Gary Ryan (11/13)

Concert Series
Red Maids Performing Arts Centre
Saturday 16 November 2013

Gary Ryan is an exceptional musician. Additionally special in his concert tonight was the palpable delight among the audience in spending the evening in his company.

The programme advanced in near chronolgical order. Immediately, the poise and precision of Gary’s playing stood out. Preatorius felt as fresh as Dowland. In the Bach, his explanations of accents and time signatures, the knowledge that the double on each section is a descant using the reworked melody from the section, made the listening all the more enjoyable, and the complexity of Bach’s composition all the more magical, but Gary’s cleanness of articulation, described as ‘jewel-like precision’ by previous critics, was remarkable; under every duress of speed and of musical or technical demand, his accuracy and voicing are faultless.

The atmospherics of Brouwer’s lullaby and Andean dance were equally exquisite, with the big, round voice of the Stephen Hill instrument filling Red Maids hall with ease. Walton’s Bagatelles, which spare no demand on the player, Gary dealt with admirably – the orchestral expression, the hectic chord changes of I, the harmonic passages in II and the beautiful melodies of III; and always the amazing clarity.

If startling technique was the first thing to delight the audience, the second was the variety of the programme; the stylistic range of Gary’s mastery. Hot Club Français, a eulogy to Django Reinhardt-Stephane Grapelli’s 1930s quintet and an original Ryan composition, is a clever marriage of classical and ‘gypsy’ jazz idioms that made a fizzing, brilliant end to the first half.

After the break, the variety continued as Gary guided us from Argentina to Japan, Spain, Brazil, Ireland – and the Wild West. Piazzola’s tango was as characterful as Yocoh’s variations on a simple Japanese melody in praise of the cherry blossom, subtle string bends and the strings damped in imitation of the ‘koto’ transporting us to the East. Then the beautiful moorish melody of Albeniz’s magnificent Mallorca, broad and lyrical in Gary’s hands, and Roland Dyens’ rhythmically intriguing and difficult-looking arrangement of Felicidade. Gary himself commented that Dyens’ arrangements always teach you something about how to use a guitar in an interesting and original way.

This was indeed a performance to see as well as hear, and the final two pieces were a spectacular end to the programme. Lough Caragh is Gary’s enchanting souvenir of the west of Ireland, rich in idiomatic phrases, harmonics and campanella reminiscent of the Irish harp. In breathtaking contrast is Benga Beat, a show piece perhaps like nothing many of those present had seen before – certainly at a classical guitar concert. It is a feast of infectious rhythm, incorporating just about every imaginable guitaristic resource to evoke a panorama of Africa, the stylistics carefully observed and delivered through exciting, impeccable technique. The musicianship is amazing.

The encore of Gary’s Rondo Rodeo, then, ended, on an energetic note, an evening of skilful programming, staggering playing, impressive composition, and pleasant company. Gary Ryan is rightfully one of the world’s most sought-after guitarists: tonight’s concert really was the experience of the joy of the guitar in performance.

Review by Nick Regan


Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
Allemande (My Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe)John Dowland (1563-1626)
Sarabande & Double
Bouree & Double
from Violin Partita No.1 in B minor (BWV 1002)
J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Berceuse (Canción de Cuna)
Danza del Altiplano
Leo Brouwer (1939- )
Bagatelles for Guitar:
I Allegro (assai)
II Lento (sognando)
III Alla Cubana
William Walton (1902-1983)
Hot Club FrançaisGary Ryan (1969- )


Verano PorteñoAstor Piazzola (1921-1992)
Sakura VarationsYuquijiro Yocoh (1925- )
Mallorca Op. 22 (arr. Segovia)Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Felicidade (arr. Roland Dyens)Antônio C. Jobim (1927-1994)
Lough Caragh
Benga Beat
Gary Ryan (1969- )