Thanks to all for making the Sketches of Mexico Project such a huge success. After concerts in the UK, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Spain, China and Mexico, the project proved to be a huge success with audiences and critics. Particularly memorable were the Sketches of Mexico workshops where children could make their own ´Sketches of Mexico´inspired by live music, leading to a wonderful array of new art works! Many thanks to all artists who took part as well as VJ´s Joe Fairweather-Hole in the UK and Mario Márquez in Mexico.

As well as concerts from Ronnie Scotts to the Alhambra in Granada, highlights of 2012 included Machaca´s sold out Wigmore Hall Debut in London as well as concerto performances with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Coro Cervantes. In Mexico, 2012 saw the launch of a new project, ´Sonets and Serenades´ with Mexican actress Sophie Alexander-Katz and an array of performances including work with the wonderful dance company Danzalud.

2013 promises to be an equal roller-coaster ride starting off with concerts in Mexico before embarking on a spring/summer tour of over twenty UK venues. Highlights include recitals at Wigmore Hall with Adam Walker (flute), Rodrigo´s ´Concierto de Aranjuez´ with the RTÉ Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, recitals at Kings Place for Live Music Now 35th anniversary, Ronnie Scotts and a tour of Scotland. Collaborations include recitals with Adam Walker (flute) Lizzie Ball (violin), Harriet MacKenzie (violin), Oliver Cox (percussion), the Doric Quartet plus VJ´s Mario Márquez and Joe Fairweather-Hole. April 2013 sees  release of ´Sometime I Sing´, a new recording on the Signum Label of the works for tenor and guitar by Alec Roth with Mark Padmore (tenor).

Please come and join us for some of the Sketches of Mexico 2013 performances in London or elsewhere or come to some of the UK´s major festivals such as Spitalfields Festival, North Norfolk Festival, Beaminster Festival or up north for the Vamos Festival in Newcastle.

July and August will see the launch of Sketches of Mexico at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City before the Singing Dragon 2013 tour in China during september. And how best to celebrate Mexican culture than with a performance of Sketches of Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead at Cardiffs´ brand new concert hall on 31st October.

For all details please visit the concert diary. I hope to see you there.

Morgan Szymanski

After the huge success of Machaca’s sold out Wigmore Hall Debut, 2012 promises to be full of exciting projects and performances.

The Sketches of Mexico Project will take off during La Linea 2012 and the official London launch will be at London’s Bolivar Hall on the 26th of April. All projections will be presented by Joe Fairweather Hole. The Mexican launch will be on the 25th of August at Cenart in Mexico City where Mario Marquez will be the VJ.

Concerts with Adam Walker (City of London Festival), the LSE Mexican Week and the Dorset County Museum promise an exiting spring UK tour before the Sketches of Mexico performances in Ensenada and Los Cabos in Baja California, Mexico.

A special programme with Mexican actress Sophie Alexander entitled Sonetos y Serenatas (Sonnets and Serenades) will see it’s premiere at Mexico City’s Foro Shakespeare in April before solo performances at La Linea (26th April) and Ronnie Scotts with Machaca (29th April).

Concerts with ODuo, the Carducci Cuartet and Harriet MacKenzie precede the Bulawayo Music Festival in Zimbabwe before embarking on a tour which includes performances with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sean Sibe and Coro Cervantes in London, Oxford Leamington and the Gower, Lake District Summer Music and Beaminster Festivals to name a few.  The Sketches of Mexico tour of Mexico will begin in August and end in December at Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Helenico. For more details please visit the concert diary.

Morgan Szymanski (guitar) and Harriet Mackenzie (violin) at the London Classical Guitar Festival, Bolivar Hall, 13th of September 2011. Reviewed by Thérèse Wassily Saba.

The Mexican guitarist Morgan Szymanski who lives in London gave a rectal with the British violinist Harriet Mackenzie to open the fourth edition of the London Classical Guitar Festival, which is organised annually by ILAMS (the Iberian and Latin American Music Society). Their programme included arrangements of folk songs such as Estrellita by Manuel M.Ponce arranged for guitar and violin by Morgan Szymanski, Romanian Folk Dances by Bela Bartók and Spanish Folk Songs by Manuel de Falla. Harriet Mackenzie announced that she had heard the original field recordings which Bela Bartók had collected in 1915 and one could hear this in her bowing style, her use of glissandi, the phrasing and beautifully played melodic lines in the Romanian Five Folk Songs: Joc cu bata, Braul, Buciumeana, Poarca Romaneasca, and with a powerful and focused performance of the very rhythmic Maruntel.

Each of the performers played solos: Morgan Szymanski gave a very good performance of the tremolo piece Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios by Agustín Barrios Mangoré and Harriet Mackenzie gave a soothing performance of the Andante from Sonata in A minor BWV1003 by J.S. Bach as a violin solo.

Paganini was famous for writing violin and guitar duets with a virtuosic part for the violin and a very plain and simple part for the guitarist. The exception to this is Paganini’s three-movement Sonata Concertata in A Major Op.61 (1804) which has technically balanced parts for violin and guitar; Morgan Szymanski played his own small cadenzas in there as well.  They finished the concert with two movements from Astor Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango, building slowly to a fortissimo and with an excellent feel for the syncopations in the rhythm.

Those of you who recall the dramatic robbery of Morgan Szymanski’s (and Craig Ogden’s) guitars, under the pretence of each of them playing at a funeral in a central London church – different churches but on the same day – may be wondering what Morgan Szymanski is paying at the moment. He is now performing on a guitar by the Chinese guitar maker, Yulong Guo, which fared very well alongside Harriet Mackenzie’s historic instrument.

Morgan Szymanski and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields by Thérèse Wassily Saba.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields was founded in 1958 by Sir Neville Marriner; it is a chamber orchestra with a long history of working with guitarists. On this occasion there was no conductor and the lead violinist, Kenneth Sillito, took on the role of leading/conducting the orchestra of 17 instrumentalists. They began with the Holberg Suite Op.40  by Grieg. The sound they produced was rich and filled the Wigmore Hall. Their dynamics were carefully planned and the contrasts between piano and forte dynamics were very clear.

The Mexican guitarist Morgan Szymanski joined the Academy for the Guitar Concerto RV93 in D major by Vivaldi. Positioned in the centre of the ensemble and although he played without any amplification, I could still hear his guitar and the changes of timbres at the back of the hall, in this solidly good performance of the work.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields performed the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9 by Villa-Lobos. The work was completed in 1945 and exists in two versions: one for choir, singing without words, and in the version we heard here for chamber ensemble (no guitar, of course). The work builds very dramatically into what Villa-Lobos described as ‘the suggestion of a large organ’.

The Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra by the Irish/German composer Alec Roth was written for Morgan Szymanski. The orchestration was very attractive; Alec Roth used the resources of the guitar and string ensemble very well to create attractive sound colours, such as his use of pizzicato strings against strummed chords on the guitar. There is an effective and beautiful tremolo section later. One could hear the pleasure of the composer in creating these sounds. The Concerto had a distinctly individual nature and did not sound like anyone else’s composition.

The Concerto starts with the guitar playing solo in harmonics, followed by an ettouffe ostinato passage, which acts as an introduction for the string orchestra. The ostinato on the guitar continues but with a building up of ideas and thus the music is immediately engaging and easy to follow. The catchy rhythm of the first movement, March, added to this accessibility. The Serenade second movement has a more relaxed and romantic character, with gentle and soothing harmony, ending dramatically with the strings using contemporary playing techniques, such as creating the sounds of noisy seagulls by squeaking up and down their fingerboards with their bows. The Nocturne third movement has two distinctive characters: the gentle lullaby contrasted with the more frightening fears that come upon us in the dark. The final movement called Fiesta is as lively as its title suggests and ends with a very positive feel.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Morgan Szymanski have been touring with the Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra by Alec Roth since October 2010. This was its London première.