Mario Kurtjak is a Slovenian guitarist, professor of guitar, composer and scientist with a Master’s degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies. In 2018 he obtained a Master of Arts degree with distinction from the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied with prof. Michael Lewin, David Russell and Fabio Zanon for guitar and prof. David Gorton for composition. He obtained his previous musical education in Slovenia with prof. Eva Hren, prof. Igor Saje and prof. Andrej Grafenauer. He was accepted to the Academy of Music in Ljubljana as an exceptional talent already at the age of 16 and graduated in 2010 with the highest mark and summa cum laude. During his studies he received many prizes and awards in national and youth international competitions, as well as additional music awards, such as the Škerjanc prize (2007), the Prešeren award (2008), the February prize of the Logatec commune (2009) and the Blyth Watson award (2017). He has been competing also in professional guitar competitions and last year he won second prize (first prize not awarded) and the audience award at the prestigious 16th international guitar competition “Miquel Llobet” in Barcelona. He has additionally attended masterclasses of the renowned guitarists like Marcin Dylla, Leo Brouwer, Hubert Käppel, Zoran Dukić, Aniello Desiderio … As a guitar teacher he has been transferring his musical knowledge to the young guitarists too, since February 2019 he is also the president of the European Guitar Teacher Association (EGTA) of Slovenia.
His concert repertoire embraces all musical eras and styles, including his own compositions and over 15 premieres of new works. In 2017 he composed his first sonata for guitar, which was premiered by Erazem Grafenauer in Berlin in October that year. As the artist in residence in February 2019 and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Embassy of Slovenia, Mario performed several concerts in London last year, where he premiered the “Guitar Rhapsody” for solo guitar by the Brazilian composer Bernardo Simões and presented music by Slovene composers and his own compositions as well. He has performed four more compositions that were written in 2019, two of which were the world premieres by composers Bernardo Simões and Miroslav Lončar (Croatia/USA).
Mario has always been a very active chamber musician as well, most notably in Trio IreNeMa (with flautist Irena Rovtar and violinist Neža Piry), the Slovenian Guitar Quartet (with Erazem Grafenauer, Simon Krajnčan and Aljoša Vrščaj) and the Solent Duo with Colombian soprano Meliza Metzger.
The Trio IreNeMa was recorded for the archive of the Radio Slovenia and German radio SWR2, whereas the Slovenian Guitar Quartet has recorded the piece »Fantasy Journey« for the album »A fantastic journey« (published by D’Oz) of the Croatian/American composer Miroslav Lončar. These two groups have successfully promoted music by Slovenian composers at important concert venues and festivals in Slovenia and other European countries, including Mario’s composition »Slovenian Pot-pourri« for guitar quartet. The Slovenian Guitar Quartet also gave Slovenian premiere of Rodrigo’s Concierto Andaluz with the Cantabile Symphony Orchestra to the 1500 listeners in the sold-out Cankarjev Dom (the largest concert venue in Slovenia) in 2014. Find more about the Slovenian Guitar Quartet at http://sk4.si/or https://www.facebook.com/slovenianguitarquartet/
The Solent Duo was established at the Royal Academy of Music in 2016 and they are particularly interested in performing unexplored repertoire for the high soprano voice and guitar, either by reviving the forgotten originals or creating new transcriptions. In autumn 2018 they had two tours of three concerts per week in London and Kent, one with a topic of love in the variety of its emotions and the other consisting of arrangements of opera arias and art songs. Last year they appeared at the Lent Festival in Maribor and Festival Arsana in Ptuj. More about Solent Duo here.
“An excellent interpreter of guitar music with a prominent musical sense and great technical skills.” (Logaške novice)
“Mario Kurtjak showed great technical skills and intensified attitude for the quality of sound. It is particularly worth pointing out his sense for sound nuances, especially in the low dynamics.” (Borut Smrekar, Glasna)