Harmonica Concerto

Instrumentation1-1-1-1-2-0-1-harp,strings,perc, harmonica soloist (full orchestra or chamber orchestra)
CommentsStandard three movement classical concerto with beautiful melodies, a stunning second movement, and a slam ending after a virtuosic cadenza. Perfect for classical programming, but because of the harmonica, works in a family concert setting. Works well with South American, Spainish or straight classical concerts.
SourcesG Schirmer (914)469-2271
History(Commissioned by John Sebastian in 1955. Since recording the Concerto with Gerard Schwarz and the New York Chamber Symphony on RCA, Robert Bonfiglio has performed the Harmonica Concerto 175 times with orchestras around the world. Last two reviews: The Knoxville News-Sentinel MAY 15, 1998

Harmonica master merits 4 encores To use the language of all good highbrow reviewers: Wow, what a great concert!

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is closing its season with harmonica virtuoso Robert Bonfiglio, and the Thursday night audience ate it up. Bonfiglio is a true concert artist on his instrument, which does not get as much credit as it is due. He may change that. More to the point, he can also "get down and dirty" with the blues, which is the way he started as a lad in Iowa. It was his work with the symphony on Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra" that brought the audience to its feet with a warm ovation that would not quit.

After taking several bows and leaving the stage, he was brought back by the continuing applause that would not die down. He gave an encore, a tribute to the blues player that got him started as a boy. His "Tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson" was an improvisation of his own using traditional blues techniques, he said later during intermission. But he was brought back again by more applause. "I just happen to have another one of these," he chuckled and produced another blues improvisation.

When he again was called back for more applause, he granted the audience a third encore, "Muddy Waters." By this time, he was beginning to tire visibly, but nonetheless was gracious enough, when the audience still would not stop applauding, to do a quick imitation of a railroad engine going down the tracks, complete with whistle and the clickety-clack of the wheels on the tracks. No artist in recent memory has been more willing to share with the audience.

If you didn't get to hear harmonica master Larry Adler in '40's and '50's, try to catch tonight's performance. Harmonica virtuosos of this caliber come along about once in a lifetime. Robert Bonfiglio, Harmonica Villa-Lobos Harmonica Concerto Knoxville Symphony Kirk Trevor conducting

The Press-Enterprise Tuesday, March 10, 1998

Harmonica virtuoso shatters stereotype,
Music Review By Jeffrey H. Rickard

And you thought the harmonica was limited to blues and cowboy campfires. Well, pardner, Robert Bonfiglio brought his harmonica to the Riverside Philharmonic Saturday night and shattered that perception to smithereens with a magical display of virtuosity and unabashed showmanship. Bonfiglio is honestly serious about his instrument and seriously honest about enrapturing an audience with the joy of his music-making. The Villa-Lobos Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra was the perfect vehicle for him.

The infectious dance rhythms and haunting melodies that characterize the music of this Brazilian composer were given incredibly sensitive and wonderfully articulate readings by Bonfiglio. His instrument, subtly amplified through the Municipal Auditorium system by a lapel microphone ceased to be the metal "mouth Organ" of youthful exuberance - this night it was the foremost agent of mature adult virtuosity. With close attention to dynamic shadings and musical line, Bonfiglio have a magical, sometimes wistful presentation of this concerto. The enthusiastic applause that followed was rewarded by four short encores that included homages to blues pioneers Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters.

ContributorRobert Bonfiglio.
Bio: ROBERT BONFIGLIO Harmonica Virtuoso

ROBERT BONFIGLIO has dazzled audiences throughout the world with his ability to play Harmonica Concertos and turn right around and "sizzle" on the 'blues.' Bonfiglio has been a concerto soloist with symphonies around the world including the symphonies of Indianapolis, Oregon, San Antonio, Tucson, Milwaukee, Witchita, Portland, Spokane, Santa Barbara, Knoxville, South Bend, New Orleans, Florida, Utah, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Columbia, North Holland, Bilbao, Seville under such great conductors as Gerard Schwarz, Lucas Vis, Jorge Mester, Theo Alcantara, Robert Bernhardt, JoAnn Falletta, Bruce Ferden, GisÚle Ben-dor, Christopher Wilkins, Kirk Trevor and Lucas Foss.

He performed the world premiere of the Henry Cowell Harmonica Concerto with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the West Coast premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under conductor Lucas Foss. Robert Bonfiglio has appeared as a soloist with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, John Williams and the Boston Pops on PBS and John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl.

His first RCA recording, with Gerard Schwarz and the New York Chamber Orchestra, featuring the Villa-Lobos Harmonica Concerto, was released to critical acclaim; he has performed this Concerto over 160 times with major orchestras worldwide.

Robert has appeared on "CBS Sunday Morning," "CBS Morning Show," "Live with Regis and Kathy Lee," "Larry King," and Garrison Keillor's "American Radio Show." He has had feature stories in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.

Robert Bonfiglio got his Masters degree in composition from Manhattan School of Music. He studied harmonica with Cham-ber Huang and was coached for 12 years by Andrew Lolya, the first flute of the New York City Ballet, during which time he studied the major works for harmonica and orchestra. Robert studied composition with Charles Wuorinen and Aaron Copland.

Mr. Bonfiglio is the Founding Director of the Grand Canyon Music Festival.

Personal Manager: Joseph Pastore, Jr. (914)245-0815 Fax (914)245-0816 e-mail: new website:


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