Martin Shaw seems to have the knack of selecting first rate young guitarists for these series of concerts one of last year performers, Morgan Symanski, appeared on Radio 3 during the last week so where we can expect this young man to go who knows?
We started the evening with a renaissance group of pieces originally written for Lute by Francesco Da Milano who was a famous lutenist around the turn of the 16th Century.
Jeremy introduced these three Ricerare in accented English explaining that in order to play these pieces a slight moderation was made to the tuning.
The first of these started in a slow but confident manner building the tempo as he approached the ending.
The second again started slowly and to my ear this sounded more French than Italian. Whether this was the playing by a French musician or whether the piece had French influences I do not know. Don’t let me mislead you this was a wonderful piece of confident playing with a marvellous and apparently effortless left hand technique.
The third of these pieces involved initially some secure playing in the upper register of the guitar and then reverting to some wonderful contrapuntal passages.
A totally different mood now as we moved from the Italian renaissance to twentieth century Spain and Rodrigo’s Sonata Giocosa or Happy Sonata for those, like me, who need English translations.
The first movement, an Allegro Moderato, started with some rather striking chords followed by a wonderful tremolo section then a very Spanish alternation of chords and runs, what is it about Rodrigo but I often feel that these sounds known to us all in the famous Guitar Concerto appear to recur in all his guitar music? On a technical note this piece required many changes of position and this was something that offered no challenge to this young man.
The second movement, an Andante Moderato’ followed this was very much the middle movement with a very quiet start developing into a rolling rhythm then some lovely sounding Spanish bass notes and the whole thing dying to nothing.
The third movement, an Allegro, started as an allegro should with some quick runs developing through some Spanish sounding chords becoming slightly reflective as the tone then changed to a more ponticello style. We then witnessed flamenco style use of the back of the fingers as the chords firmly kept us in Spain. The piece ended in fine style reminiscent of Conciertu por un Gentillome.
The first half finished in fine style with a piece of Arcas being a Fantasia on themes from La Traviata.
This could have been spot the tune but your correspondents knowledge of Traviaita is limited to the waltz from the first act and this was not included. The interesting Harmonics that started the piece left me thinking I know this tune but what is it?
We then had a happy dance theme that must belong to the first act which developed into a sad melody with some superb tremolo writing supporting the tune. We then had yet another of those tunes we all know which came to a musical full stop returning to a jolly waltz ending.
After the interval and a welcome glass of wine we had five Bagatelles written by William Walton, not the first composer that one would normally associate with the guitar.
The first movement was a wonderful showpiece for the left hand technique in typical Walton Style this movement was very busy with some interesting right hand harmonics that reminded me thematically of the first symphony.
The Levto followed which had a wonderful sensuous start with a rocking rhythm very much in the style of façade. We then progressed through some high single string playing to prepare us for the Alla Cubana. This piece lived up to its name with its sensuous Latin slightly up beat start.
The fourth bagatelle had some sweet jazzy notes followed by some superb harmonic writing. This led us to the fifth and final bagatelle, Con Siancio, this was an allegro movement with a slightly jerky rhythm at the start followed by some excellent tremolo playing bring the piece eventually to a satisfactory ending.
The final programmed piece was D. Bogdanovic’s Jazz sonata in four movements. Like most people present I had not previously heard any of this San Francisco based composer’s music before and as the first movement progressed I felt that it sounded more Jazz piano than guitar in its influences but I have to say as the movement progressed we heard snippets of Spanish sounding influences which is rarely far from California. The playing was superb and sure footed and the movement finished with the music left hanging.
Although the second movement started in Guitar style being played on harmonics there was still a piano feel to the piece with echoes of the Jazz standard “It Might As Well Be Spring” It cant have only had this as an influence because suddenly, before the movement finished, I was walking through the street in Granada where all the Luthiers are based. As soon as I thought this the glimpse of Southern Spain disappeared as quickly as it had come and I was firmly back in the world of smoky jazz bars
The third movement had a lovely full bodied start dropping in to very Andalusian chords returning immediately to American jazz chords developing into an upbeat jazz dance tune that sounded as though it might have been written by Gershwin.
The fourth and final movement started with a wake up call which though not particularly jazzy prepared us for a walking bass which sat happily under a repeated figure followed by some discordant flamenco style chords and a repeat of the “wake up call” in the upper register.
That should have been it for the night but the applause was long and loud so we were treated to an encore of an arrangement of an Edith Piaf number that left us all feeling that the sparrow was present with us in the room.
Altogether a good night out and everyone I spoke to, friends and strangers alike, were impressed. Please don’t delay in booking for the next concert in Richmond on 27th November.