Lorenzo Micheli Friday 22nd November 2002

Lorenzo Micheli November 2002Italian guitarist Lorenzo Micheli brought poise, poetry and controlled virtuosity to south-west London in this well-balanced recital, played to a packed Greenwood Centre.

Micheli, 27, has won a clutch of international prizes (including First Prize at the Guitar Foundation of America 1999), and won acclaim for his recent Naxos CD dedicated to Castelnuovo-Tedesco (see review at http://www.musicweb.uk.net/classrev/2001/Jan01/castelnuovo.htm).

One factor which marks the outstanding artist from the competent is how convincing a case they can make for middling-quality pieces such as Carulli's Suite Op 20, all predictable pleasantness and polite display. Micheli was highly impressive here, sincere and considered in the largo, crisp and dazzling in the allegro - it came as a surprise to find he was playing it in concert for the first time. His light, salon-scale sound was just right for the piece, and he made it sound a much better work than it looks.

Micheli's slim fingers were put to very deft and effective use in the flashier Barrios showpieces (Valse Op 8 No 4 and Maxixe), his sprightly tone well-suited to the composer's lightweight but skittish demands. But he also brought a pleasingly rich sound to Tansman's delightful Suite in Modo Polonico, which gently brings a touch of Hollywood harmony to classical forms.

Written about the same time, but very different emotionally and technically, Britten's Nocturnal was the centre of the recital. (Micheli had worried that it might be too austere for the audience, but they're a knowledgeable lot here, and even those hearing it for the first time enjoyed it greatly.) Micheli gave us a poetic, thoughtful approach to Britten's exploration of aspects of sleep, "the image of true death": some present the Passacaglia like a nightmare, but for the Italian it was more a portrait of restlessness and concern. He was due to marry two weeks after the recital, so perhaps it's good to know there's no evidence of nocturnal dread. The final movement, revealing Dowland's theme, floated with a very lute-like feel into splendid tranquillity; sleep at last, but in that sleep, what dreams may come?

The dazzling finish was Llobet's wide-ranging variations on La Folia - one for left hand only - dispatched with great elan. Bravo, Lorenzo!