Like any athlete,a musician’s performance depends heavily on his or her warm-up routine. Cramping and tightness, especially after periods of inactivity and sleep,hamper a guitarist’s precision and slow the fingers.
For27-year-old Croatian classical guitar virtuoso Robert Belini?,warming up is absolutely essential even before practicing.His carefully manicured fingernails are precisely cut for proper classical guitar-plucking technique.This weekend,Belini? will take the Mondavi stage in concert attire with loose and nimble fingers – ready to play with the speed,precision and feeling of any professional performer.
Belini? is performing as a part of theMondaviCenter’s Debut Series,which introduces young and budding artists in the classical realm.This event is also associated with the New York-based organization Young Concert Artists (YCA),which specializes in exposing and promoting young classical artists.
“[Belini?] is really what you would call an up-and-comingplayer,” said Joe Martin,public relations manager at theMondaviCenter. “The debut series … [functions to] basically bookup-and-comingclassical performers.Robert is really someone who’s coming up in that mode.“
Stories of classically-trained musicians often begin with the expectedly unexpected – even an obedient child might end up drastically changing his or her interests before entering the professional world.This rings true for Belini? – he began holding drumsticks rather than a pick.Influenced by American rock groups of the ‘70s and early ‘80s,his initial interest focused on drums from ages3to11.When Belini? began to attend a music school,however,he explored other instruments and was soon turned on to the classical guitar.
“It was just an accident,” Belini? said fromNew York City in a phone interview. “I went to a music school,and they offered me one of the three instruments they had – a piano,a flute (or something like that)and the guitar.I had an older brother who played the keyboard,so I didn’t want to do that,and I didn’t like the flute,and so I chose the guitar.After time,I fell in love.“
As Belini?‘s talent quickly bloomed,and after only four months of training,his teacher encouraged him to take part in recitals and competitions.In2001and2002,he gained recognition in both Europe and theUnited States as an award-winning young artist.He went on to study at a musical conservatory inCroatia and received his master‘s inAugsburg,Germany atLeopold Mozart Hochschule für Musik.
Belini?‘s influences are surprisingly few,and he has roots in older rock music.Hediscredits such interests to his career as a classical guitarist.And furthermore,classical guitar sees substantial popularity inCroatia,as there are many young classical guitarists.But in terms of inspiration,Belini? holds high regard for his teachers.
“My first teacher … is incredible – one of best in country,” Belini? said. “You need people like that to inspire children to go with that and like it.“
And even to this day there is little possibility that Belini? will find interest in the mainstream musical sphere.He distances himself from modern American music,finding it hasty and vapid.
“I try to avoidAmerica’s popular [new] music,” Belini? said. “You can find good stuff in any music,but it’s getting more absurd and rare to find … copies,copies,nothing original.Everything is made fast,fast,fast – to achieve a goal with as least effort as possible.Popular artists only want to get as much money as [they] can,doing as least work as possible.“
Belini? is currently touring theUnited States,stopping at theMondaviCenter on Saturday at8p.m.and Sunday at2p.m.OtherCalifornia stops includeCerritos,and he performed inFlorida last week,according toPublicityAssociate ofYCA Sam Clapp.As a part ofYCA,Belini? has played both recitals and concertos inNew York with two other distinguished soloists.
“Belini? made his recital debut in the2002-2003season and won the YCA auditions in2002,” Clapp said. “We take three artists who have made their recital debuts and put them in concerto debuts as well.He performed[Tuesday] at our benefit concert.“
Although the young guitarist’s repertoire generally consists of Baroque and Classical pieces,Belini? also plays impressionistic,Renaissance and modern20thcentury pieces,as well as lute music transcribed for classical guitar.
“I haven’t had a chance to perform much contemporary,but I love contemporary,and I always have at least one contemporary piece in my program,” he said. “There’s not as much music [for guitar] as for piano and violin,but a substantial amount has been written for classical guitar,and I like it all.“
Belini? plans on performing pieces by Antonio Lauro,J.S.Bach and John Dowland,among others this weekend.
“My program is always as diverse as possible,“ Belini?said. “I like to explore.It’s interesting for the audience.“
For more information on the artists,go to yca.org/belinic and for event information,go tomondaviarts.org.
JUSTIN HO can be reached at email@example.com