Red Maids Performing Arts Centre
Saturday 22 November 2014
A capacity audience enjoyed this excellent recital, which took place in Bristol Classical Guitar Society’s usual venue of the Performing Arts Centre at Red Maids School. The acoustics here are pretty much ideal for our instrument, and the seating allowing everyone a good view of the action.
Throughout a very substantial programme, Ms Yang alternated between two guitars, one a Smallman, the other a Fisher, and the audience responded with rapt attention, hardly a cough being heard to interrupt the musical flow. Quite a contrast to those Segovia recitals of years ago when the great man was constantly bothered by loud audience coughing. Maybe we are all fitter now!
This evening’s programme contained much variety, as well as virtuosity, and got off to a great start with a selection of Albeniz’ piano evocations of Spain, transcribed by the artist. At least two of these usually appear in duo form, so it already says a lot for her skill that there was never any loss of momentum, or sacrifice of the original texture. A slight change in the program brought forward a beautiful arrangement with variations on The Fishermen at Eventide, which was also a Yang arrangement and, as she explained, evokes the Chinese zither, with lots of slides, bends, strong vibrato and quick arpeggio figures. The first half closed with a fluent performance of one of the guitar’s most important modern works, the Nocturnal after John Dowland by Benjamin Britten. Ms Yang’s verbal outline of the different sections that make up these variations (on Come Heavy Sleepe), and its form, plus her strongly dynamic playing, must have been helpful to those encountering the piece for the first time.
The programme continued in the second half with Bach’s monumental Chaconne, again in a transcription by the artist. This received a well-thought out and moving performance and was clearly much appreciated. Receiving only its third performance was Steven Goss’ Illustrations to the Book of Songs. Apparently the original music is long since lost; Goss’ work is inspired by the extant poems, which are around three thousand years old. There are six highly contrasting sections, each evoking a different atmosphere and again drawing on zither-like sounds, with oriental scales much in evidence. This was a delightful work to hear, and I certainly hope to hear it again.
The music of Paco de Lucia does not usually figure in classical guitar recitals, but seemed to cause no problems to the fingers of Ms Yang, who explained that she did not usually play flamenco but was inspired to play Fuente y Caudal as a tribute to the great flamenco guitarist, who died earlier in the year. Following a sensitive rendition of Bream’s transcription of Debussy’s La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin, the programme concluded with a well-thought out Homenaje Pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy by Falla, followed by his Spanish dance from La Vida Breve, again one of those works usually shared by two players! Xuefei Yang’s clean technique and tone made it sound like at least two guitarists, and she dashed it off with great verve. Following much enthusiastic applause, a single encore was offered: Gerald Garcia’s arrangement of Spring Breeze, a lovely Taiwanese folk song.
As can probably be gleaned from the foregoing, this was a highly successful and enjoyable evening of guitar playing, delivered by a musician whose charming stage presence, consummate technique and musicality left nothing wanting.
Review by John Edwards
Isaac Albéniz (arr. Xuefei Yang)
España, Op 165:
The Fishermen at Eventide (Traditional Chinese song)
Nocturnal after John Dowland Op 70
J. S. Bach (arr. Xuefei Yang)
Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor
Paco de Lucía
Fuente y Caudal
Stephen Goss (for Xuefei Yang)
Illustrations to the Book of Songs:
– Folk Song 1
– Flower and Youth
– Wan Dance
La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin (arr. Julian Bream)
Manuel de Falla
Homenaje (pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy)
Spanish Dance No.1 from La Vida Breve (arr. Xuefei Yang)