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Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004 10:53 am

A fast-fingered hotshot, but classy to the core

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Johan Fostier performs Friday at First Presbyterian Church

When Johan Fostier performs Friday in Springfield, the young Belgian will be filling in for scheduled artist Dimitri Illarinov, a Russian who found himself waylaid by an immigration glitch this year. Imprecise wording on Illarinov's passport, it seems, stopped the performer "in his treks."

"Dimitri's papers didn't state he was coming to the U.S. to play for money, so the authorities didn't allow him into the States," says Russel Brazzel, founder of the Springfield Classical Guitar Society, which is sponsoring Friday's performance. It wasn't a unique occurrence, Brazzel says. "I understand [local guitarist] Karl Scroggin was thrown out of France for playing guitar on the streets of Paris, so we know this kind of thing can happen."

The change in performers should prove a stroke of good fortune for Springfield. Fostier's reputation arrived in Springfield months ago, Brazzel says. "Francois Fowler, who played here last year, competed with Johan and heard him quite a bit. According to Francois, he's a fabulous, hotshot player, fast fingers, a real virtuoso." In 2001, Fostier won first prize in the Guitar Foundation of America's Classic Guitar Contest. The jury was unanimous in awarding him that prize.

"His program for Friday night is extremely rigorously composed music," Brazzel says, adding that the selections will reflect "Antigoni-quality playing." In addition to favorites by J.S. Bach and Manuel M. Ponce, there will be selections from Argentine composers, which have never been performed in our concerts. He has recorded three CDs, including one as a member of Take Four, a guitar quartet.

Fostier doesn't fit the traditional classical guitarist persona. "It looks to me like he's thinking 'crossover,'" Brazzel says. "[He's a] good-looking young guy in a T-shirt, a Euro-Pop artist. He's only 23 or 24. Even so, his musicianship is seriously classical all the way."

The concert begins at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 20, at First Presbyterian Church, 321 S. Seventh St. Tickets (available at the door) are $12 for adults; $9 for students and seniors.

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