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Manuel Barrueco: A Gift and a Life.

Manuel Barrueco: A Gift and a Life. DVD. Directed by Michael Lawrence. [Baltimore, MD]: Michael Lawrence Films, 2005. $29.99.

Aaron Shearer: A Life with the Guitar. DVD. Directed by Michael Lawrence. [Baltimore, MD]: Michael Lawrence Films, 2004. $29.99.

Manuel Barrueco is considered to be one of the finest classical guitarists performing today. Two recently released documentary DVDs explain how that came to be. Manuel Barrueco: A Gift and a Life describes how the Cuban-born guitarist developed from a rebellious youth into an internationally acclaimed concert artist. Aaron Shearer: A Life With the Guitar chronicles the career of Barrueco's mentor and teacher at Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.

The Barrueco documentary presents early photos and commentary by the guitarist, which paint a picture of his difficult youth and sometimes turbulent development at the Peabody Conservatory. Barrueco's reflections concerning his family's anguish at having to leave Cuba are particularly poignant. His musical respect for the renowned Cuban composer, Leo Brouwer, is explored while revealing their opposite perspectives on Fidel Castro's government. (Brouwer still lives in Cuba.)

Enlightening and fascinating interviews with world acclaimed musicians detail the current phase of Barrueco's career. Fellow guitarists David Russell and Eliot Fisk, plus Sergio and Odair Assad describe the impact Barrueco has made specifically in the world of the guitar but also to the world of music in general. Other great musicians who have collaborated in musical projects with Barrueco describe the extent of his genius, virtuosity, and benevolence. These artists include Placido Domingo, Al Di Meola and Andy Summers.

All of the above is interspersed with dazzling footage of Barrueco performing works by Bach, Albeniz, Granados, Villa-Lobos, Rodrigo, and Lennon/McCartney. (Even a portion of the commercial showing Barrueco playing his guitar while riding in the back of a Lexus automobile is included.) Camera angles allow excellent views of the guitarist's superb technique while the audio quality provides a fine opportunity to experience this artist's marvelous tone production and tasteful nuance of expression.

The selectable "extras" in the Barrueco DVD are very helpful. Subtitles in English, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese are available for the viewer. There is a separate listing of the musical pieces performed which allows the viewer to click directly to each performance. A substantial printed biography of the guitarist is also included.

Aaron Shearer: A Life with the Guitar describes the life and career of one of the twentieth century's most well known classical guitar educators. The documentary begins with a Manuel Barrueco master class at the Peabody Conservatory, with Shearer in attendance as a special guest. Shearer created the guitar program at Peabody in the 1960s (the first of its kind in a major U.S. conservatory) where he also served as Barrueco's teacher. (As an interesting turn of events, I was working as a graduate intern in Peabody's Friedheim Music Library during this master class, which allowed me to observe some of the filming for this DVD.)

Several former Shearer students, who are now important classical guitarists, present commentary concerning the noteworthy contributions Shearer has made to the world of guitar performance and education. David Tanenbaum and David Starobin join Peabody guitar faculty members Manuel Barrueco, Julian Gray, and Ray-Chester for this portion of the program. Shearer's development of his legendary series of instruction books is also explored, including how he sought the advice of classical guitar experts Andres Segovia and Sophocles Papas.

Footage of Manuel Barrueco's master class displays his considerable talents as a teacher and as a performer. He performs works by Rodrigo, Scarlatti, and Nazareth. We are also allowed a glimpse of what made Shearer such a renowned teacher as he coaches some young guitarists.

In the "extras" section of this DVD there are biographies and discographies of the artists who appear in the production. There is also a listing of the musical pieces performed (by the professionals as well as the students of the master class) indicating the composers and performers.

Michael Lawrence, who truly did a fine job of producing and directing these DVDs, certainly has some interesting credentials. He was a student of Aaron Shearer and a graduate of the first guitar class at the Peabody Conservatory. Lawrence also directed the first film ever commissioned by the Library of Congress, Memory and Imagination, which features Isaac Stern, Francis Ford Coppola, and Gore Vidal. More information is available about both of these DVDs and other Michael Lawrence films at

Both of these offerings by Michael Lawrence (each having an approximately one-hour running time) would be valuable additions to a DVD collection, especially if guitarists patronize the library. Their stories are told effectively and succinctly with tastefully presented performances that bring just as much reward from the viewing as from the listening.


Messiah College
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Title Annotation:"Aaron Shearer: A Life with the Guitar"
Author:Zwally, Randall
Article Type:Video recording review
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Previous Article:Music from the Inside Out.
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