Music Preview: Guitarist John Johns performs with a little help from his friends

johnsJust about the only thing I like more than guitarist John Johns playing Paganini is Johns playing Paganini with violinist Christian Teal. So I was thrilled to hear about Johns’ concert on Thursday night at Ingram Hall, which will feature the veteran guitarist performing Paganini’s Concertata for Violin and Guitar with Teal – the first violinist of the Blair String Quartet.

Thursday’s signature series concert is titled “Amici Musicale,” which has something of a double meaning. On the surface, it indicates simply that Johns will be sharing his program with two long-time friends, Teal and violist Kathryn Plummer. But it also suggests the shared musical culture of the program’s composers.

Paganini, Vivaldi, Giuliani and Tárrega are Mediterranean composers, artists who were active chiefly in Italy and Spain. Paganini and Vivaldi are both remembered today primarily for their violin music, but they wrote brilliantly for guitar as well. (Paganini, arguably history’s most renowned violin virtuoso, also played a mean guitar.) Tárrega, a 19th-century Spanish composer, was a Romantic guitarist of the first rank.

Diabelli is the odd man out on the program. Despite his Italian surname, he was an Austrian, and his music was for the most part second rank. Still, he did compose the waltz that Beethoven used as the theme for his monumental Diabelli Variations, so Diabelli’s music is always of historical interest.

Johns’ free concert starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at Ingram Hall, 2400 Blakemore Ave.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.