Antoniy Kakamakov began studying the guitar at the age of ten with Milena Valtcheva, in his native country of Bulgaria. In 1997 he won first prize in the junior division of the International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition in Sinaia, Romania, and in the following year he won two first prizes in the junior divisions in the international guitar competitions in Kraiova, Romania and Assenovgrad, Bulgaria. In 1999, he was awarded full scholarship to study guitar at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where his teachers were Terry Graves and Michael Kudirka. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) in 2007, under the tutelage of David Tanenbaum, and has continued his studies there as a Master’s candidate. In 2007, he received second place in the SFCM Concerto Competition and was a prize-winner in the Portland Guitar Festival and Competition. In April 2008, he won first prize in the inaugural Wesley Day Solo Classical Guitar Recording Competition. In the fall of 2008 he will continue his studies at SFCM with Sergio Assad. He has played in master classes for William Kanengiser, Duo Assad, Nigel North, Manuel Barrueco, Paul Galbraith, Ana Vidovic, Antigoni Goni, Pavel Steidl, Gyan Riley, David Grimes and the Katona Twins.
In the beginning of the twentieth century the music written for guitar was largely influenced by Andres Segovia. He commissioned guitarist and non-guitarist composers and then would edit the pieces to better suit the instrument, thus most of this repertoire is very similar in its overall sound. However, twentieth-century compositions that were not supported by Segovia were, in general, superior in content and considered a liberation from the previous dependence on the works by Torroba, Ponce, Villa-lobos etc. Antonio Jose, Frank Martin, Benjamin Britten and Maurice Ohana’s compositions have just recently received the recognition they deserve, partly due to the change of the climate towards deeper understanding and appreciation of intellectual music by audiences. These masterpieces demand a new technical approach and more interpretive imagination than those commissioned by Segovia. The performer immediately recognizes that the way the fingers fit under the fret board is unfamiliar to what they are used to, since the composers did not know the instrument. This program explores the international variety (Spain, Switzerland, England and France) as well as the differences in compositional form and style of the contemporary twentieth century works written for guitar.
The existence of Antonio Jose’s Sonata was not known until 1989 when Angelo Gilardino was informed of an unpublished manuscript by Jose that had been unplayed since 1933. Similar fate followed Frank Martin’s “Quatre Pieces Breves,” which were completely rejected by Segovia since the work did not fit his taste. Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal” was problematic for the audiences at first due to its intellectual complexity. However, it is now considered to be one of the greatest works produced for the instrument. Britten exploits many guitaristic effects – tremolo, pizzicato, open string pedals, etc. Although these techniques greatly expanded the guitarists’ pallet of sound, they were not enough to execute the desired sonorities and textural complexity – as a result, new effects surfaced. All of these pieces put the performer’s technique as well as his/hers interpretive imagination and abilities to a test.
These masterworks also explore different compositional forms. The Antonio Jose Sonata is a four movement sonata form. Frank Martin’s four brief pieces are modeled after baroque movements. Britten’s “Nocturnal” is an unusual reverse variation form, where the whole basis of the piece - a John Dowland song “Come Heavy Sleep” - is not heard until the very end. Britten does this in order to resolve the intensity that has been built up throughout previous variations. Ohana’s “Tiento” is his only piece for six string guitar. Knowing Yepes, Ohana went wild for the ten string guitar and wrote two large cycles for the instrument. “Si le jour parait”(1963) takes the title from Goya’s Caprices “Si Amenece Vamos.” The whole work’s climax is in the middle movement Avril 20, which is a lament for an unnamed political prisoner, killed in the Spanish Civil War. It refers to ghostly figures under the night sky.
Though these works were written within a short time span, they display a variety of styles. Jose was strongly influenced by impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy, which is clearly recognizable in his “Sonata para guitarra.” The lack of Spanish nationalism in his music tragically had to do with his murder. Frank Martin was experimenting with 12 tone technique when he wrote “Quatre Pieces Breves,” identifiable in the outer movements. The numbered sections in Britten’s “Nocturnal” are non tonal, but follow the motivic content and structure of Dowland’s song. Melancholy and the stages of sleep are the crux of the composition. It also explores the passive and the aggressive in every one of us in the climax – the Passacaglia, followed by the resolution – “Come Heavy Sleep.” Ohana’s “Tiento” as well as “Avril 20” are microtonal - he uses bending of the strings creating quarter-tone relations. De Falla had an impact on Ohana’s works. This is recognizable in “Tiento,” which takes and manipulates the habanera rhythm that Falla uses in his “Homehaje.”
This program connects to my career goals because I want to explore twentieth century and more recent music written for the guitar. These pieces are known by the guitar audience, but for the non-guitarist they may possibly be unfamiliar in sound and content. In my future recital programs I would like to dig into this repertoire and introduce it to the wider audience, thus going beyond their familiarity with the traditional sound of the works commissioned by Segovia.