NEWS & REVIEWS
ROBINSON CELEBRATES 30 YEARS AT STETSON
September 6, 2013
For everything that world-renowned classical guitarist Stephen Robinson has accomplished – and that list is quite impressive – teaching for 30 years at Stetson certainly is a feather in his cap. But he might say his greatest joy in life was marrying a true partner to him, personally and professionally, who shares a very busy life that includes four sons, a recording career, guest lecturing, hosting workshops, teaching at Stetson and performing numerous concerts around the globe.
A native of New York, Stephen began playing guitar when his parents took him to pick out an instrument for his ninth birthday. “This was a time in history when The Beatles were emerging in America, and everything related to guitars and rock was very cool,” Stephen explains. “But in college, a friend of mine took me to a classical guitar concert. From that point on, I changed my focus on the guitar from rock to classical performance.”
Stephen and Patrece met while they were both pursuing undergraduate degrees at Florida State University in the summer of 1978 and were married two years later. “Patrece is an amazing pianist in her own right but we decided when we were engaged to focus on my performance career. Her skill set is suited more toward business and all the work that goes on ‘behind the stage’ so-to-speak. My career really is ‘our’ career,” said Stephen. Stephen went on to do graduate study at Yale University and returned to FSU where he and Patrece earned master’s degrees. Stephen would go on to earn the first-ever Doctorate in Guitar Performance from FSU as well. Meanwhile, Stephen and Patrece’s family of two quickly expanded to six with the birth of four sons: Anthony, Nicolas, Alexander and Benjamin.
by Timothy Smith
In his eighth studio album, Stephen Robinson presents a satisfying blend of both core classical guitar repertoire and less commonly recorded works. Recognized throughout the musical community as both a virtuoso as well as an erudite pedagogue, Robinson offers a rich blend of dazzling technique, refined tone, and learned interpretations. The disc opens with a touching arrangement of John Lennon's "Imagine", which properly sets the mood for the entire recording, as well as leaving no doubts to the forward-thinking approach of the repertoire selections. "Imagine" also alludes to the approachable nature of this album; all of the selections will touch any music lover, classical guitarist or not. And while the album emphasizes memorable melodies and beautiful harmonies, do not underestimate its musical depth, or the mastery with which it's delivered by Robinson. Among the more well-known classical composers on the album we find the likes of Carlo Domeniconi, Lennox Berkeley, and John Duarte. Robinson navigates each work with a sense of both technical ease and with pleasing, natural interpretations. This disc is wonderful example of a mature, master of the instrument, looking to share the beauty of the classical guitar with as many people as possible. © Timothy Smith
19th INTERNATIONAL GUITAR SYMPOSIUM
by Gangolf Hontheim (Translated by David Dysart)
For the sixth consecutive time, I had the privilege to take part in a guitar festival of such outstanding quality - in every aspect - that it cannot be matched world-wide. The overpowering impressiveness of this program has continued from previous years and has thus become its hallmark . . .
. . . On Thursday of the program…Stephen Robinson took the stage…The opening part of the program was shared with Tobias Aehilg, a local organist. They performed the contemporary work, “God is our Righteousness” by Chris de Blasio – a composition and combination, which from the outset was tonally and structurally convincing for every listener. With wonderful (dreamlike) sound and confident understanding, Stephen interpreted several other contemporary works. One of his encores was, according to the general perception, the second highlight of the week. With “Farewell” by John Doan, composed in Celtic Irish style, Stephen Robinson revealed how a simple musical idea can blossom into an immense emotional message. His interpretation of the work was ethereal! Later, Stephen was practically overwhelmed with questions. Everyone wanted to know more about the composer and the score. Gradually, more and more festival participants confessed that they lost their composure during the piece. It proved to me that greatness and impact of a musical experience are not dependent upon the technical complexity of its composition.
by Trish Wieland
Stephen founded the Guitar Program at Stetson in 1983, his inaugural year on campus. Over the years, he has accumulated many awards including two National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalists Awards, a National Endowment for the Arts Recording Award, a Fulbright Fellowship for Performance and Research in Canada, and two Stetson University Hand Awards for Excellence in Research and Creativity. The first Hand Award was bestowed for his outstanding work with children and seniors and the second was for his unparalleled performances and recordings.
Even with all the accolades, the Robinsons remain grounded. “The most important thing to both of us is family and maintaining balance with everything we juggle. As a professor, I strive to teach not only music but life skills – much like a parent – and the best lesson many of my students tell me I’ve given them is understanding how to ‘do it all’ and be successful. And I wouldn’t be able to do all this without Patrece.”
“What his students admire most is the balance with performing and teaching at such an incredibly high level,” explained Patrece. “This is evident in the quality of students he’s taught and the fact that they are still in contact with him over his 30 years at Stetson. That’s his legacy.”
The Robinsons aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Stephen and Patrece were recently featured at the Guitar Foundation of America’s Annual International Conference at the University of Louisville, where he offered a solo performance and they gave a joint lecture entitled, “Developing and Sustaining a Successful Music Festival.”
In celebration of his 30 years at Stetson, he will present a concert performing solo and collaborate with Stetson colleague, Boyd Jones, D.M.A., University Organist and Price Professor of Organ, performing compositions for guitar with organ and harpsichord. Another celebratory concert will be held on Oct. 25, where he will be the guest soloist with the Stetson University Orchestra and conductor Anthony Hose. Both concerts will be in Lee Chapel.
He and Patrece will welcome their first grandchild in October and a second daughter-in-law in November. Next summer, the Robinsons will be in Italy for their inaugural “Sorrento GuitarFest,” a five-day festival for all levels of classical guitarists.
“When I look at what I do, it’s a privilege,” explained Stephen. “I get to go to college and work with talented students every day. I get to practice guitar every day. I married my best friend and we enjoy working together every day. I am a very lucky guy!”
A sample of Robinson's recordings can be heard online. His CDs are also available on Naxos Music Library, Amazon.com, iTunes and ClassicsOnline. For more information on the Sept 20th performance, please call the Stetson’s School of Music Concert Line at (386) 822-8947, the School of Music at (386) 822-8950, or visit www.stetson.edu/music.
by Rick de Yampert
In “the Beatles – 100 Greatest Songs,” a special Rolling Stone edition on newsstands now, Paul McCartney cites “She’s Leaving Home” as one of his five favorite Beatles songs.
For me, it’s always been No. 217 of the 219 songs the Beatles recorded, eking out its spot just above “Revolution No. 9” and “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).”
I haven’t queued up “She’s Leaving Home” on my record or CD player in, oh, 43 years. I abandoned it after listening to the track several times when it was released on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967.
But I did hear the song last Friday, when Stephen Robinson, a classical guitarist and a professor guitar at Stetson University, performed it and four other Beatle works with the Stetson University Chamber Orchestra. The Fab Four songs were arranged by Leo Brouwer, a Cuban born guitarist and composer who turned 71 last spring.
In their hands, “She’s Leaving Home” became one of my favorite Beatle songs.
Robinson and company also performed “Eleanor Rigby,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Penny Lane” and a surprisingly soulful “Ticket to Ride,” plus Robinson encored with a hauntingly lovely solo rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The performance was, quite simply, one of the 10 most beautiful, enjoyable concerts I’ve ever heard. Here’s hoping a recording of Robinson’s take on the Beatles will appear one day.
Steve Marsh, Classical Guitar
Volume 28, No. 2, October 2009
Stephen Robinson, guitar
Clear Note Publications
M.D. PUJOL: Sonatine. L. BOCCHERINI: Grave Assai - Fandango. P. TREMBLAY: Deux Pieces. I. ALBENIZ: Torre Bermeja. Y. YOCOH: Sakura - Theme and Variations. J. S. BACH: Prelude. Fugue and Allegro. F. TARREGA: Recuerdos de la Alhambra. C. DeBLASIO: God Is Our Righteousness.
In this eclectic programme, the American guitarist Stephen Robinson plays music from South America, Italy, the USA, Canada, Spain, Japan and Germany. These works from differing cultures and eras were the inspiration behind the title; 'Decoupage’ being the ancient art of beautifying objects using many varied and different layers of colourful decorations. This is all very appropriate as, from a musical viewpoint; this CD has to be one of the most attractive ones I’ve listened to in quite a while. Robinson’s musicianship is of the highest calibre, his effortless technique allowing him the freedom to do with this music just about anything he wants and what he does do is exceptionally good from every angle. This is music making of high order.
Highlights include the infrequently-performed Pujol three-movement Sonatine, the finale from Boccherini’s Quintet No. 4 G448 in which Robinson is joined by his fellow countryman Boyd Jones on harpsichord; and the superb Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in which Robinson gives a truly bravura rendition of the final. In the interest stakes’ the absolute pinnacle though must go to the last item from American composer Chris DeBlasio with his relatively lengthy God Is Our Righteousness for guitar and organ and composed for Advent observance. The two instruments of guitar and organ (and we’re talking large church organ here) seem on the surface entirely mismatched, one imagines the disproportionate timbres between the two would be an unconvincing pairing but the skill of the composer has won through and here is an outstandingly beautiful and moving work. Once again Robinson is joined by Boyd Jones.
The performances throughout are all highly committed and the sound engineer has done his job well. Very highly recommended.
Ashley Mark Publishing Company, United Kingdom
The guitarist Stephen Robinson combines effortless virtuosity with intelligence and good taste. His playing of Bach was lively and animated, and one seldom finds the various independent voices so cleanly delineated, complete with full bass and florid embellishment. His playing was imbued with rustic poetry.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
MAXIMUM POETIC EXPRESSION (headline) Robinson’s interpretations reveled in elated poetic expression which the audience of the Cultural Activities of the Region of Rio Piedras enjoyed tremendously. The arrangement by the Mexican composer, Manuel Ponce, of the popular Catalan song El noi de la mare served as the prelude for a beautifully executed recital full of virtuosity, magnificent technical precision, and a diverse range of sound masterfully delivered by Robinson’s guitar. He finished his program with the formidable movement Fuoco from the Sonatina Libra by the French composer, Roland Dyens - truly a demonstration of fiery virtuosity and dexterity. This magnificent north American guitarist responded to the crowd’s standing ovation with a subtle, religious Swedish hymn and Barrios’ dazzling Vals opus 8, no. 4.
EL NUEVO DIA - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Anyone who has not heard Robinson play is missing one of America’s great guitarists, a performer of brilliance, elegance, and lyricism.
Some of the orchestra’s most alluring moments came in the Fantasia para un gentilhombre, a tuneful guitar and orchestra piece by Joaquin Rodrigo. Guitar soloist Robinson did some seductive playing of his own. In lyrical spots he summoned gentle, smooth tones that sounded as if they had been somehow just stroked from the strings, not plucked. And when the music turned vigorous, he played with an incisiveness and jangle that made the music’s Spanish tang take hold immediately.
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL - Orlando, Florida
’Robinson’s concert . . . . Certainly, one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen.’
VIOL’O INTERCAMBIO (Santos, Brazil- Guitar Magazine)
The music wasn’t merely impressive Friday, when Robinson took the stage. It was superb. He began with a hushed, exquisite melodious work by Oscar Ahnfelt, and followed it up seamlessly with a folksy melody by Augustin Barrios Mangore. He concluded with classics by Albeniz and Tedesco, pieces that revealed his growing ability to tap into inner resources and produce rich, full sonic effects while retaining his characteristic clean, crisp fingering. Robinson’s performance throughout was a delight, but nowhere better than in his sensitive interpretation of arias from Rigoletto one of the operas arranged for guitar by Johann Kaspar Mertz. Robinson’s guitar sang, particularly in the light-hearted La Dona e Mobile in which it was so articulate that one almost expected to hear words.
THE NEWS-JOURNAL - Daytona Beach, Florida
At Illinois Central College, Stephen Robinson was providing an extraordinary treat. This is a mature artist capable of the most graceful nuances and rousing dramatic effects. It was clearly that of a virtuoso of the highest order. He is an utterly captivating artist, a modern master of an instrument and a style that relies on the subtle graces and an absolute control of his instrument and his material.
JOURNAL STAR - Peoria, Illinois
FINE GUITARIST GIVES AN ECLECTIC, EFFORTLESS SHOW (headline) A sense of drama, a sense of style - these are things beyond technique that can make a performance compelling in any medium, and they gave the recital of Stephen Robinson at California State University, Sacramento, a special distinction Tuesday. His transcription of a Haydn string trio was performed impeccably, the effortless flow of melody within those regular forms was lively with human spirit. Albeniz’s Asturias had the heat of real Spanish feeling. The ending was brilliantly atmospheric; Robinson knows the power of a pause, the strength in softness.
THE SACRAMENTO BEE - Sacramento, California
GUITARIST FILLS EVENING WITH MUSICAL DELIGHTS (headline) His interpretations and commanding technique were enchanting.
THE SENTINEL - Winston-Salem, North Carolina
NOTES DANCE IN KAMMERGILD’S (ORCHESTRA) CONCERT (headline) The pieces were filled with opportunities to turn little transitional phrases into moments of delicious subtlety. Robinson made the most of them, and possibly he inspired his colleagues to do the same. The interplay between Robinson’s guitar and the continuo cello in the Vivaldi D Major was especially precious.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - St. Louis, Missouri
Robinson, appearing under the aegis of the Chamber Music Society of Greater Little Rock, vastly pleased the comfortably full house (organizers had to bring in extra chairs). Robinson neatly alternated pensive, expressive pieces by Barrios-Mangore, with fingernail rippers like the Capriccio Cantabile, homage to tango king Astor Piazzolla by Rex Willis.
ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE - Little Rock
Robinson played a difficult repertoire of monster guitar (works). Clearly, Robinson made it look much too easy. He plays with great emotional feeling and expression. The highlight was his sensitive interpretation of Florida guitar composer, Rex Willis’ intriguing Guitar Suite. The suite takes the audience on a trip of tone colors and moods, brilliantly played by Robinson.
FIRST COAST ENTERTAINER - Jacksonville, Florida
GUITARIST BALANCES TALENT WITH COMMUNICATION (headline) He played with disciplined technique, fluent rhythm, expressive dynamics, clean articulation and a tasteful sense of proportion. Robinson showed off his virtuosity. He played with color and charm.
THE PLAIN DEALER - Cleveland, Ohio
Dowland lute songs have been known to be risky endeavors on the guitar, but Robinson succeeded in meeting the challenge with an ever so delicate touch. A Fancy was wistful and sweet.
THE WASHINGTON POST
The applause was so thunderous that by its conclusion the Stetson guitar professor’s concert had taken on cult quality. Tuesday’s program, a selection of nothing but tried-and-true musical bonbons, couldn’t have been more delightful . . . a superb guitar concert.”
THE NEWS-JOURNAL - Daytona Beach, Florida
Robinson plays with great poise and a surprisingly wide dynamic range. He provided the kind of playing one would like to hear more of. of.
THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION
Guitar recitals on the level of the one Stephen Robinson gave at Rollins College on Sunday probably are rare anywhere.
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL - Orlando, Florida
A BRILLIANT GUITAR RECITAL (headline) We forget sometimes what majesty and grandeur the guitar can have, just as we forget the vast range of textural and coloristic effects of which it is capable. Robinson deployed them all Wednesday. His technique is stunning, too.
MORNING ADVOCATE - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
MASTERFUL PERFORMANCE BY STEPHEN ROBINSON CLOSES OUT PAA’s CONCERT SEASON (headline)
THE STAR NEWS - Medford, Wisconsin
GUITARIST MAKES MAGIC WITH SYMPHONY (headline) Stephen Robinson delivered one of the year’s spellbinding performances on Ponce’s Concerto for Guitar. Robinson’s expressive range was well in evidence. He coaxed tones from his guitar like a lover coaxing romantic protestation.
TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT - (John Habich) Tallahassee, Florida
ROBINSON SHOWS MASTERY OF GUITAR (headline) In an impressive recital, Robinson demonstrated rare mastery of the guitar combined with extraordinary interpretive gifts that left no doubt why he has garnered such a large number of awards, grants and prizes here and abroad. What ultimately delights is his superior musicianship.
GREENWICH TIME - Greenwich, Connecticut
ROBINSON’s performance was the highlight of the evening. Of special attractiveness was Turina’s Fandanguilla, full of typical Spanish guitar sounds to be sure, but in Robinson’s hands it became three minutes of strikingly beautiful sound images. The chance to hear Robinson’s expert guitar playing made the evening.
THE EVENING POST - Charleston, South Carolina
Texas A&M students gathered in Canterbury House to hear Robinson play a distinguished recital. Fiery moments, singing tone, and bursts of color pointed up Robinson’s playing every phrase becomes a gem.
BRYAN COLLEGE STATION EAGLE - College Station, Texas
CLASSICAL GUITARIST STEPHEN ROBINSON IS MASTER OF HIS ART (headline)
THE NEWS -JOURNAL - Daytona Beach, Florida
GUITARIST’S DOTHAN CONCERT A TRIUMPH OF SIMPLE HUMAN VIRTUOSITY (headline) Clearly, Robinson is a world class guitarist.
THE DOTHAN EAGLE - Dothan, Alabama
In the hands of skilled performer like Stephen Robinson, the classical guitar can hold an audience of two hundred spellbound for ninety minutes . . . A rising star in the guitar galaxy.
IOWEGIAN - Centerville, Iowa
SHEER ARTISTRY MARKS GUITAR RECITAL (headline) A different kind of aesthetic experience was provided by the remarkable adept playing of this consummate artist.
ALBERT LEA TRIBUNE - Albert Lea, Minnesota
Spain’s contribution to the evening’s fare was Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Robinson displayed striking virtuosity as well as a keen ability to expressively deliver a melodic line. His expressive talents were most apparent in the soulful slow movement. The melody, riddled with complex ornamentation, sounded almost improvised in Robinson’s capable hands. The final movement brought back the zesty folksy atmosphere of the first movement, along with some considerable gymnastics for the guitarist. A flourish from the soloist brought the effervescent concerto to a bubbling conclusion.
TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT - (Michael Flynn) Tallahassee, Florida
Rodrigo’s Fantasia for guitar and orchestra featured the soloist of the evening. The melodies were given hauntingly beautiful life on Robinson’s guitar strings. An extraordinarily gifted artist, he made the guitar sing as elegantly and movingly as any instrument.
THE ALBANY HERALD - Albany, Georgia
Reviews & Accolades
Check back often for the latest headlines and press coverage.