In the making of a book, the designer becomes a director of sorts, providing a collaborative framework that brings together the mastery of artists and writers towards their inevitable destination – a printed and bound volume on a coffee table or bookshelf for others to enjoy and appreciate over time. If the Austin-Marie Collection were a movie, the original screenplay was written hundreds of years ago by exceptional luthiers from around the world, adapted by one of the country’s best photographers, and produced by a most insightful collector.
To find guitarists who had experience performing period music on historic guitars, we reached out to Richard Savino of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to ask for referrals. With great fortune, he recommended two former students, Adrian Murillo and Jon Mendle, both accomplished players and SFCM alumni.
Jon Mendle performing in the studio
Jeff met with Adrian and Jon beforehand to discuss string preferences, including gut for the early five-course guitars and lower tension modern strings that would be most appropriate for the later-dated six single-string guitars. Together with Jeff, Adrian and Jon went about choosing the instruments that each would play and the repertoire to be performed.
“As a player, I was impressed that neither guitarist had an issue adjusting to various sized instruments in a single sitting,” said Jeff. “No two of these guitars are the same size and while some are roughly similar, many are quite dissimilar. The size and shape of the modern classical guitar wasn’t standardized until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Playing a five-course Italian guitar from 1625 is quite different than playing a French guitar from 1825. They are not the same instrument!”
Six months later, we were able to pull San Francisco-based guitarist Richard Savino away from his busy schedule to play a short session in Dave Bishop’s photography studio in San Rafael, California. Richard performed Baroque music by Domenico Pellegrini and Giovanni Battista Granata on the early seventeenth century Matteo Sellas guitar, and music by Juan Antonio de Vargas y Guzmán on the 1822 Josef Pagés six-course Spanish guitar.
We were fortunate that guitarist Christopher Mallett, an accomplished player and world authority on the nineteenth century African American guitarist Justin Holland, agreed to be interviewed on Holland’s life and work, and perform two legendary Holland arrangements. Carolyn Smith, another graduate of the SFCM, admirably performed Prelude #5 by Emilia Giuliani. Emilia was the daughter of the renowned early nineteenth century virtuoso-composer Mauro Giuliani, and a fabulous composer in her own right.
The versatile Jon Mendle was again present to perform a suite by Robert de Visée e on the six-course 1652 Alexandre Voboam guitar followed by a Divertimento by Mauro Giuliani on a six single string guitar built a century and a half later by Carlo Guadagnini.
Finally, in March of 2021, Jeff Wells invited Canadian guitarist Juri Yun to join him at Laughing Tiger Recording Studios in Marin County. Juri masterfully performed three preludes by the late nineteenth century virtuoso-composer Francisco Tárrega on an 1888 Vicente Árias guitar.
In September of 2021, Jeff Wells made a return trip to Cambridge and was joined by guitar enthusiast George Jackson. In Cambridge Jeff and George rendezvoused with Well’s old friend, musician-composer Robert Grossman. We were later joined by Christopher Page and James Westbrook at Sidney Sussex College for the annual Consortium for Guitar Research conference. While there, we recorded Chris in the Sidney Sussex Chapel performing period music on an original nineteenth century parlor guitar, and on Renaissance and Baroque guitar replicas by internationally acclaimed luthier Alexander Batov.
Since his Carnegie Hall debut at age 19, classical guitarist Jon Mendle has drawn widespread praise for his virtuosity and musicianship. In 2010 he was invited to join world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble on a 10-concert tour. Ma praised Jon as “a beautiful talent and a sensitive musician,” adding, “It is a joy to play with him!”
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jon has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Highlights include solo recitals at the 2015 Loyola-Marymount University Guitar Festival, the 2014 Guitar Foundation of America annual convention, and for presenters such as San Francisco Performances and numerous guitar societies. Jon has performed at the Tanglewood and Ravinia summer music festivals as well as Detroit’s Orchestra Hall and other major venues.
Christopher Mallett is recognized as one of America’s finest guitarists. He has been described by Soundboard Magazine as “Virtuosic,” and by Classical Guitar Magazine as “Superb.” Mallett has performed as a soloist with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Robert Boudreau, the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra, and the New Britain Symphony under the baton of Maestro Jesse Levine.
Mallett has been awarded several prizes including the Eliot Fisk Prize for “outstanding guitarist” from Yale University, the Alumni Ventures Grant from Yale University, the Conservatory Dean’s Scholarship from Oberlin, and as part of the Oberlin Guitar Duo received top prize in the International Guitar Chamber Competition in Brownsville, Texas. He has also been featured on the cover of Soundboard Magazine as part of Duo Noire and in Classical Guitar Magazine, the American Suzuki Journal, and Acoustic Guitar Magazine.
Guitarist and lutenist Adrian Murillo began playing music at an early age, studying different instruments and genres on electric and acoustic guitar before beginning his classical guitar studies under the tutelage of Francisco Guerrero in Tijuana, Mexico. Adrian has performed as a soloist and in ensembles throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. He has performed locally with the San Francisco Opera, Bay Area Classical Harmonies, West Bay Opera, Opera Neo, Mission Chamber Orchestra, and the SFCM Baroque Orchestra. He has also played with the Oregon Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Monica Huggett.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, Juri Yun began studying the guitar at age 14. Originally self-taught, he won his first guitar competition the following year and then began his formal instruction.
Within a few years, Juri was recognized as one of Canada’s top up and coming guitarists. Since 2014, Juri has won top prizes in both Canada and the US. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall as the winner of the Elite International Music Competition. Juri has studied and performed in masterclasses with renowned guitarists including Judicael Perroy, Meng Su, David Leisner, and many more. He completed his Bachelor of Music in Performance at the University of Toronto under the tutelage of the internationally acclaimed guitarist and teacher, Dr. Jeffrey McFadden. Juri received his Master of Music in Guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under Maestro David Tanenbaum.
Carolyn Smith is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and presently a guitar instructor at the East Bay Guitar Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Christopher Page is a former Senior Fellow of Sidney Sussex College and now an Emeritus Professor in the University of Cambridge where he taught Medieval Music and Literature until his retirement. He also held the prestigious position of Professor of Music at Gresham College for four years. Chris is a multi-gramophone winning recording artist having founded and directed the early music ensemble group, Gothic Voices in 1981. He ensemble went on to record some 25 albums of Medieval and Renaissance music and tour worldwide to much acclaim. The author of several books and publications, he hosted the early music program, Spirit of the Age, on BBC radio for nearly a decade. Chris is a founding member of the Consortium for Guitar Research at Sidney-Sussex College.
Richard Savino is the director of El Mundo, an internationally recognized chamber group dedicated to the performance of sixteenth through nineteenth century Latin American, Spanish and Italian chamber music. As an expert player of the guitar and early plucked stringed instruments, Richard has compiled an extensive discography of over 35 commercial recordings of music ranging from the early seventeenth century through the nineteenth century virtuosic music of Niccolò Paganini and Johann Kaspar Mertz. In addition to his 2012 GRAMMY nomination, he was also a principal instrumentalist on the Ars Lyrica 2011 GRAMMY nominated album of Hasse’s Anthony and Cleopatra.
Mr. Savino has toured and recorded with some of the world’s most important performers including Joyce Di Donato, Monica Huggett, Stephanie Chase, Chanticleer, and Paul Hillier. And as a continuo player has performed as principal with groups such as the Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Opera, West Edge Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Diego Opera, Opera Colorado, Dallas Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. He presently teaches guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.