Guest Artists – The Griffin-Turner Duo (11/17)

Thursday 9 November 2017
Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

What a great evening. First we had the pleasure of Amanda Johnson’s short talk on the Spanish pianist-composer Enrique Granados, to whom the classical guitar repertoire is so grateful for his Spanish Dances and Goyescas, and who was to meet a tragic end in the English Channel. These 15-minute talks are among the highlights of the BCGS calendar, as they offer a space to any member to explain, share or demonstrate an aspect of the classical guitar world in which they have a particular interest. Members are constantly surprised by the quality and variety of the talks!

After Amanda’s talk, we tuned up, sat up straight and settled into our Ensemble session, guided as always by our fabulous director Helen James. With the end-of-year recital looming, we need her more than ever.

The second half of the evening was devoted to our special guests, the latest in the Visiting Artist series, in which we invite national and international figures to give recitals and talks. We were delighted to welcome Frances Griffin and Leo Turner, the Griffin-Turner Duo.

Leo and Frances immediately showed their technical control and excellent communication as they started with a bright, up-tempo arrangement of Vivaldi’s famous concerto. Not for them an ‘easy’ opening piece to settle in with! Sanzen-in, for two guitars, inspired by Andrew York’s visit to the temple of that name in Kyoto, is beautifully evocative, and the duo applied the same careful coordination and great subtlety of tone to render the quiet beauty of the piece.

Astor Piazzolla’s wonderful, intriguing treatment of Argentine tango is well known to guitar audiences through his 1960s/70s Estaciones Poerteñas (Seasons of Buenos Aires), and Libertango (a combination of the words in Spanish for ‘freedom’ and ‘tango’, implying the composer’s freeing himself from the confines of the traditional form). Frances and Leo gave it brio, swing and emotional depth that took full advantage of the two-guitar format and the broad chords and layered voices that it provides: Piazolla scored the pieces originally for multi-instrument bands including electric guitar and conventional tango accompaniment.

The duo’s own arrangements of the Beatles’ music provided a new look inside familiar music. Leo and Frances commented later that one obvious but critical issue, when translating non-guitar music onto the guitar, is that the result must be, above all, a meaningful guitar piece. The choral textures in Because were reworked into a full and resourceful combination of the guitar’s capabilities, delivered with a lovely subtlety. Likewise, the addition to the programme Carillon, by Herbie Flowers/Ian Gomm was tastefully arranged.

Another Argentine, Maximo Diego Pujol’s, 2005 piece Palermo (Sunday in La Boca) is bright and lilting, and the instruments’ individual tones gave it a real charm. The programme ended with a fiery rendering of Falla’s famous Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve, with the fast-paced Iberian energy maintained with great control of technique and close communication.

It was an enjoyable and memorable, evening of music, for which we are very grateful to the Griffin-Turner Duo. Conversation and discussion with Frances and Leo continued in the Surrey Vaults before they set off again for Birmingham, where they play regularly to packed audiences in their home city’s Museum and Art gallery.


 Concerto in D    Antonio Vivaldi
Allegro giusto

 Sanzen-in     Andrew York

 Verano Porteño    
 Libertango      Astor Piazolla

 Two Beatles melodies   Lennon/McCartney arr. Griffin/Turner

 Palermo (Domingo en La Boca)
 from the Suite Buenos Aires Maximo Diego Pujol

Spanish Dance
from La Vida Breve Manuel de Falla