching guitar come easy to you)

Those are two very separate questions for me!  Teaching guitar I suppose isn’t hard, per se- and I love it.  Writing a book….now that is hard.  What I found most challenging about it was the permanent nature of every word I chose.  I first struggled to find my voice- the general tone for the book.  My first drafts were too formal, and it just didn’t feel like me; but it’s a fine line before you sound too colloquial, and then no one will take the book seriously!  So that was the first struggle.  Then I suffered over every word in many of the technical passages- it is SO much easier to show someone in person than to write it out in a book, with an audience who may have a very wide array of backgrounds.  It was a real challenge, and I learned a lot from doing it. 

In 2001 I attended a Master’s Class with Manuel Barrueco and took copious notes of his advice; your book reminds me a lot of his advice to the students at the class (I still have the program and notes).  Of course, this makes sense, you studied under Mr Barrueco at Peabody.

Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment!  (I hope Manuel doesn’t take it as an insult to him…)  He was a huge part of my formation and I’m forever indebted to him, he’s such a wonderful artists and brilliant person.

I’m listening to ‘Viaje en Espana’ as I write this.  What is next for you?  Another DVD, book, CD, tour?  It looks like you have a couple months to relax at home with the family before June and several festival appearances.

Yes, this is a busy festival summer for me.  I am actually just finishing another book, this one for Alfred/Workshop Arts (aimed at people who already play another style of guitar and are interested in learning classical), that should be out very soon (my publisher will tell you I’m late!).  I have some thoughts percolating for another CD project, but honestly, I’m in need of a bit of a break, so it may be another year before I take any action on it.  I am ready to just enjoy learning some new repertoire, explore some chamber music, and not have deadlines on my plate for a bit.  I do thrive on pressure/deadlines, but I think I’ve had quite enough recently, and a break is in order!

—Program—

First Set

Jose Vinas (1823-1888) – Introduction and Andante

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) – Sonatas, K. 277 in D, 208 in A, 178 in D

Andres Segovia (1893-1987) – Estudio sin luz

Joaquin Malats (1872-1912) Transcribed by Angelo Gilardino -Serenata Espanola (I believe in Eb, not the Tarrega Transcription)

Astor Piazzolla – Milonga del Angel

Maximo Diego Pujol (b. 1957) – Elegia por la muerte de un tanguero – Epilogo

Second Set

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello (1690 – 1758) – Sonata IV: Allegro, Adagio, Allegro Finale-Capriccio (from Sonata V)

P. Jose Antonio de San Sebastion (1886-1956) – Errimina (Nostalgia)

*this piece was written and delivered to Segovia.  Segovia did not record the work.  It was rediscovered well after Segovia’s death.

Eduardo Garrido (b. 1975) – Homenaje a Leo Brouwer (Invocacion, Danza ritual)

Miroslav Tadic (b. 1959) – Rustemul, Makedonsko, Walk Dance

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