Despite the cold wet dark November night a good audience was greeted by the Arada Guitar Dou playing a two guitar transcription of Domenico Scarlatti transporting us immediately to the sun and warmth of Venice.
The first of three sonatas comprised mainly of one guitar taking the treble and the other the bass line. The second sonata was a much more interesting piece being more expressive and in a much more stately style reminiscent of Vivaldi. As the piece progressed it broke into a lively minuet to finish. The third and final Scaraltti sonata was similarly split between treble and bass but was a lively gavotte like piece. The dynamic range was highlighted by these young musicians providing the listener to a feast of light and shade.
This was followed by a complete change of mood as we entered the sound world of Napoleon Coste a French 19th Century composer. The piece entitled Grand Dou is, we were informed, one of his two major Guitar Duos. The first movement had the two guitarists swapping a lyrical melody with each other taking it in turn to play the accompaniment. There were a number of squeaks and buzzes but these did not detract from the music making. As we progressed to the second movement we were presented with a latter day pavane like movement or was it an early foxtrot?
The third movement took us back, in name at least, to Venice, as it was entitled Barcarole. In this movement we enjoyed the two guitarists swapping arpeggios and the melody between each other. This beautifully played movement just stopped short of self parody almost breaking into a music hall number but, thankfully, not quite. Again there were a few burrs and squeaks but this did not detract from the enjoyment.
The final allegro had us, once again, entertained by the light and shade of the variety of dynamic range.
Following the interval during which we had the chance to view a guitar made by a Twickenham based luthier the duo went straight into a suite by Rodrigo entitled Tonadilla. The first movement opened with some wonderful dissonant chords progressing to a staccato allegro very Spanish in rhythm. As the second movement was about to begin both guitars retuned to D tuning we were entertained by some flamenco style chords with a definite Andalusian melody. I was impressed by the variety of tone both guitarists produced. For the third movement we had the guitars retuned to E making me wonder if it was a good idea to retune in the middle of a piece. Not the musicians’ fault but that of the composer.
A change of style again as we now had three pieces by Stephen Dodgson. The first of this composer’s music I had heard since hearing his guitar concerto at the Queen Elisabeth Hall in the early 1970s. We were told by the performers that Stephen Dodgson had tried to write modern music for the guitar but to my ear the harmonies in the first piece seemed very 1950s in style. The piece was enjoyable as most of the audience was smiling as it finished. The second piece was a sentimental atmospheric ballad that sounded much simpler that it looked. The third piece entitled “Friendly Combat” seemed more like Friendly Harmony to me as the players swapped ideas with each other in turn.
To finish the evening we had Jongo by Paulo Bellinati a Brazilian composer/guitarist who had originally written this for solo guitar but had re worked it as a duet. We were advised that this was based on African rhythms. I was beginning to wonder when the African rhythms were about to start but towards the end we had percussive striking of both guitars in a distinctly African style.
In all a very enjoyable evenings entertainment and I have no doubt that these two young men have a good future ahead of them.
Simon Davies and Nicholas Lee began playing together in 1992 whilst studying classical guitar with Gordon Crosskey, John Williams and Craig Ogden at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. The Arada Guitar Duo received their Honours Degrees four years later and have since been busy performing and recording.
The duo have performed for numerous music societies and concert venues across the country including the Free Trade Hall (Manchester), St. James’ Piccadilly (London), Glenilla Arts Foundation (London) and the Lewes International Guitar Festival. They have also recently concluded a tour of stately homes including Blenheim Palace, Leeds Castle and Woburn Abbey.
Simon and Nicholas are also in demand for orchestral performances having performed under the batons of Yan Pascal Tortelier and Marcus Stenz. In 1998 the duo recorded works for the Telstar Records C.D. release "Guitar Serenade" to much acclaim and they are currently recording repertoire from the nineteenth century for a C.D. release in 2004.
Simon Davies studied at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music before the RNCM. As a soloist he has won several music competitions including the Chiltern Radio Young Musician of the Year and performed widely, culminating in him being the representative for the U.K. in the European Young Musicians’ Concert in Brussels. He also plays in a successful jazz/classical guitar duo with the Sardinian jazz guitarist Giorgio Serci and in 2001 released their debut CD “Lo Scenario”. With Latvian violinist Anete Graudina, Simon has performed at some of the country’s leading recital venues including Lauderdale House, Burgh House and the Holywell Rooms. He has an Honours degree from the RNCM and is guitar tutor at the Spanish Guitar Centre, London and for Hertfordshire Music Service.
Since graduating from the RNCM Nicholas Lee has combined a busy performing and teaching career. He plays regularly for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, London and on tour and has worked with singers and other instrumentalists including flautists and a recorder player. He is currently playing in a new project featuring original music for two steel strung acoustic guitars. Nicholas has performed as a soloist across the U.K. and has played in some of the country's top concert halls including Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, Manchester’s Free Trade Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank.