Masterclass Al-Andalus

David Russell, Director

Masterclass Al-Andalus


Masterclass Al-Andalus is a two-week international violin masterclass designed for violinists embarking upon high-level careers as performing artists.  Led by eminent American violinists and pedagogues David Russell and Andrés Cárdenes, participants will have opportunity to perform in public masterclasses and concerts in several historic locations, even as immersion in one of the world's most ancient cultures brings unparalleled insight and inspiration. Past participants have come from Australia, Bulgaria, France, Abu Dhabi, Spain, and the United States, and represent some of the top music conservatories and violin classes in the world.


The nearly 800-year period of Islamic Rule in Spain--then known as Al-Andalus--was a time when diverse cultures thrived and coexisted together. This period (called "Convivencia", or "living together") was built upon a Muslim decree of peaceful coexistence between the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). Later, the Gypsy culture added richness to the already extraordinary cultural and artistic mix, and as a result, one of the greatest civilizations in history was created by the people of Al-Andalus. 

Although recorded history of that civilization was largely suppressed beginning with the Reconquista of 1492, today Masterclass Al-Andalus helps to uncover the almost forgotten historic influences of that culture on Western Classical Music. We hope participants will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the history, philosophies, cultural, and spiritual origins of the music we perform, as well as how its creation was influenced by the culture of Al-Andalus.  We also hope to experience the uniquely Andalusian mystical quality of "duende" as the masterclass unfolds (see "Duende" tab above).

Uniquely designed cultural and educational presentations are an integral part of the masterclass. These events reveal aspects of the immense legacy left by Al-Andalus, aspects which can only be fully understood by experiencing immersion in the culture of its descendants.  

Our masterclass home is the extraordinary city of Alcalá la Real, Jaen, Spain, a key site on the Ruta de Califato, as designated by the Fundacion Legado Andalusi. Masterclass Al-Andalus participants will live in Alcala la Real. Over two weeks, five violin masterclasses, three concerts, and several other special educational and cultural events will be offered at venues in our Alcala home, as well as in the cities of Granada and Cordoba.  

This year, Masterclass Al-Andalus participants will present a violin class in the incomparably beautiful concert hall "La Chumbera", in the Sacromonte area of Granada. This hall overlooks the illuminated Alhambra through its glass rear stage wall, which encourages contemplation of the depth and scope of the Al-Andalus history and culture as the class is presented.


A concert called "The Necklace of the Dove", will combine musical performances with readings from 10th century Islamic philosopher Ibn Hazm's treatise on Romantic Love of the same title, as well as poems about love by Andalusian poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Special artistic collaboration in the event will be provided by violinist David Russell, pianist Eric Malson, masterclass co-founder Mercedes Garcia Montanes, and others.

A lecture-recital-- "The Alhambra, Bach, and the Chaconne"-- will be presented by David Russell, and will reveal a unique historical link between the architecture of the Alhambra, and the form and structure of the Bach Chaconne, and Pythagorean mathematics and philosophy.

Readings from Washington Irving's book: "Tales from the Alhambra" will be recited in a unique and wonderful venue at the foot of the Alhambra.

Tours of culturally historic sites within Andalusia include Granada's Alhambra, Córdoba's 8th century Mezquita Mosque and Cathedral, and Alcalá la Real's Medieval fortress "La Mota". These tours will be scheduled between the musical events. 

Activities will culminate in a Gala performance at the Antigua Convento Trinidad, in the shadow of Alcala la Real's Islamic-era fortress "La Mota". This concert will feature Spanish, Jewish, and Arab-inspired works, performed by outstanding masterclass participants.

Masterclass Al-Andalus would like to express deep gratitude to the honorable Mayor of Alcalá la Real, Carlos Antonio Hiojosa Hidalgo, Minister of Culture, Juan Francisco Martinez, as well as the Excelentísimo Ayuntamiento de Alcalá la Real, for their invaluable partnership in making  Masterclass Al-Andalus possible. 

We would also like to express our gratitude to Judea Maya, Tomas, and the staff of Manolete's International School of Flamenco, as well as the Andalusian Legacy Foundation for their immeasurable support and cooperation in making Masterclass Al-Andalus a reality.


Site of Gala Concert:  Antiguo Convento de la Trinidad