An idle guitar—the product of his mother’s well-intended but discarded inspiration—was discovered by an 8-year-old Alieksey Vianna in his home within the megalopolis of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Guitar lessons shortly followed, as did an invitation by an American professor to study music in the United States. Now, 13 years later, Vianna’s special affinity with the instrument has taken him to school in San Francisco and then to stages around the world, including New York’s hallowed Carnegie Hall, where he played with the renowned French composer Pierre Boulez.
Vianna is the first featured performer of the Sierra Nevada Guitar Society’s summer-long Latin Guitar Festival, which begins May 22 at the Trinity Episcopal Church.
In his hands will be a classical guitar crafted by Sparks guitar maker David Daily, whom he met years ago during a guitar competition Daily sponsored in Arizona. He’s played Daily’s guitars ever since. “It’s very carefully made, a work of art in itself,” says Vianna, speaking by phone from Switzerland, where he was giving a performance.
Classical guitar doesn’t necessarily mean classical music, though much of that will be featured in this concert. In addition to a Bach suite, Vianna will also perform a jazz piece by composer Ralph Towner, some Brazilian works, and a piece by Spanish composer Antonio Jose. The Jose work, a Sonata for guitar, had disappeared for nearly 50 years before being unearthed in the 1990s. It’s said to give further credence to the abilities of Jose, who, according to Maurice Ravel, was to have become one of Spain’s best composers. Jose didn’t live long enough to fully claim that title. The Falange, a fascist political group, killed him by firing squad during the Spanish Civil War.
“Whether it’s in the tradition of jazz or classical European music or Brazilian music, African influence, whatever it is, I’m interested in the creative process of it,” says Vianna. “I don’t think the style thing matters so much.”
However, he says it’s important to respect each style for what it is. “You can’t play a bossa nova as you would a Bach suite, or flamenco music the way you would a Renaissance piece,” he says. “That’s what keeps me busy.”
A highly technical player with a finesse for phrasing, Vianna says he used to spend 12-13 hours a day practicing. While that time is now down to roughly five or six hours a day, and an increasing amount of his hours are spent booking tickets, hotels and organizing recordings, music still presents a constant set of challenges with small and large victories.
“As anything else in life, I think it’s a matter of love,” says Vianna. “It’s a matter of dedication. A lot of people say music is a talent. A lot of times they imply it’s something that just sort of falls from the sky to some people and not to others. I don’t believe much in that. I know, for myself, I have to put so much work into this. I know that’s where success comes from. Just a lot of hard work.”
Following Vianna’s performance, the festival continues with concerts by classical guitarists Martin Madrigal of Mexico on June 19, Ricardo Cobo of Colombia on July 24, and Isaac Bustos of Nicaragua on Aug. 28.