Valerie Hartzell began her classical guitar studies on a half-size Ramirez at the age of three. At age six, she studied with Alexandre Lagoya at the Académie Internationale d’Eté in Nice, France. She has performed in Europe, Canada, and the United States in many music festivals, including the Eastfield College Guitar Festival and Competition in Texas, the Tennessee Festival at MTSU, the East Carolina University Competition/Festival and the the MANC Guitar Competition/Festival in North Carolina, the Pennsylvania Academy of Music Festival (where she shared the stage with Eliot Fisk), and the 2010 ChamberArt Festival in Madrid, Spain. In March of 2007, Ms. Hartzell performed with studio members of the Houston Grand Opera at the Rienzi Recital Series. She has also performed as a guest soloist for the NYC Classical Guitar Society, the Troubadour Series at Wofford College, The Charlotte Guitar Society, the Elon Guitar Society, and at universities and colleges across the United States. She was a prizewinner at the Portland Guitar Competition, the ECU Competition, and the Appalachian Guitar Festival and Competition, and won first prizes at the 10th International Guitar Competition "Simone Salmaso" in Italy and the Concours de Guitare Classique Heitor Villa-Lobos in France.
Ms. Hartzell finished her Bachelor of Music Degree at the Peabody Conservatory in 1997 as a scholarship student of Manuel Barrueco. She then became a Graduate Teaching Fellow, and later an Adjunct Faculty member, at Radford University where she earned her Master of Music Degree in 1999. Currently, she teaches at Houston Community College, maintains a private teaching studio, and is a member of the Presti Quartet--the first all-women professional classical guitar quartet in the United States. Valerie Hartzell is the creator and Director of the annual "Classical Minds" Guitar Institute and Competition at Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and is Director of the Greater Houston Guitar Guild.
Notes from the composer on Ex Tenebris
Ex Tenebris was commissioned in the spring of 2010 by my longtime friend and colleague Valerie Hartzell. I welcomed the challenge of writing a substantial piece for solo guitar, and wanted to use the instrument’s many expressive possibilities. The concept for this piece came from the Latin proverb "Ex tenebris lux," or "Out of darkness comes light." I have always loved this phrase, and thought it a perfect idea to inspire a new work. The composition reflects a psychological progression from darker to lighter moods. To me, darker emotions have always seemed more complex and nuanced than utter joy (which is a simple and wholesome feeling); perhaps because of a degree of self-consciousness that often creeps in when one is sad. That is why the first part of the composition has many shades of mood, from tragic pathos to elegiac sorrow, and uses more complex harmonies and a greater variety of instrumental techniques than the second half, which is the expression of quietly building excitement culminating in joyfully raucous strums of the finale.
Notes from the composer on Drift
Drift grew from a melody I had originally conceived for an operatic production of King Lear that never happened. Several years later, I was playing through old musical ideas I’d had and this melody captured my mood. The haunting, thoughtful, and flowing character of Drift reminded me of how we move through life and all its experiences like the passenger of a small boat, navigating the river's waters yet always drifting forward to our destination.
Producer: Valerie Hartzell & Richard Hartzell
Recording Engineer & Producer: Todd Hulslander
Recorded on October 4-13, 2010
Strings: Savarez Alliance Cantiga 510 AR
Guitar: Gregory Byers
Art Direction & Design: Jennifer Grassman
Photography: Robert Nejako
Recorded at the KUHF- Houston Public Radio Studios
I dedicate this CD to my first classical guitar teacher, Brigitte Cazebonne. This recording would not have been possible without the financial support of Debbie and Chris Donofrio, Cheryl Reese, Robert and Sharon Nejako, and Rena Bond. I am most grateful to Jennifer Grassman for the CD art and graphic design, and to my husband Robert Nejako and my friends and students for their support. Lastly, I thank Frank and Leanne Koonce for production assistance.