Red Maids Performing Arts Centre
Saturday 7 March 2015
Craig Ogden has the air of someone happily fulfilling his destiny. He is perfectly at ease doing what he was evidently put on the planet to do, with a playing style and presence that exudes calm and enjoyment. He writes off his between-piece talks as waffle; however, these are definitely part of the evening’s entertainment and complement his musical communication – they give insights into many aspects of the performer’s art as well as into the pieces themselves. He spoke of the decisions needed to satisfy opposing corners of the performer-promoter-audience triangle, detailed the causes of a guitarist’s incessant tuning, demonstrated the alarming flexibility of the neck of his Greg Smallman guitar and regaled us with the story of being conned into giving up a previous Smallman to a serial swiper of fine instruments.
But the near capacity audience was there for the music. “An interesting programme!” was a frequent comment and Craig showed what technical prowess is needed to engage fully with Domenico Scarlatti immediately followed by George Harrison, or Bach followed by Django Reinhardt. As he explained, it could be argued that Scarlatti sounds better on the guitar, with so many tonal possibilities compared to the original keyboard performance. The harpsichord has a limited dynamic range and a plucking mechanism without flexibility, whereas there is the potential, at least in the hands of an expert like Craig, to coax so many tones out of the guitar. So despite the inevitable loss of the sheer density of notes played in a keyboard version, sensitive arrangement and spirited playing of three Sonatas delivered a musical result that the composer would surely have appreciated.
Here Comes the Sun followed, with Craig acknowledging the sophistication of Göran Söllscher’s arrangement and its nod to Bach’s Prelude BWV 1006a.
John McCabe died in February so it was a fitting tribute for Craig to play his 1968 composition, Canto. This brought out wide ranges of dynamics and tones from player and instrument. McCabe composed the piece at a high point in the classical guitar’s popularity and it reflects a time when revolution was in the air with intervals and chords that stretch the ears and variations on themes that never quite complete. The piece finishes quietly, its spirit lingering. We then returned to familiar sonorities: Turina’s Sonata for Guitar continued to delight with tonal variety and a turn of speed that did nothing to compromise the clarity of each note.
The second half of the programme was equally diverse: Bach followed by Reinhardt’s Nuage a contrast of measured control and fulsome swing. Then further contrasts of tradition and modernity as Albeniz’ Torre Bermeja gave way to the rambunctious Rondo Rodeo by Gary Ryan, where pigs squeal and horses gallop.
Craig took us to his birthplace with an encore: Waltzing Matilda, otherwise known as The Jolly Swagman, arranged by William Lovelady. The tune shimmers out of the descending chromatic scales like sun through the eucalyptus.
All in all it was a summery session, and the Bristol Guitar Society thanks Craig for the flashes of sunlight he brought to a wintery evening, and an equally entertaining master class the following day.
Tim Rigley March 2015
Domenico Scarlatti 1685 – 1757
Sonata in A K.322
Sonata in D K.177
Sonata in D K.178
Here Comes the Sun Guitar arr. Göran Söllscher
John McCabe 1939 – 2015
Joaquín Turina 1882 – 1949
Sonata for Guitar
J. S. Bach 1685 – 1750
Lute Suite no. 4 (BWV 1006a)
– Gavotte en Rondeau
– Bourree & Gigue
Nuages arr. Roland Dyens
Isaac Albeniz 1860 – 1909