Mandolin master Chris Thile to perform at University Auditorium
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.
Florida may be a good state for bluegrass, but Chris Thile said he hardly ever gets the chance to stop by.
What: Mandolin virtuoso who transcends genre borders
When: 7:30 Friday
Where: University Auditorium, 333 Newell Drive
Tickets: $20-$35, $10 for UF students
“I’m really looking forward to getting down there,” he said. “It’s kind of uncharted territory for me.”
The 32-year-old mandolin virtuoso and 2012 MacArthur Fellow will take the stage Friday at the University Auditorium.
Thile is perhaps best known as the mandolinist and lead singer for Punch Brothers, a progressive bluegrass band known for blurring genre lines. However, Thile’s latest solo album, “Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1,” takes the musician straight into the classical realm.
The album, which was released in August, features Thile’s mandolin transcriptions of Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Partita No. 1 in B minor and Sonata No. 2 in A minor, all originally written for solo violin.
“I consider Bach the greatest musician who ever lived, and all serious musicians that I know want to interact with him at some point,” Thile said. “I wanted to interact with a great man in my own humble way.”
Thile said he was introduced to Bach as a teenager when his maternal grandmother and step-grandmother both gave him Bach recordings for his birthday. At the time, Thile was already making music professionally as mandolinist for the progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek.
“I was just taken by the width and breadth of scope of Bach’s musical package,” he said. “He brings it all to the table.”
At the time, Thile had learned music by ear, but soon took it upon himself to learn to read music so he could fully explore Bach’s work.
While Thile felt he was finally comfortable enough with Bach’s music to record it, the process of recording the sonatas and partita had its challenges.
“You could spend a lifetime only playing it, and every day be learning new things about it,” he said. “The biggest challenge was letting it go, and saying ‘you know what, I’m gonna call this done.’”
While the album may feel like a departure for fans of his previous work, Thile said it is merely a continuation of his artistry and attempt to improve his relationship with music.
“I think people unnaturally separate various kinds of music in their minds that aren’t actually that different.” he said. “I think there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. I’m desperately trying to make music that falls into the former.”
Thile said Friday’s concert will be something of a celebration of these ideas, with about half featuring pieces from the album and half featuring other works, including his bluegrass material and some new music.
Director of UF Performing Arts Michael Blachly has presented Thile twice before at UF, with the band Nickel Creek in 2006 and with the Punch Brothers in 2009. Both performances were in the Phillips Center, but Blachly feels a small venue will be more effective for a solo show.
“This will be a more special performance in a more intimate space,” he said. “I think it will resonate really well with the acoustics of the Auditorium.”
Blachly said that, aside from being a highly talented artist, Thile has a dynamic stage presence.
“He doesn’t just proverbially turn his back on the audience, he positions himself in a way that is captivating,” he said. “He really is just a tremendous live artist.”