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“Next Level” Guitarist Bokyung Byun Plays Rodrigo

Award-winning classical guitarist brings a beloved classic to the Sarasota Orchestra stage.

Presented by Sarasota Orchestra April 25, 2023

“Here is a simple fact,” gushes Soundboard Magazine about guitarist Bokyung Byun, “with artistry such as Ms. Byun’s, the state-of-the-art of guitar performance has reached a new level.” Byun brings her next-level guitar performance to Sarasota Orchestra on May 13 for Discoveries: Musical Postcards, during which she performs Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with conductor Joseph Young on the podium.

This showpiece by Rodrigo has become one of the most famous pieces of music for the guitar and certainly one of the composer’s most enduring works. Inspired by the lush gardens at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez outside of Madrid, Spain, Rodrigo worked to capture "the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains" found there. He suggested that the music “should sound like the hidden breeze that stirs the treetops in the parks, as strong as a butterfly, as dainty as a verónica,” referring to a move in bullfighting.

This music also holds a special place for Bokyung Byun, who calls the Concierto de Aranjuez one of the first pieces that made her fall in love with the guitar. “What truly sets this concerto apart is its ability to evoke such deep emotions within the listener,” says Byun. “The way the music is written allows the guitarist to truly sing his or her heart out through the guitar, and it is a testament to Rodrigo's mastery of the instrument.” Byun finds the Concierto’s sonorities and textures “breathtaking,” adding that “it is no wonder that this piece has become one of the most beloved in the classical guitar repertoire.”

An avid advocate for bringing about more interest in the guitar, Byun co-founded Guitarlab, an online platform for guitar students and teachers. “In the early days of the Classical Guitar, a few influential names played all the concerts, recorded all the music, and dictated the future of the instrument,” claims Guitarlab’s website, but Byun and her partners at Guitarlab are actively working to broaden the range of opportunities for budding guitarists. Byun is also a co-founder of the Sounding Board Project: The New Music Initiative for Guitarists and Composers. Sounding Board pairs composers with guitarists or ensembles in order to encourage and foster the creation of vibrant new music for the versatile instrument.

Through her blend of trailblazing vision and undeniably fine musicianship, Bokyung Byun is certainly making waves. In 2018 she became the first female winner in the 18-year history of the esteemed JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, garnering praise from Falletta herself. In 2021 Byun earned the grand prize at the Guitar Foundation of American International Concert Artists Competition, which calls itself “a covered milestone” for classical guitarists, and in 2023 she received an Avery Fisher Career Grant, which is awarded to artists showing “great potential for major careers in classical music.”

To learn more and purchase tickets to Sarasota Orchestra’s Discoveries: Musical Postcards concert, visit the Box Office at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, call (941) 953-3434, or visit SarasotaOrchestra.org. Program and featured artists are subject to change.

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