Cordoba Guitar Festival
This year marked the 30th anniversary for the Festival de la Guitarra de Cordoba. With more than 30 performances over a range of styles, classes in a variety of genres and multiple performance venues, this is one of the most varied guitar festivals in Europe. Located in the Andalusian city of Cordoba, participants of the festival can enjoy the stunning backdrop of a city rich in culture and history. Adding to the grand scope of this festival is its long duration of almost three weeks in the scorching month of July.
Organization and Students
Festival participants are free to partake in the proceedings for a matter of days or stay for the entire duration. While this offers a lot of flexibility to students it also creates a less coherent student community and you may find this festival more disparate than others. What really makes this festival tick, however, is the camaraderie among students who organize their own outings and the staff who are organized, accommodating and very friendly.
The masterclass lineup at the festival is very impressive with David Russell, Manuel Barrueco, Leo Brouwer, and Sergio and Odair Assad being regular instructors. Students can elect whom they would like to study with in courses that run between two and three days. These courses have a limited enrollment of around 12 people each and the more popular ones fill up quickly, so be sure to apply early. Courses currently cost 175 euros for active participants and 55 euros for passive. For this price the experience can be somewhat limiting as for 175 euros you only get one hour long lesson with the instructor. So if you want to have several lessons, be sure to have deep pockets too! The real value comes with free admission to all of the festival events once you have registered for at least one course.
In addition to the classes there is also and international competition that is open to all class participants. The turn out for 2010 was strong, perhaps due to the free choice of repertoire, and consisted of two rounds of twelve and twenty minutes duration. Prizes include a concert guitar by Jose Ramirez and a return concert in the following festival. This years finalists included 1st prize Sanja Plohl (Slovenia) 2nd Prize Mircea Stefan Gogoncea, and 3rd prize Veronique van Duurling (Belgium). Mircea started the proceedings with a very colorful and mellifluous rendition of Tansman’s Variations on a theme by Scriabin followed by the virtuosic Capriccio Diabolico by Tedesco, then Sanja played Aguado’s ubiquitous Rondo in A minor and after breaking her nail bravely went on to carve up Rodrigo’s Sonata Giocosa. Veronique opened with Sor’s Mozart variations and ended the competition with two movements from Domeniconi’s everwool – Koyunbaba
Concerts in the festival are as diverse in content as they are in location with performances from Pepe Romero and Ignacio Rodes to Placebo and Deep Purple to Paco de Lucia and Joan Manuel Serrat. If you have an equal interest in rock legends and Flamenco then you will be in guitar heaven here at the festival. With seven venues housing the different concerts, you might find yourself doing a fair bit of walking but with Cordoba being a small city the furthest venues are only a short taxi ride away. With student status you gain free access to almost all the concerts, which is a great deal.
Cordoba is spattered with little hostels that are close to the festival buildings but for a couple of reccomendations:
Hostel Sanata Ana – around 35 euros per night with air con, tv, wi-fi and a nice bathroom
Hostel Plateros – around 28 euros with breakfast air con wi fi and bathroom.
Plateros is one of the nicest places to stay that I saw during the festival as it has a quiet street with an outside restaurant and is right across from one of the concert halls.
Cordoba isn’t serviced by an international airport and the easiest way to get there is by taking the AVE train from Madrid/Malaga. The AVE is a high speed train that will take you directly to Cordoba from Madrid in under two hours. After purchasing my first ticket from the Renfe site on the web I found out that its about 50% cheaper if you just turn up at the train station. Its the low season in Summer so you will most likely get a seat without reservations.
From other cities, like Granada or Seville there are regular buses that are cheap and effective.