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The Dense and Overgrown Path of Benjamin Verdery
Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall 
October 2, 2009


Joe Schoenecker

A program consisting of works by Bach, Albeniz, and Strauss, to arrangements of Hendrix and Prince?  I was a bit skeptical, but knowing of Verdrey's astonishing skill both as a classical guitar performer as well as a composer, I took my seat with an open mind, knowing that I would be dazzled with technical mastery at the very least.

Beginning with his own composition, Prelude and Wedding Dance (for Rie), Verdery did not disappoint.  A beautifully moving and dynamic piece, played with honest emotion set the stage for an intimate and highly pleasurable recital.

Isaac Albeniz's impressionistic Cordoba, a minor classic in the classical guitar world, executed with a gentle approach and good tone ensured maximum clarity.

A few last minute changes to the program meant the Bach's Cello Suite No. 6, BMV 1012 would not be played in its entirety, instead only the Prelude, Sarabande, and Gavottes 1 & 2.  The first disappointment of the night.  The Prelude, played too fast, lost its cadence and feeling.  The Sarabande, perhaps the highlight of the evening, was astounding.  A near perfect performance.  Gavottes 1 & 2, played too deliberate and riddled with a few mistakes, ruined any chance of real movement.

The first half ended with Be Kind All The Time, another of Verdery's own compositions, an innovative and charming piece for electric classical guitar, digital delay, loops, chopsticks (used to drum on the strings), paper clips and slide bar. 

Two pieces from Leos Janacek's On An Overgrown Path: A Faded Leaf and The Virgin Mary Of Frydek, proved just how good a performer Verdery is.  Melodic and delicate, its folk forms were brought out beautifully with an ease only attainable by a true virtuoso.

The Blue Danube (Strauss), a technical workout that gave fellow guitarists and students plenty to marvel at, was played well with conviction and sense of humor.

Next Verdery played his interpretations of Otis Blackwell's Don't Be Cruel, Kiss by Prince, and Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze.  While ambitious and impressive in arrangement, they were ultimately forgettable.

Ending the program, the UWM guitar students joined Verdery on stage to perform his Scenes From Ellis Island.  The 12-guitar ensemble brought those in attendance to their feet for a standing ovation.

While Verdery wasn't in absolute top form throughout, it was still a wonderful performance high in excitement and musicality.

Press photo of Benjamin Verdery.

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