Ben Verdery ~ October 18, 2015

Ben Verdery in Hawaii

Ben Verdery, Guitarist and Composer

Professor of Guitar at the Yale University School of Music and artistic director of the bi-annual Yale Guitar Extravaganza since 1985, and Artistic Director of 92Y’s Art of the Guitar series (NYC) since 2006, Benjamin Verdery is hailed for his innovative and eclectic musical career.

Since 1980 he has performed worldwide in theaters and at festivals, including Theatre Carré (Amsterdam), Maverick Concerts (NY), the International Guitar Festival in Havana, Wigmore Hall (London), Festival Internacional de Guitarra de Taxco (Mexico), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Opera in New York. His tours regularly take him throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. He has recorded and performed with such diverse artists as Andy Summers, Frederic Hand, William Coulter, Leo Kottke, Anthony Newman, Jessye Norman, Paco Peña, Hermann Prey and John Williams.

As a recording artist, Verdery has released over 15 CDs. His latest include Happy Here (2011), with William Coulter, First You Build A Cloud (2007), a collaboration with Andy Summers of The Police, and Branches (2007), a solo album featuring arrangements of Bach, Mozart, Strauss and Hendrix. His recording, Start Now won the 2005 Classical Recording Foundation Award. Future recordings include one featuring Yale composers and one featuring his classical guitar arrangements: Randy Newman, Neil Young, Prince, Hendrix, John Lennon, Eddy Vedder, The National, Cream, Elvis and others yet to be arranged.

In 2007 Ben was appointed an honorary board member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and the summer of 2015 marks the 16th anniversary of his annual Maui Master Class on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

Ben Verdery on Bach and Anthony Newman:

I recently “rediscovered” my CD Bach Two Generations. It was my second full length recording. The repertoire I had intended for my first Bach recording was to be Bach’s Cello Suite #6 (BWV #1012) and the A Major C.P.E. Bach Concerto.

I can still remember Anthony Newman sitting at my kitchen table in 1978 suggesting that I should learn and record the 6th Cello Suite. At the time, my colleagues were recording the Lute music of Bach. The most commonly recorded cello suites at the time were suites 1 and 3. No one to my knowledge had recorded the 6th. I developed a profound love of the piece from the opening statement of the Prelude right to the last note of the Gigue.

It was my dear friend flutist extraordinaire Keith Underwood that suggested the A major C.P.E. concerto. It was such a natural choice as the composer made three versions of the piece. It exists for flute, cello and harpsichord so… why not guitar? I worked from each version to create my arrangement. It was an exhilarating experience. Anthony Newman along with the Laurentian String Quartet and bassist Dennis Massuzo agreed to record it with me. There were two rehearsals prior to the recording.

The company Sine-Qua Non was very interested in releasing a Bach cassette of mine but did not want the combination of a solo/ concerto recording. The idea of combining a solo work and a concerto was inspired by a Segovia LP.

I then learned and recorded J.S. Bach’s second Violin Sonata (BWV #1003). It seemed a natural choice because it was a master piece, it had not been recorded on the guitar and it paired well with the 6th Cello Suite. In addition, like the Cello Suite to my knowledge it had not been recorded. Keep in mind this was long before You Tube! Many of you reading this might not know what a cassette is! Subsequently the cassette entitled Bach Transcriptions was released.

I was then left with a recording of the C.P.E. Bach concerto that had no home. I approached the owner of Musical Heritage Society Jeffrey Nissim who offered to release the recording if I could couple it with another concerto.

Again Anthony Newman suggested I arrange the Bach violin arrangement of the D minor Harpsichord Concerto, which is considered by many to be one of Bach’s greatest masterpieces. I hurried down to Patelson’s music and bought the score and began learning it that night.

As I recall we had one rehearsal and the next thing I knew we were in the church recording. I remember there being two microphones only. Both the Bach Transcriptions recording and this recording were what we would refer today as “old school” recordings. They were recorded analog and edited by one of the best engineers working at the time, David Hancock. He was a joy to work with and was a splicing wizard! I’m not so sure they are not my finest sounding recordings. I learned a lot from working with such a masterful engineer so early in my career.

I recorded the C.P.E. on a Thomas Humphrey guitar and the J.S. Bach on a John Gilbert guitar.

I am forever indebted to my mentor and dearest friend Anthony Newman who was so generous with his time and artistry given his insanely busy schedule at the time. Both he and his wife Mary Jane were a tremendous musical influence in the years of this recording and my solo Bach recording.

Benjamin Verdery plays JS Bach, Sarabande (click)

Benjamin Verdery plays JS Bach, Cello Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012 (click)

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