Tye Austin’s Spanish Serenades by Stephanie Susberich, NYC music blogger
Tye Austin is a young, award-winning classical guitarist and composer. He just obtained his master’s from the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Eliot Fisk (who was Andres Segovia’s last student). On January 28th, I attended a night of Spanish serenades on guitar, in which Tye performed a program replete with moody, audience-embracing pieces, made all the more clandestine by the performer’s mysterious bearing.
The program began with an anonymous, 19th century Spanish Romance, followed by Fernando Sor’s Etude No. 5 in B minor, which put a quiet spell over the packed room. Many in the diverse crowd seemed to be fairly new to classical music, yet they raptly listened as the artist played on, artfully sweeping fingers and nails over the guitar strings.
Francisco Tarrega’s Lagrima came next, followed by Tye’s own arrangement of Luiz Bonfá’s Manha de Carnaval. The performance was interspersed with Tye’s brief introductions of pieces, which helped create a context for the compositions.
Francisco Tarrega’s Capricho Arabe, with its Arabic, Jewish, and Spanish influences, was followed by Tye’s arrangement of Consuelo Velazquez’ Besame Mucho (Kiss Me A Lot). It is one of the world’s most famous boleros, recognized as the most frequently sung and recorded Mexican song in the world. Written in 1940, the composer is reputed to have said that she wrote the piece at a time in her life when she had never even been kissed. All she knew about kissing at that time was that people referred to it as a sin. Isn’t subversive art wonderful?
Tye also played Sons De Carrlihoes by João Pernambuco, who was an illiterate but outstanding Brazilian musician of the early 20th century. His music was being stolen and sold off during his lifetime by other, literate musicians. Tye explained that this tragic reality prompted Villa-Lobos to publish Pernambuco’s music, which helped give the artist credit and some money for his work.
Tye then performed Villa-Lobos’ Prelude and Choro No. 1. The performer explained that when Villa-Lobos—who unlike Pernambuco, came from an affluent background—travelled to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, the great composition teacher urged the young composer to look to his Brazilian roots for influence. This mentorship helped Villa-Lobos create his unique, Brazilian-infused classical style.
The last piece of the night was Tye’s own arrangement of Enrique Granados’ Spanish Dance No. 5. With its many slides, grace notes, and rhythmic strumming, it left the evening on a lighter note—just in time for hostess Marianne Morrone’s delicious chocolate vegan berry pie!
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