"Frets & Strings," Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra's 2007-08 chamber series opener this weekend, will spotlight one of the world's leading lute and guitar virtuosos, John Schneiderman.
Led by violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, the group's resident artistic director, Schneiderman, violinist Janet Strauss, violist Aaron Westman and cellist Elisabeth Le Guin will perform a program of 17th and 18th century works, framed by rarely heard guitar quintets by Luigi Boccherini.
The program will be performed Saturday at 8 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church and Sunday at 4 p.m. at All Saints' in Beverly Hills.
Le Guin will present a preconcert lecture about the program, which is tailor-made for Schneiderman. "Much of what we're performing is music that I've been exploring since I started playing the instruments," he said.
Orange County-based Schneiderman cut his professional teeth on American bluegrass and folk music, starting on his mother's ukulele at age 5. He took up piano at 7 but soon fell in love with the five-string banjo. "My parents were sort of folkies; they had taken me to see Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary," he says. At age 10 he was winning prizes at California bluegrass festivals as a banjo and fiddle player.
He expanded his range with electric bass and classical guitar. The latter led him to the Renaissance lute in 1976; the 24-string baroque lute followed in 1981. Schneiderman says he couldn't resist the rich repertoire of these once-prominent instruments; his discography features rarely or never-before-recorded music for lute and guitar.
"I was also attracted to the sound of the instrument. In the baroque, it has a built-in resonance. It sounds like you're playing in a church even if you're just playing in your bedroom."
For the last five years, Schneiderman, who also teaches at three campuses and is part of chamber ensemble Galanterie, has added another dimension to his career: He and Oleg Timofeyev are the Czar's Guitars, specializing in the seven-string Russian guitar.
"People are always asking me what's my favorite instrument. I guess the way to test that would be what would I grab first in a fire. But to me, it's one big, happy, plucked-string family."
-- Lynne Heffley