Classical Guitar Magazine
about "Paint me Blue"
Claeys travels confidently down a jazzy road, deftly covering a nice variety of unfailingly melodic 20th century tunes.
This is a very impressive outing from a guitarist to watch for. I’ve been listening to this disc a lot.
- Blair Jackson
editor of ClassicalGuitarMagazine
Paint me Blue
The start for the repertoire of my first recording, had to be the music that I fell in love with during my childhood. I vividly remember listening to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue evening after evening on repeat. This music, between the classical world and sound of jazz, also brought me to the preludes and fugues of Shostakovich, in the vigorous recording of Keith Jarrett. Never will I forget my astonishment when I found out this wasn't just a great classical pianist, but a jazz improviser of unseen level. The 3 songs I arranged, all appeared on memorabel live recordings of his solo concerts. In fact, all of the tracks on the cd carry a very personal story. Thielemans, Reinhardt and Brel represent the best of Belgian jazz and popular music, while Brouwer in my opinion is the most important living composer for classical guitar. Recording the Porter interpretation by Joe Pass on the other hand, is a hommage to my first guitar teacher, Geert Claessens. He often showed me new recordings to listen to and Virtuoso by Pass was one of the first cd's he ever lent me.
C. Porter - J. Pass
Paint My Heart Red
Rhapsody in Blue
Ne Me Quitte Pas
Variations on Nuages by D. Reinhardt
Night and Day
The Köln Concert Part IIC
News & Concerts
CD Review by Classical Guitar Magazine
Belgian guitarist Claeys travels confidently down a jazzy road on this self-produced disc, deftly covering a nice variety of unfailingly melodic 20th century tunes, including one each from fellow Belgians Toots Thielemans (the great chromatic harmonica player; the arrangement is Roland Dyens’) and singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, and a third piece by Leo Brouwer based on Belgium-born French guitarist Django Reinhardt’s Nuages. American pianist Keith Jarrett is represented by 3 lovely pieces, one being a haunting extraction from his still-astonishing all-improvised Köln Concert album from 1975; a great choice! There are also a pair of American “standards”: Cole Porter’s Night and Day (in jazz guitarist Joe Pass’ arrangement) and the lengthy (18:47!), multi-textured Gershwin masterpiece Rhapsody in Blue. It’s an ambitious selection, but Claeys handles it with smooth assurance. All in all this is a very impressive outing from a guitarist to watch for. I’ve been listening to this disc a lot.
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CD Review by Klassik-Heute
Artistic Quality: 9/10
Sonic Quality: 9/10
Overall Impression: 9/10
See more on Klassik-Heute
"Koen Claeys plays my music with technical control, musical understanding and expressivity... He belongs to the most outstanding guitarists of his generation."
- Leo Brouwer, guitarist & composer
Andres Segovia, the great maestro of the classical guitar, said that “the guitar is like an orchestra, to which we could look with the reverse side of binoculars”. He meant that every instrument of the orchestra is inside the guitar, but in a smaller sound size. It is precisely that magical sound and captivating timbre that prompted Koen to start playing the guitar. Moreover, it remains the inspiration for Koen to keep on exploring all the boundaries of the classical guitar, as one can notice on his first recording including own arrangements and transcriptions of songs by Keith Jarrett, George Gershwin and Jacques Brel.
Koen, born in 1990 in Leuven (Belgium), is regarded as one of the greater guitar talents, since he won the national competition for professional guitarists as youngest participant in 2010. But also internationally, Koen is an acknowledged and award-winning musician, as a laureate of several prestigious classical guitar competitions in Spain, Cuba, Germany and the Netherlands. This made him play in beautiful concert venues, as for example the Teatro Nacional de Cuba and Memorial José Marti in Havana. In his homeland, he was already privileged to play a solo recital in the grand hall of the ‘Palais des Beaux Arts’ (Bozar) in Brussels.
Koen took his first guitar classes at the age of eight, at the local music academy in Oud-Heverlee where he was taught by the renowned guitarist Geert Claessens. Koen graduated with him in 2008 with greatest distinction. Already in 2004, at the age of 14, he became a laureate at the Kiwanis competition in Aalst, Belgium. In the same year, Koen performed his first solo concerts and was broadcasted on the national radio station, Radio 1, with works of Bach and Villa-Lobos. With the inspiring support of Geert and his second teacher Roland Broux, Koen successfully participated in quite a few classical guitar competitions.
In 2007 he won the first prize at the Vlamo soloist contest for all string instruments and became laureate at the Dexia Axion Classics in Brussels. The next year, Koen won the first prize at the international youth guitar contest of Twente (Netherlands). In 2009, he won the second youth prize in Petrer (Spain) and in April 2010, he became finalist of the international guitar contest of Gevelsberg (Germany), only at the age of 19.
In the same period in 2010, Koen won the Belgian national guitar contest in Gent, where he also won the prize for chamber music (duo guitar and flute) and the best interpretation of the compulsory, new created work by Annette Kruisbrink. As youngest participant between graduated professional guitarists, Koen was praised by the internationally renowned jury as a complete musician, being highly virtuosic and a sensitive narrator through the music.
International highlights were his first place at the 2010 international guitar contest of Zwolle (Netherlands), and his third place at the 2014 international guitar festival & competition in Havana (Cuba). This festival has a great tradition, since it was founded by the Cuban maestro Leo Brouwer.
In 2013 Koen graduated with greatest distinction at the Luca School of Arts (Leuven) under the guidance of Roland Broux. He continued his studies with Joaquin Clerch and Rafael Aguirre at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule Düsseldorf. Today, Koen teaches at the music academies of Oud-Heverlee and Tienen.
In 2019 both Jorge Morel and Leo Brouwer dedicated works to Koen. The Argentinian guitarist Jorge Morel wrote the 2-part 'Visiones Latinas' for Koen, a joyful Latin inspired introduction and dance. To celebrate his 80th birthday, Cuban maestro Leo Brouwer wrote his 2nd quintet for guitar and string quartet for Koen. The single movement piece was premiered by Koen and the French string quartet Quatuor Hermes in Tienen and Antwerp in december 2019.
My Song - Keith Jarrett
Bluesette - Jean "Toots" Thielemans
Liebestraum, Franz Liszt
Pictures by Steven Massart