Fiona Harrison February 2001
The recital began with three pieces representing a brief pre-history of the Guitar. Fantasia que contrahaze la harpa en la manera de Ludovico by Alonso Mudara (c1510-80), Fantasie by Dowland (1563-1626) and Sonata in A Major by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). With the Mudara Fiona kept the music flowing through the tonal dissonances and the changes in rhythm were performed without a breath keeping the audience's ear focused on the music. The choice of the introduction was the Dowland, which is possibly one of the most perfect pieces of early music written. Fiona executed all the ornamentation delightfully with a full range of expressive contrasts and kept a good sense of pace through to the pieces climax, without ever seeming to be rushed by any of the pieces demands. The Scarlatti was like the first two pieces performed very crisply but seemed a little simple after the Dowland.
There followed some of the Guitarist's essential repertoire, Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Tarrega (1852-1909), Prelude No1 by Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) and Tango en Skai by Rowland Dyens (b. 1955). Recuerdos was performed with extreme sensitivity and at times a wonderfully slow pace allowing the full beauty of the sound of the guitar to express itself. Prelude No1 and particularly Tango en Skai were given a marvellous range of expressive qualities utilising the full range of the guitar's voice.
Phillip Houghton's (b. 1954) Rain, the first of two Australian pieces, evoked a tropical rainstorm beginning with a flash of lightning, a thunderclap and a period of charged silence.
The penultimate piece was A Short Walk in a Rainforest by Australian Richard Charlton (b. 1955) which was the highlight of the first section. The music began with a flock of birds leaving the canopy and then took the audiences imagination on a journey through the rainforest, which with the Tango en Skai following left the audience eager for the second half of the recital.
The second part of the recital was started with Sunburst by Andrew York (b. 1958) and Fiona achieved a lovely soft tonal texture with flowing glissandi and the percussive sections of the piece achieved a deep resonance. El Testament d'Amelia by Miguel Llobet followed and was played with a sonorous melodic quality which seemed to suit Fiona's guitar and the Greenwood Centre hall. Verano Porteno by Astor Piazolla (b. 1921) was the third piece and all the percussive effects and rasgueados were given real character capturing the spirit of the music. Sakura Theme and Variations on the Japanese folksong was the penultimate piece and as with all the longer works Fiona was able to create a real sense of atmosphere creating colours and moods with contrasting sounds.
The final piece of the recital was a pastorale in four movements called Koyunbaba by the Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi (b. 1947). For this piece five strings are retuned to achieve an open C# minor. Fiona's rendition of this was extraordinary. We in the audience were transfixed as we were taken through a dreamlike world painted with expressive tones and sequences describing extremes of nature.
The evening was well attended by a polite and knowledgeable audience and the recital was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.