Every second spent hearing Edel Muñoz perform is so mesmerizing, it feels like a moment suspended in time. A captivating, world-class performer, Muñoz played the season-ending concert of the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society’s International Series on April 17th. Premiered on YouTube and available on-demand for 30 days, the enchanting program featured music from across the Americas, including Mexico, Venezuela, and Muñoz’s native Cuba.
The presentation, filmed in Muñoz’s home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was simple and effective. The guitarist performed the six pieces without interruption, pausing only to briefly introduce them in both English and Spanish. Though the mic echoed during these talking segments, the sound quality of his playing was wonderfully crisp and clear. Visually, a black background and soft lighting directed the audience’s full attention to the performer — Muñoz, in turn, was entirely focused on his performance.
With eyes only on his guitar, Muñoz’s dedication to the music was clear from the opening notes of Black Falcon, composed for him by Frank A. Wallace in 2013. The performance was dedicated to the composer, who died last year.
Despite the tension in his jaw, Muñoz’s playing was consistently smooth and beautifully controlled. Shifting rapidly between sweetly emotional moments and powerful punchy chords, he gave Black Falcon the deliberate, confident performance it deserved while flexing his technical prowess.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Muñoz’s playing is his ability to make every repeated section just as captivating as the first time. Nowhere was this more evident than in Venezuelan composer Antonio Lauro’s Variaciones sobre una canción infantile (Variations on a Child’s Song), which takes a deceptively simple melody and winds it through an assortment of both energetic and tranquil variations. Though a more lighthearted work, Muñoz treated the piece with as much gravitas as everything else on the program, his fingers dancing up and down the instrument with purpose and direction.
The guitarist brought out his sentimental side with Mexican composer Julio César Oliva’s Vengo a decirte que te quiero (I Come to Tell You That I Love You), coaxing out as much emotion as possible from this passionate yet melancholy piece. That tender mood returned in the second half of the 45-minute concert, which included two short, beautifully lyrical pieces from Muñoz’s home country of Cuba.
Eduardo Martin’s Mirándote saw the guitarist effortlessly navigate two intertwining melodies while Sindo Garay’s Perla marina showcased his signature warm, rich tone. One of the Cuban trova singer’s most famous songs, this arrangement by Rey Guerra lacks the words of the original, yet the intention and emotion were still expressed through Muñoz’s gorgeous performance.
All too soon, Muñoz brought the program to a close with Manuel M. Ponce’s Sonatina meridional, created with virtuoso guitarist Andrés Segovia. Throughout the most technically demanding work on the program, Muñoz remained undaunted, steadfastly weaving his way through the three movements until a flurry of rhythms and arpeggios ended the piece with a flourish. If this is what it’s like to hear Muñoz in a recorded performance, one can only imagine the incredible experience of hearing him live.