Kazuhito Yamashita concert review, 1989

George A. Pepper's impressions of Kazuhito Yamashita's performance at the 1989 Texas GFA concert.

"Greetings Peter,

Love your site. Found it while looking up some info on Kazuhito Yamashita. Matanya Ophee and I were corresponding about him the past few days because I bought the De Fossa sheet music and Kazuhito's recording of it from him, and his articles do make for fascinating reading." (ed. note: read The Yamashita Chronicles by Matanya Ophee).

George A. Pepper - guitarist and composer, www.hucbald.blogspot.com
George A. Pepper - guitarist and composer, www.hucbald.blogspot.com

"I was at the 1989 GFA in Lubbock, Texas when Kazuhito Yamashita played the Dvorak New World Symphony.

I was seated 25 feet or so away from him within the first few rows of seats. I can attest to the fact that he was able to perform multi-string tremolos using both the downstroke and the upstroke of the i finger - much the way a steel string player uses a plectrum - while using p for the bass part, m and a for the melody... and sometimes c for parts up high as well.

While watching this all transpire within spitting distance, my jaw was lying slack on my chest and my eyes kept uncontrollably rolling back in my head: It was simply not possible to execute those maneuvers with a human nervous system, and yet... It was earth-shatteringly astonishing.

George A. Pepper - guitarist and composer, www.hucbald.blogspot.com
George A. Pepper - guitarist and composer, www.hucbald.blogspot.com

You mentioned that traditional guitar pedagogy should have been revolutionized by Yamashita, and you're right, and it has been. Just as it took a generation or so for violinists to catch up to Paganini and for pianists to catch up with Liszt, it will take a while for contemporary nylon string players to catch up with Kazuhito.

George A. Pepper

There's a young lady from Bulgaria, I believe, who is performing Yamashita's transcription of "Pictures" now, and it's only a matter of time before those replace the Chaconne as the sine qua non of hurdles for the aspiring virtuoso guitarist. The problem is, as I'm betting you know, the contemporary classical guitar community is almost inconceivably entrenched in conservatism, and so there is a lot of inertia to overcome.

I remember after Yamashita finished the Symphony, there was absolutely NO applause. None whatsoever. He just stood there. After what seemed like an eternity, a few of us regained our faculties enough to start clapping, and it steadily built up into a standing ovational crescendo. Do you know, I've NEVER been to another classical guitar concert since? I mean, why would I?

After the show, in the lobby, the gamut of emotions was present: Some of the wimpy guys were in or near tears! I mean, tears of fright!! I was beaming from ear to ear, man. But, you know what the predominant emotion was? Envy. All of the criticism was coming from envy. And that envy is what has driven the "politics" that have kept Kazuhito from getting hie due recognition. But, that will be overcome in time.

George A. Pepper There was a party later that night at Matanya's room with Stepan Rak, Alice Artzt and Kazuhito in attendance. I got Kazuhito's autograph and cherish it to this day.

As for myself, I come from a jazz and rock background - BM from Berklee and an alumnus of some "Vinyl Age" appearances on MTV - so I have none of the classical guitar "baggage." I've used my c since I was a steel string player, I fret with my right hand a lot, and I play using a lot of tap technique and even thumb slaps... and I compose conservative tonal counterpoint. LOL!

Just looking over Yamashita's transcriptions made me start writing in an open score format. (ed. note: follow the links below to hear George's compositions)

Anyway... Keep up the good work!

George A Pepper BM MM
"The Alps of Texas", USA

Article © 2007 George A. Pepper and reproduced with permission.