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The Altamira Guitar Festival in Shanghai or: greetings from Iserlohn

Every year more and more Chinese guitarists are travelling to Germany to participate the guitar festival in Iserlohn, one of the biggest guitar festivals of the world.

Because of some Chinese guitar students in Germany, the Chinese guitar company Altamira got involved into that festival. Since some years Altamira is supporting the guitar competition in Iserlohn with donated guitars as prices for the winners.

And this year this company organized a guitar festival in Shanghai! No wonder, that they invited a lot of teachers from Iserlohn.

Beside Thomas Kirchhoff and his wife (and duo partner) Dale Kavanagh, Gerald Garcia was there, too and made a big guitar ensemble with around 50 students. They performed the second movement of the piece “silver clouds chasing the moon” , Gerald has written for Jun Hong Kuang, an outstanding Chinese guitarist, and which was a performance in Iserlohn before. And there were other great western artists in Shanghai, too: Aniello Desiderio, Eliot Fisk, Eva Beneke, Emma Rush and Adrian Walter to name some.

And there were around 500 participants for the competition, but only very few students, who wanted to take masterclasses. I think the average were 2-3 students for each teacher during the whole festival. In Iserlohn it would be probably the opposite.

I went to the concert of the Amadeus Duo (Thomas Kirchhoff and Dale Kavanagh). They made an excited and spirited concert during a huge thunderstorm. The sound of the rain and the thunder outside increased the tension and the good atmosphere inside the concert hall.

Eva Beneke and Emma Rush were introduced as “the two Beauties”. They made a concert with wonderful, fantastic played music, but unfortunately there was a misunderstanding with the sound engineer: the sound engineer didn`t know the word for reverb in Chinese and translated it with loudness. So the microphone was turned off and only a few people who were sitting in the first three rows could hear the excellent performances. Sometimes it is really pitty if there are no professional translators!

The last evening was given to the price winners of the competition: a lot of very young and very good playing guitarists with astonishing performances. One may be seven year old girl opened the concert with the Vals Nr.3 of Augustin Barrios Magnore. Even she played not the real rhythm, it was incredible good and I really would like to sit beside in her guitar class and watch the lesson. How can such a young child learn to play such a difficult piece? Amazing!

More normal seemed to me the first and biggest price winner. His performance of the “Mozart Variations” of Fernando Sor was a little bit boring compared with the other very interesting performances, but perfect. (and he didn`t play the slow introduction, which is a part of that piece and important).

All in all it was a great festival and very new and very good to have such an event in Shanghai! Thanks to the Altamira company, whose leader again showed that industry and commerce sometimes can help to develop culture in a very successful and effective way.

The Guitarsymposium in Iserlohn

The whoole week is over and I didn`t have any time to read my emails or to write something in my blog. Now sitting in the train to my mothers home the days passes through my head. Every day was full with guitar. Every evening we listened excellent and outstanding guitarconcerts. It is difficult to decide which of the concerts was the best. The first one was on Saturday before the festival really started. Irina Kulikova, the winner of the International Guitar Competition in Iserlohn 2008 made a wunderful performance followed by the Romero brothers on Sunday. On Monday Alvaro Pieri from Uruguay played a phantastic concert. For me he is the most special and outstanding guitar artist I know. From Tuesday there were mostly three concerts every evening, so we came back to our guesthouse always very late, but that doesn`t mean that we didn`t make any parties at night…..


During the daytime we could participate the masterclasses or compare guitars from different guitar builders. There were also a sheetmusic exhibition were I bought a lot of music. The most famous names of the teachers  who were teaching the masrterclasses: Eli and Ann Kassner, Gerald Garcia, Oscar Ghiglia, Alvaro Pierri, Tom Johnson, Roman Viazovskiy, Danielle Cumming, Hans-Werner Huppertz, Dale Kavanagh, Los Romeros, Ulrich Stracke, Andrew Zohn, Laura Yong, Irina Kulikova and last but not least the Baltic Quartett and more very good players I didn`t remember the names …..


The composer Gerald Garcia made a beautifull piece special for the festival essemble. The performance of that piece were on Saturday evening and a full success.

Beside participating the activities we enjoyed delicious food and could socialise with the other guitarplayers who came from more than 48 countries over the whole world . Thanks for Thomas Kirchhoff  the organisator of that symposium for his great job!