Masakazu Ito is recognized as one of today's top guitarists, acclaimed by musicians, composers, conductors and critics for his mastery of the instrument and its repertoire.
"He has it all," says guitarist Ricardo Iznaola, "virtuosity, musicality and flair.
He is certainly a name to watch."
Since his 1987 professional debut in Tokyo, Ito has won top prizes in seven major international guitar competitions, including the Andres Segovia International Guitar Competition, the Tokyo International Guitar Competition, the Guitar Foundation of America International Guitar Competition, and the Seto Ohashi International Competition.
Ito is active as a performer, teacher, composer and recording artist. A recital in Germany marked his 1995 European debut. The following year, he performed at the Cal-State Luckman Theatre in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times noted, "Ito displayed conspicuous skill and tonal range . . . [he] proved himself to be a clean and technically adroit player, whizzing through thorny passages with aplomb."
Ito has been featured as soloist with symphony orchestras throughout Japan and the United States. He appeared with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, of which the Denver Post wrote, "Guitarist Masakazu Ito further contributed to the overall spellbinding performance." Ito has also been a guest at festivals such as the Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Methow Valley Music Festival in Twisp, Washington, the International Guitar Week at the University of Denver, and the Colorado Music Fest at Colorado State University, Pueblo, among others.
In March of 2003, Ito was chosen by the Japanese government to celebrate 150 years of US-Japan relations by presenting a solo guitar recital at the official residence of the Japanese Consul General in Denver, Colorado. He has also performed world premieres of works by three prominent American composers: Daniel Pinkham's Sagas, for guitar and cello, at the Rocky Mountain Music Festival in 1997; Quiver Songs, a work by Stephen Everett for shakuhachi and guitar, at the Modern Festival in 1998, which featured Japanese portraits at a world music concert; and Ricardo Iznaola's Musique de Salon No. 8 for guitar and string quartet, which was written for and dedicated to Ito in 2003.
As a teacher, Ito instructs students privately after several years of teaching at University of Denver's Lamont School of Music, where he received his master's degree under the guidance of Professor Ricardo Iznaola.
A unique dimension of Ito's career involves his friendship with popular Japanese musician Kitaro. The two collaborated in an outdoor duo concert presented in 1991. In 2000, Ito recorded guitar parts for Kitaro's album, Thinking of You (Domo Records). The recording won a Grammy in January, 2001 for Best New Age Album.
Kitaro has been an influence on Ito's own work as a composer: Ito's 1996 album, Intimate Guitar, contains some of his own compositions. His second CD Release, A Truly Classical Christmas, features Ito's arrangements of popular holiday songs as well as his original works.
Ito's solo repertoire is notable for including works by Japanese composers such as Takemitsu, Yoshimatsu and Yocoh. His favorite guitar music, however, comes from Spain and is featured in two recordings, ¡España! Music from Spain, Vol. 1 and Poesía Pura: Music from Spain, Vol. 2. ¡España! was released in December, 1997, a CD that Classical Guitar said "is a recording of depth . . . [and is] most musically satisfying" (1999). Poesía Pura is his latest recording project that explores compositions influenced by Poesía Pura, a Spanish poetic style introduced by Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958), featuring works by Federico Moreno Torroba, Eduardo Sainz de la Maza and Antonio José.