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 2019
Prelude and Fugue no. 15, Book II* J. S. Bach (1685–1750)
Fantasy Op. 55 (bis) Fernando Sor (1778–1839)
Prelude and Fugue no. 8* Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975) Spanish Dance Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975
Souvenir de Russie Fernando Sor (1778–1839)
Duo Concertant Op. 44 Antoine de Lhoyer (1768–1852)
Voodoo Chile/Little Wing* Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra* Francisco Tárrega
*Arranged by Duo Canella-Dubès