Around the world on six strings

Romanian guitarist Mircea Gogoncea performs at Tel Aviv Guitar Week.

Romanian guitarist Mircea Gogoncea (photo credit: ANDREY WEYERS)
Romanian guitarist Mircea Gogoncea
(photo credit: ANDREY WEYERS)
Mircea Gogoncea’s upcoming recital promises to be some trip – almost literally. The 24-year-old Romanianborn classical guitarist is coming to Israel next week to perform in this year’s Tel Aviv Guitar Week program at The Felicja Blumental Music Center in Tel Aviv. The festival kicks off today and runs until March 2. Gogoncea’s performance slot is on March 1, and he will give a master class the following day.
“I basically try to take my listeners on a trip around the world of music,” Gogoncea explains.
He says he wants to keep his audiences focused and attentive, and generally eschews formulaic programming.
“There are a lot of classical music concerts which I feel lack originality, although that is not always the case. I was very pleasantly surprised when I went to study in London, where they place a lot of importance on this [more eclectic approach]. But I feel that a lot of guitar concert programming is not interesting, and you end up with a bunch of pieces whose only connection is that the player happened to have practiced them. And they always present them in a sort of chronological order. I’ve heard so many concerts where they start with Baroque music and end with a modern piece. I’m tired of that,” he says.
Next week’s audience should not suffer too much ennui. The line-up for the recital takes in works by Jewish Italianborn 20th-century composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, contemporary British composer Benjamin Britten, early 18th-century Italian virtuoso Niccolò Paganini and 50-year-old Cuban-born, Germany-based Joaquin Clerch. The latter is also one of Gogoncea’s teachers.
“I decided to mix up the concert repertoire by not arranging the pieces chronologically but geographically,” Gogoncea says, adding that he endeavors to keep his programs centered.
“I try to sort of pull a thread throughout the program, to make sense conceptually but still also offer a wide, diverse array of music. I didn’t just want to play just Spanish music or German music or Baroque music or modern music,” he explains.
The attention factor becomes even more important when the event is a solo slot.
“If there’s just one instrument on stage, it can become boring,” Gogoncea notes.
“So I came up with this concept as a way of offering new way of organizing music while still making sure there is the diversity that is very necessary when entertaining an audience of classical music on a single instrument.”
Gogoncea says he ended up playing the guitar for a living by way of “accident.”
“Nobody in my family is a musician, but my father wanted me to do a lot of things, not to become really successful at any of them but just to know what they were about,” he recounts. “When I was a kid, he got me a teacher for music and mathematics and physics and foreign languages. For me, it was really nice learning different things each week.”
The four-year-old’s hands on musical education, however, came to a temporary end not long after it began.
“They found an amazing teacher for me on piano who had this philosophy of only working with talented children and giving free lessons until they could see whether the child was good enough,” he says.
Gogoncea had the necessary natural ability, but his family lacked the wherewithal to buy a piano for the youngster to practice.
“That was the teacher’s only condition,” Gogoncea explains. “This was not long after the Romanian revolution, and my parents couldn’t afford to buy a piano. But six months later they found a guitar teacher who worked with really young kids, and the guitar was a cheaper instrument, so that worked out,” he laughs.
The junior guitarist made rapid progress, participating in – and winning – competitions for his age groups with regular frequency, logistics notwithstanding.
“There was a competition, I think it was the second one I entered – I was only five, and I was really small,” he says.
“The judges sat at a table that was quite wide, so they couldn’t see me properly. So I sat on the table and played from there,” he recounts.
The early start to his public endeavor and his successes have left their positive imprint on the way Gogoncea goes about his business today.
“I am never nervous on stage,” he declares. “That probably has something to do with the fact that I started so young.”
When he was 13 he had the opportunity to perform with one Romania’s top ensembles, the National Radio Orchestra, playing Concerto No. 1 opus 30 by early 19th-century Italian composer, guitarist and cellist Maurio Giuliani. Since then he has appeared on venerable stages around the world, including a full solo and chamber recital in the China Concert Hall in Beijing in 2014.
Gogoncea is particularly delighted to have the opportunity to perform the piece by Clerch, which is called Guitarresca and was written in 1991, the year Gogoncea was born. The composition is a tale of two parts.
“There is an earlier version of the piece, and a new version that was written in 2013.”
The two differ greatly.
“It is interesting that these two versions sort of follow the way Clerch developed as a human being,” Gogoncea notes. “The first one is optimistic and ends with a major chord. The one from 2013 is much more somber and serious and much more cerebral. In the CD liner notes he writes about a feeling of emptiness, or nothingness. You can feel it. It is a sort of metaphor for someone who goes through life and life sort of robs him of emotion and the ability to feel.”
Gogoncea has opted to play the work in its original, happier form.
Guitar Week opens this evening with a gala concert featuring Italian musician Aniello Desiderio, The Jerusalem Guitar Trio and top local artists such as Itamar Erez, Daniel Shatz and Orly Lavan.
For tickets and more information: (03) 620-1185 and