- Featured: Masakazu Ito
- Release Date: 2/13/2007
Masakazu Ito is recognized as one of today's top guitarists, acclaimed by musicians, composers, conductors, and critics for his mastery of the instrument and it's repertoire. Since his professional debut in Tokyo 1987, Ito has won top prizes in seven major international guitar competitions, including the Andres Segovia International Guitar Competition, the Tokyo International Guitar Competition, the Guitar Foundation of America International Guitar Competition, and the Seto Ohashi International Competition. Ito's solo repertoire adeptly spans time and space, embracing works by composers across the globe, from Germany's J.S. Bach; to Spain's Moreno-Torroba, Tarrega, Rodrigo, and Llobet; to Japan's Takemitsu, Yoshimatsu, and Yocoh; to Brazil's Villa-Lobos and Savio; to his own engaging compositions; and much more. A recital in Germany marked his 1995 European debut. Ito has performed as a featured soloist with symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Japan. In March of 2003, he was chosen by the Japanese government to celebrate 150 years of US-Japan relations with a solo guitar recital at the official residence of the Japanese Consul General. Another unique dimension of Ito's career involves his friendship with popular Japanese musician Kitaro. The two collaborated in an outdoor duo concert in 1991. In 2000, Ito recorded guitar parts for Kitaro's album, Thinking of You (Domo Records). The recording won a Grammy in January 2001 for Best New Age Album. Ito is active as a performer, teacher, composer, and recording artist. He currently teaches concert and ensemble guitar at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. Reviews: "Ito displayed conspicuous skill and tonal range ... proved to be a clean, and technically adroit player, whizzing through thorny passages with aplomb." - Los Angeles Times "... one of the most musically satisfying I have heard in ages ..." - Classical Guitar Magazine, UK "... guitarist Masakazu Ito further contributed to the overall spellbinding performance." - The Denver Post "... sensitive playing ... technically fluent with impressive control ... vast technique ..." - Soundboard Magazine "... a complete musician ... Ito's music is full of musicality, and phrases were carefully treated with immaculate tone. Overall balance and tempo selections were perfect and technical stability and flair is first-rate." - Gendai Guitar Magazine "Masakazu Ito is one of the most exciting guitarists to emerge in recent years. He has it all: virtuosity, musicality and flair. He is certainly a name to watch." - Ricardo Iznaola, Guitarist and Composer "A splendid player." - John Duarte, Music Critic and Composer "He is a highly sensitive musician with a deep understanding of his instrument and the music he plays." - Douglas Bostock, Musical Director and Principal Conductor, Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra, Czech Republic "I cannot help but be impressed by his accomplishments and his refinement. He must surely be considered as one of the finest of a new generation of guitarists to emerge in recent time." - Gilbert Biberian, Guitarist and Composer Review of Ito's recording !Espana! Music from Spain, Volume 1 "This is a cleverly put together volume of works that all have serious weight as compositions. Their quality assures a recording of depth that is one of the most musically satisfying I have heard in ages. The highly consistent sound production is marvelous. Ito's tone is commanding and his phrasing feels very natural. The 'Turina Sonata, Op. 61' is a forceful statement with the unmistakable Spanish idioms that I almost associate with the sound of Segovia. The openness of the guitar harmonies and rugged melodic lines are played with a marvelous control. What I like about Ito's playing is that he sails close to the edge and appears to be smiling as he does so. Not reckless, but not reticent, either. Rodrigo's 'Zarabanda Lejana' is a beautifully plaintive work that deserves to be heard more in concert. The tricky chord voicings are here played with precision. The 'Fandango' from 'Tres Piezas Espanolas' with Rodrigo's signature layers of rhythm and complete use of the fingerboard is taken at a perfect tempo. Each piece is made musical sense of, thus making the listening experience most enjoyable. The 'Passacaglia' and 'Zapateado' are given equally positive treatment. That Ito has an affinity with this music beyond mere understanding is in no doubt. First the first chimes of the 'Invocacion y Danza' and the subsequent storm that is brewed Ito let's the guitar breathe fire. Inserted for pure pleasure is Ito's transcription of 'Dedicatoria from Cuentos de la Juventud, Op. 1' by Granados. The inspiration that Sainz de la Maza evoked in those around him is well noted. Here we can hear some of his valuable contributions to the guitar repertoire. You can tell Ito loves this music. It is rare to hear a recording work so well and want for nothing. Roll on Volume Two!" - Tim Panting, Classical Guitar Magazine (London, UK) May 1999 "... After intermission, the highlight, Masakazu Ito, finally emerged to an eagerly anticipating audience. He sat next to the conductor facing the audience and cradled his guitar as if it were a baby or a fragile gift that could break. The nearly full concert hall was enraptured with the amazing fluidity of Ito's playing. He caressed his guitar without a music score, and he elevated into a different level of consciousness as he occasionally closed and had his head closely bent lovingly over his guitar. He started out playing the 'Concerto de Aranjuez' ... and the audience gave a resounding ovation at the end of this set. ... Ito then played two solos, while the orchestra and the audience attentively looked on. The solos flowed continuously together, 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' and 'Gran Jota.' ... Ito's performance was flawless and beautiful ... just amazing. The crowd rose to it's feet and gave Ito rousing applause and an encore. Just superb." - Marlene Hall, Rapid City Journal, January 25, 1998 "One of the unfortunate aftereffects of the closure of Ambassador Auditorium last season has been the attrition hereabout of classical guitar recitals, a regular feature in that grand little hall. In an impoverished cultural atmosphere, each event takes on increased importance, which added to the allure of Masakazu Ito's appearance at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. In the main, Sunday's recital was built from pillars of the guitar repertoire - Spanish stalwarts Federico Moreno-Torroba and Francisco Tarrega, pieces from the Bach cello suites, a few gems from Brazil's Heitor Villa-Lobos - on which Ito displayed conspicuous skill and tonal range. The guitarist also veered away from the tried and true in small doses. Yuquijiro Yocoh's 'Sakura' is a set of variations on a theme, a familiar, minor-mode Japanese folk song, here treated with koto-like effects and making colorful use of harmonics and muted strings. Russian composer Nikita Kishkin's 'Usher Waltz' - after the Edgar Allan Poe tale - is a quirky, house-of-mirrors waltz that goes pleasantly amok. In spite of the occasional digital glitch, Ito proved himself to be a clean and technically adroit player, whizzing through thorny passages with aplomb. But he also waxed sensitively on softer, more lyrical moments in the program - the genteel bravado of Moreno-Torroba's 'Andante,' from his 'Sonatina,' and the vision of restrained loveliness in Villa-Lobos' 'Schottish.' Nice to see the instrument again - played boldly, at that." - Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1996 "... The first of the Tarrega pieces was 'Capricho Arabe,' a work of such complexity and energy one wondered where Ito could go from there. The second piece, titled 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra,' called for more virtuosity still; and the third - 'Gran Jota' - required unbelievable resources of technique and speed, resources unavailable to all but a handful of world-class players. The excitement during 'Gran Jota' was strong enough that audience members would forget to breathe for measures at a time. At the conclusion of that piece, the audience shot to it's feet, whistling, pounding it's hands and shouting approval with an energy that seemed almost to jolt the performer." - Ron Slaughter, The Mountain Mail, October 12, 1994 "The audience responded very warmly to the guitar concerto performed by guest artist Masakazu Ito. The piece by Spanish composer Rodrigo used a small orchestra, and was skillfully composed so that the orchestra did not cover the guitar. The ancient Spanish air, the principal theme of the work, was highly effective as traded between the orchestra and the soloist. Ito played with fine technical skill and musicality throughout. Especially beautiful were the variation section in the second movement and the short cadenza in the last movement, in which Ito displayed fine articulation and rhythmic flexibility. Throughout the work, the contrast between the orchestra and the soloist gave a true concerto feeling." - Gretchen Beall, Daily Times-Call, November 25, 1993.