Concert Reviews

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Copenhagen Guitar Duo


Concert Series

Red Maids' Performing Arts Centre

Saturday 23rd November 2019



It pays to get out and about. BCGS members Barry Corbett and Vince Smith saw the Copenhagen Guitar Duo play at the Dillington Guitar Festival last year, and agreed that they duo had to be invited to the Classical Guitar Society’s Concert Series. Martin Buono and Allan Sjølin, still young men, have already been a duo for nearly 20 years. They applied to and graduated from the Royal Danish Academy as a duo, and have been touring together, teaching and working in music education projects ever since.


From the outset tonight, the power of communication between the two players, the quality of their arrangements and their remarkable technique, was clear. The two guitars shared call and response passages, melody and supporting voices, with each player’s personality giving a slightly different touch to the music. Their adaptations of Albéniz’s Suite Española were lyrical, and sensitively understood in their Spanishness. Many of us had not heard the full set of 8 of Granados’ Valses Poéticos, a formidable suite of Parisian-influenced pieces that the Duo dealt with effectively over its entire length; a novel treat. The verve of the duo continued into Falla’s Danza as they gave a high-powered and high-precision rendition that made great use of the depth and sonority of the instruments’ combined forces. As Allan pointed out, today was Falla’s birthday; he would have been delighted.


The music resumed after the interval in a different vein; the Duo are equally at home in classical style and cool jazz mode. The lilting cascades of Assad’s Canção were a delight, the first of two characteristic Brazilian pieces in the programme.


Thus far, all the music had been arrangements by the Duo, but the Suite Copenhagen is their own composition. It contains elements of all their experience – baroque, minimalism, Latin America and draws on a broad resource of standard and extended technique. In the three Piazzolla pieces that followed, they returned to South America. There was equal challenge and reward in the transposition of Piazzolla’s large band onto two guitars: Zita has wonderful light-and-dark tango story; Tanti Anni Prima is melodic, atmospheric and rich, and Escolaso a light, quick tango step. The Duo worked hard across the fingerboard and the full range of technique to ensure again that all three were bursting with life. The famous Mas Que Nada (with the 6th string in C, the latest in a constant and perfectly-controlled series of re-tunes) was a treat, even including an improvised solo from Martin along its groovy, fast ‘samba novo’ way. The programme ended with the jazz-influenced Cristal; rhythm and technical execution were perfect, with balance and great understanding both of the music and of the audience.


The duo were asked for two encores, in which they revealed yet another facet of their arranging and performance skills with themes from the TV series Game of Thrones and the film of Che Guevara’s travels in South America, The Motorcyle Diaries.


The variety of music tonight was wonderful, and the musicality, technique and success of the Duo’s arrangements of the music a delight.


www.copenhagenguitarduo.com



Programme



From Suite Española:      Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909)


I   Granada

II  Cataluña

III Sevilla


Valses Poéticos      Enrique Granados (1867–1916)


Danza from “La Vida Breve”      Manuel de Falla (1876–1946)



Interval


Canção        Sérgio Assad (b. 1952)


Suite Copenhagen      Copenhagen Guitar Duo (f. 1986)


Zita       Astor Piazzolla (1921–1991)

Tanti Anni Prima

Escolaso


Mas Que Nada       Sérgio Mendes (b. 1941)


Cristal        César Camargo (b. 1943)






Duo Canella-Dubès

Concert Series

Red Maids' Performing Arts Centre

Saturday 27 April 2019


The Duo Cannella-Dubès specialise in creating a

 fresh historical insight into the guitar. They play 19th century Panormo instruments strung with synthetic gut, but embrace music not only of that period, but also genres as diverse as American folk song, 20th century atonality and the electric rock of 1960s USA. Tonight we even heard an altogether original rendering of Recuerdos de la Alhambra.


In Romantic-era style, Vincent opened with an improvisation, serving to focus minds and attune ears to the emotive expression in the music – as well as to the sonority of the Panormo instruments themselves, one that was new to many in the audience.


The arrangement of the opening Bach was daring and intricate, Vincent taking a traditionally ‘guitar 1’ role and Nausicaa ‘guitar 2’ for the most part, with some lovely call-and-response work. The sequenced segments of Sor’s fantasy for two guitars were also delivered in a carefully controlled way, with some wonderful Spanish stylistics as per the composer’s requirement, and bright, lively movement in the melodies.


Vincent kindly explained the programme in English, and told us that Dimitri Shostakovich is one of the Duo’s favourite composers. His contemplative prelude and fugue put the Panormos in new territory, but the dissonances and melancholy style were conveyed with great skill by Vincent and Nausicaa. His Spanish Dance, written as a study, is more fun than the previous one, to use Vincent’s own word, and contains changes in rhythm and challenging high-speed melodies into the upper reaches of the fingerboard. These were handled with delightful dexterity, in a clever arrangement that rounded off the first part of the programme with energy.


The Romantic-era guitar is less punchy and loud than modern Spanish or Australian instruments. The gut strings have shorter sustain. However, such differences were put aside in the hands of the Duo and their selection of music. In part two, players and instruments alike were showcased wonderfully as they took on Fernando Sor’s huge creativity and the severe technical demands he imposed, belying perhaps the genteel manners of a 19th century musical soirée. The style certainly reflects the formality of the times, and the tendency towards ‘orchestral’ music to be played on the guitar, rather than a ‘guitar music’ native to the instrument of the kind that would come later. The Duo gave a rendition of great verve in the fast passages, and agility in the glissandos, arpeggios and harmonics. French virtuoso Antoine de Lhoyer is another favourite composer of Canella-Dubès. His Duo Concertant Op. 44 again showed their tight communication and mastery of long-format works requiring the full range of technique; these pieces are not for the faint-hearted concert performer.


The second fresh stylistic sphere explored this evening was in the folk song Shenandoah. Vincent again supplied an atmospheric prelude, this time in the style of the lap-steel guitar, the two guitars working well to allow the song to come through the reflective mood, and once again equal to the expressive requirements of the music.


Just as the 19th century composers looked for new sounds, so did electric instrumentalists of the late 20th century such as Jimi Hendrix. The Duo next gave a refreshing interpretation of two of his songs, with the Panormos adding to the novelty. The surprises were not at an end, however. As an encore, the Duo regaled us a beautiful performance of Tárrega’s Recuerdos with the tremolo rendered on Vincent’s’ small, pear-shaped bandurria using rapid strokes of a plectrum on the steel strings. The result was intriguing, and it was interesting to hear the supporting arpeggios separated out into Nausicaa’s part.


We are grateful to the Duo Cannella-Dubès for their very engaging presence and a varied and illuminating programme. Our congratulations too to them on their wonderful playing and the quality and ambition of their arrangements.


Nick Regan April 2109









Interval


















The Albach Duo


Concert Series

Red Maids' Performing Arts Centre

Saturday 11 November 2017


Rebecca Baulch is known to us not only as

Founder member, with Amanda Cook and Hayley Savage, of the celebrated Appassionata Trio, but in her role as tutor at West Dean guitar summer school and recently for the fascinating talk she gave us this year on staying 'in the zone' while playing in front of others. This evening we were delighted to host Rebecca with David Black, prize-winning guitarist, arranger and the other half of the Albach Duo.


The programme for this evening's concert was varied: Ireland to Scotland and Wales, Italy to Argentina. From the outset, the set of Irish tunes showed the duo's wonderful mastery of light and shade and of strikingly complex interaction. The nineteenth-century romantic style of Schubert's Duo in A minor suited them very well, the combination of delicacy, fluency and high precision in the high-speed scale sections of the allegro a delight to listen to and see in an arrangement played by Bream and Williams, although never published. The pair of Scottish pieces, A Farewell to Stromness and Wild Mountain Thyme, are both audience favourites, and were treated by the duo with care and atmosphere in David's own arrangements.


After the interval and a complementary glass of wine, the duo began with a large set of music: the four Scarlatti sonatas. Like Alexandre Lagoya's arrangements of the first and second, Rebecca's arrangements of the second pair gave them an admirable immediacy in both flow and melodic appeal, the duo again displaying very impressive individual and combined virtuosity.  The same control and lyricism were present in the set of three folk songs from David's home - simple melodies made interesting, and charming, for the guitar in Stephen Goss's sometimes surprising arrangements.


For the final set of pieces, we travelled a long way geographically and stylistically to Argentina and the tango. The Piazzolla was rendered with beautiful atmospherics, effects and the characteristic energetic movement of the tango. David and Rebecca continued to demonstrate easy control of the full range of the guitar's resources - tremolo, trills, tambora, harmonics - and lovely coordination and understanding of each other's playing and of the music.


We were treated to an encore of Abel Fleury's Milonga del Ayer to round of an evening of

great programming, exceptional playing, and the company of two charming and engaging people.


Nick Regan November 2107




Programme


Traditional Irish folk songs      (arr. Robin Hill)

- Lark in the Morning         

- She Moves Through the Fair

- Portcanna Jig


Duo in a minor       Franz Schubert (arr. J. Bream)

A setting of the G minor Quartet Op. Posth. D173

- Allegro con brio

- Andantino

- Allegro


Farewell to Stromness     Peter Maxwell Davis  

Wild Mountain Thyme     (arr. David Black)

Traditional Scottish folk song



INTERVAL


Sonata K.159 D major (arr. Lagoya)     Domenico Scarlatti

Sonata K.173 D minor (arr. Lagoya)  

Sonata K.13 G major (arr. Baulch)

Sonata K.162 E major (arr. Baulch)


Traditional Welsh folk songs      (arr. Stephen Goss)

- Dafyddd y garreg wen

- Suo gân

- Lliw gwyn rhosyn yr haf


Lo que vendrá  (arr. Austell-Estrada)   Astor Piazzolla

Adiós niño  (arr. Baulch)    Astor Piazzolla  

Milonga       Jorge Cardozo

Taquito militar  (arr. Coulthard)   Mariano Mores



Encore

Milongueo del ayer      Abel Fleury





Michael Partington

Concert Series

The Bradbury Centre

Saturday 19 March 2016


Michael Partington, now based in the USA, is in the UK for a series of concerts, and we were delighted to host one of them as part of our Concert Series.


A bright start with the always fresh-sounding Coste was followed by the trio of Torroba pieces, which he gave a beautiful Spanish bravura and lyricism, the Alcázar finishing off the set with marvellous right-hand work. Michael went on to describe Johann Kaspar Mertz' style as influenced by the Romantic works of Mendelssohn and Schumann, and he brought this out in clean, beautiful tones and colours in the Elégie - 'a rich, powerful composition with anger, sadness and impotence, as well as celebration'.


Michael is a champion of new repertoire. The first of the new pieces in tonight's programme was US guitarist and composer Bryan Johansen's La Folia Folio, a set of modern variations on the often-used 16th century Spanish piece La Folia. Johansen's treatment is perhaps light-hearted in intent, but no less demanding of the player for it, with its requirement for jazz, Elizabethan, Arabic, Spanish and flamenco styles. The big finale is a joy, and lovely end to the first half of the programme.


The wonderful Piazzola set opened the second half, with Michael using his Martin Blackwell double-top instrument delightfully to deliver the rich and moving music. Following this was the Stephen Goss, performed for the first time only a month ago - the composer himself has yet to hear it! The work is an introspective and delicate description of a memorial chapel. The final pieces, the Albéniz, are familiar to most guitarists and pianists, but Michael's arrangements are novel in striving to respect the piano original to the maximum, including, in Mallorca, maintaining a bass line lost in other transcriptions by using a remarkable barré held down with the thumb on the 6th string on the front of the fingerboard. The accompaniment is full, and the melodies ring through. Michael makes no compromises to simplicity in his arrangements, but handles the tough task with calm and great musicality.


The encore, Farewell to Stromness was an apposite choice in the light of the death last week of the composer, Peter Maxwell Davies. Michael did music and composer full justice.


Michael kindly stayed to chat and sign CDs, and later, at the Eastfield Inn, regaled us with fascinating insights into the psychology of the performer, complete with book references and personal anecdotes. We headed home gratefully with that, our new CDs and an excellent concert to digest. Our warm thanks to Michael for a great evening of music.


Nick Regan March 2016


Programme



Rondeau de Concert, Op. 12      Napoleon Coste

         1805-1883


Nocturno        Federico Moreno Torroba

Andante (from Sonatina)     1891-1982

Alcázar de Segovia (from Castillos de España)



Elégie         Johann Kaspar Mertz

        1806-1856


La Folia Folio        Bryan Johanson

        b. 1951



INTERVAL



Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four    Astor Piazzolla

Seasons of Buenos Aires)      1921-1992

- Otoño porteño

- Invierno porteño

- Verano porteño


Watts Chapel*       Stephen Goss

        b. 1964


Mallorca       Isaac Albéniz

Cádiz (from Suite española)      1869-1909

        arr. Partington



Encore

Farewell to Stromness (from The Yellow Cake Revue) Peter Maxwell-Davies

        1934-2016



*written for Michael Partington





Concerts we have hosted since 2008