Red Maids’ Performing Arts Centre
Saturday 30th April 2022
Our three-year wait for the pleasure of presenting one of the brightest stars of the guitar scene, Alexandra Whittingham, is over. It was a delight to have her at Redmaids’ this evening.
Not only is the novelty of Alexandra’s masterful playing and engaging, genuine presence a loud and clear demonstration of the new wave of classical guitarists around us: young, extremely talented, many of them – finally – female, and making full and agile use of online platforms, no longer at the mercy of promotors and recording labels, but her programming is proof positive of the continued development of the guitar repertoire in their hands.
This evening’s music is wide-ranging, with as few as three or four selections common in the concert repertoire. Alexandra opened with a wonderful handling of Dyens’ Saudade with its very demanding range of technique and emotion, an intriguing start to the programme and a taste of things to come as well as a thorough warmup for the performer.
The following four pieces are from a favourite period of Alexandra’s and one that has seen a resurgence in interest over the last few years, the nineteenth century. Here she demonstrated again not only great sensitivity to tone and style, but also the technique required by – it is easy to forget – very technically demanding music. Sor’s poise, Shand’s Edwardian manners and Pratten’s emotive romance were delivered with sensitivity. Le Départ followed, with great precision in the fast positional chord changes amid Napoléon Coste’s evocation of the drama of the Crimean War, before the first half ended with a shift forward in time to Piazzolla’s delightfully exotic tangos Return to the South and then Summer in Buenos Aires from the Estaciones Porteñas (Seasons of Buenos Aires) suite. Alexandra provided beautiful layers of passion, lyricism and rhythm.
The second part of the programme began with a gentle handling of Scarlatti’s counterpoint before another chronological jump to Jorge Morel’s Sonatina, another stern challenge for the player and a delight for the listener, interpreted skilfully by Alexandra in the dense and complex allegretto, the nostalgic espressivo and the quick dance of the allegro. Her impressive technique in both the left and right hands allows her an interpretation that is full of light and shade, brilliance and sensitivity, making full advantage of the resources of her instrument.
Villa-Lobos and Tárrega are well known to audiences, but it is wonderful to hear these two Preludes and Tárrega’s Capricho on the concert stage. The Prelude no.3 and Capricho were given all the space for their quiet beauty and atmospheric contemplation to ring. Alexandra closed the programme with a contrast in period and style, Gerhard’s Fantasia, a modern composition in Spanish musical idiom, with rasgueado and Iberian rhythms and an occasionally even atonal and jagged take on native harmonies; a bold and intriguing choice.
Alexandra returned to the stage for a thoroughly deserved encore and gave us a beautiful rendering of Towner’s jazz piece Always By Your Side, interpolating her own recent composition of the centre section, normally improvised live by Towner, thus demonstrating another side to her impressive musical sensitivity and skill.
Our thanks and congratulations to Alexandra for a fascinating, entertaining evening of music.
Nick Regan April 2022