Symposion 2004 - Best guitar festivals existing today
By Eugene Cormier
This past summer I was once again fortunate to take part in what I consider one of the best guitar festivals existing today. The International Guitar-Symposium, which is held annually in Iserlohn, Germany, is one of the largest festivals worldwide hosting a multitude of events.
Home to 220 guitarists from 44 countries, all totalling over 500 individual lessons and 12 concerts which were all very well attended; most with a full house or standing room only. The teachers were phenomenal and consisted of 30 guitarists: Carlo Domeniconi, Roland Dyens, Eliot Fisk, Gerald Garcia, Bruce Holzman, Dale Kavanagh, David Russell and Raphaella Smits to name a few. It consisted of 2 lectures, morning warm-up classes entitled Finger-Aerobics with Dale Kavanagh and 2 guitar orchestras.
Representatives visited throughout the week with 2 fully stocked classical guitar shops and 22 guitar builders. Added to this was a warm and social atmosphere allowing all participants to relax and meet new people.
Individual lessons took place daily from 9:00-6:00 with time for lunch and an afternoon coffee break. Everyday there were many lessons being given by some of the best teachers and guitarists from around the world. Active participants received four 45 minute lessons that were open to the public. One could attend a teacher's lessons for an entire day or switch from one teacher to another.
The concerts were incredible representing the wealth and diversity of music we heard throughout the week. Sunday we heard the jazz inspired stylings of Roland Dyens. Monday, an outstanding and inspiring program from David Russell. Tuesday, we heard the Stars of Tomorrow concert featuring three young artists: the technically brilliant Su Meng from China, the lyrical playing of Katrin Hohmann from Germany and the passionate Roman Viazovskiy from Russia. Wednesday, a double concert featuring Stephen Robinson playing some well known guitar favourites and Carlo Domeniconi playing some of his own compositions.
Thursday, a double concert featuring Raphaella Smits on a period instrument and the Venezuelan Montes-Kircher Duo with their twin enharmonic guitars. Friday, we heard a double concert with the intriguing Wolfgang Lendle and the incredible Eliot Fisk playing three Bach Cello Suites in his mindbubbling transcription. Mid-week produced a fun concert/quiz by Frank Gerstmeier where the audience, in order to win prizes, were invited to guess the excerpts he played. The week ended with a well organised student recital which featured the guitar orchestras (written especially for Iserlohn by Gerald Garcia and Alfonso Montes) and solo playing from selected participants.
After each nightly concert participants and teachers returned to the main building for a get together. These socials allowed the participants to meet and converse with the performing artists, teachers and each other in an informal setting. It was a friendly atmosphere, which has been fostered over previous years, making it easy to mingle and meet new guitarists, friends or business contacts. As acclaimed by all, the night life activity has always been an enjoyable, relaxing and important feature of this festival. While it would be wrong of me to suggest that there wasn't a competitive mood among so many accomplished guitarists, it didn't seem prevalent when talking to other festival participants.
The accommodations were comfortable and clean including single or double occupancy rooms with a private washroom and shower. Meals were prepared daily by a superb, innovative German catering staff who served hot and cold dishes with a variety of choices to suit everyone. The value of this festival is tremendous. A reasonable fee (some $ 435 US in total), great food, comfortable rooms, incredible teaching staff and amazing concerts all combine to make this an unforgettable experience for all participants.
I would recommend this festival to any classical guitarist whether it is your first guitar festival or fifty-first. 2005 years festival will feature again some of the best guitarists and teachers around like: Costas Cotsiolis, Aniello Desiderio, Carlo Marchione, The Kaltchev Guitar Duo, The Saffire Quartet Australia, Karin Schaupp, Laura Young, Gerald Garcia, Tom Johnson, Jorge Cardoso, many more plus the organizer team Thomas Kirchhoff and Dale Kavanagh. Info at www.guitarsymposium.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.