Ricardo Iznaola brings beautiful whimsy to Strauss



On April 7, people began making their way into the Strauss Performing Arts Recital Hall to see Ricardo Iznaola play.

Iznaola is a Cuban-born musician with experience as a composer, recording artist, teacher, lecturer and writer. In 1991, he founded Iznaola Guitar Works, a recording and publishing company and is currently the director of the Conservatory Program and Chair of the Guitar and Harp Department at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.

Taking the stage at 7:30 p.m., he sat alone with only his guitar in the middle of the stage. The program was structured around four suites, each (with the exception of the final set) beginning with a Bach prelude.

Before beginning with the first set, he thanked the audience of about 70 for coming out to see him in Omaha where, he said, he had “many great memories.” He then admitted that the four sets of this show had come from a free association exercise based on the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a certain topic.

The first act began with Iznaola taking a deep breath and beginning Bach’s Prelude, from Lute Suite BWV 995. The set also featured music from Spanish musicians Miguel Llobet, Francisco Tarrega and Regino Sainz de la Maza. The entire set was lovely and moving, almost whimsical. There was an amazing flow from song to song. The second song, “Caprico Arabe,” was a soft and romantic lullaby with Spanish roots and a French feeling.

The second set began with Bach’s Prelude from Lute Suite BWV 996.  It featured artists primarily known for their piano works, like Issac Albeniz, Robert Schumann and Fredric Chopin, and was much more upbeat and quick. There was an intense urgency to the whole set.

After a short intermission, Iznaola returned to the stage to begin his third set with Bach’s Prelude, from Lute Suite BMV 997. The final two sets featured works by South American composers. The third set, with a quicker tempo, featured music from Antonio Lauro, including his songs “Yacambu,” “Natalia” and “El Marabino.” The soulful “Natalia” was the clear standout, with its rich and soulful elements.

The fourth and final set featured songs from Heitor Villar-Lobos (whose sound is inspired by European tradition and Brazilian folk music), whom Iznaola called one of Latin America’s greatest composers. To switch things up he closed this set with Bach’s Prelude from Lute Suite BMV 1006a. The final set was intense and unrelenting, and also oddly romantic, as if “Wuthering Heights” had been given a soundtrack.

After receiving a standing ovation from an enthusiastic crowd, Iznaola returned for an encore, rounding out a lovely, soulful performance.