Review – Duane Morse : The Kupinski Duo

JEMGSweb_squares_KD_smThe Kupiński Guitar Duo

Reviewed by Duane D. Morse

The Kupiński Guitar Duo covered a lot of ground in their January 18, 2014 concert for the John E. Marlow Guitar Series, presenting a program that ranged from a Rossini operatic overture and three Chopin piano mazurkas to contemporary works for guitar by Sergio Assad and Dušan Bogdanović.  The guitarists, Ewa Jabłczyńska and Dariusz Kupiński, played flowing melodies and harmonies that moved back and forth between the two instruments and rose and fell with such perfect synchronization and breathiness that they almost seemed to be a single performer.

The program showcased the possibilities – and limitations — of the guitar-duo format.  Their arrangement of Asturias brought out both the intensity and sweetness of the piano original without seeming rushed, as most solo guitar performances do.  The Overture from Rossini’s opera La Gazza Ladra, which began with Jabłczyńska mimicking a snare drum on her guitar’s bass strings, was a surprisingly satisfying rendition of a piece originally written for an entire orchestra.  But the Chopin mazurkas, although pleasant and well played on the guitar, could not quite capture the tonal coloration and dynamic range of the piano originals. 

The highlight of the concert was Cenas Brasileiras, by the Brazilian guitarist and composer Sergio Assad.  Drawing on the full range of musical influences that infuse modern Brazilian music, the piece challenged both the performers and the audience with cascading virtuosic runs and shifting harmonies that repeatedly danced along the edge of atonality before returning to more familiar and accessible terrain.  Both members of the duo played flawlessly and seamlessly, but Dariusz Kupiński’s fluid technique was simply dazzling.

The second half of the concert featured a series of Spanish piano pieces by Enrique Granados and Manuel de Falla, most of which were arranged for guitar duo by Kupiński.  Surprisingly, the duo chose to close the concert not with a guaranteed crowd pleaser, but with Sonata Fantasia, by Dušan Bogdanović, a largely atonal piece that demands the full attention of the listener and therefore typically would be played immediately after the intermission.  That the piece received a standing ovation is a testament both to the quality of the duo’s performance and to the sophistication of the Marlow Series audience that heard and appreciated it.

Review – Bob Scharf : The Kupinski Duo


The Kupinski Duo. Photo: Ela Barteczko

“I just heard the third guitar concert Saturday night in a series of five sponsored by the International Conservatory of Music. The recital was a very satisfying one (and I say ‘recital’ because the performers used no music, which isn’t always the case with guitar concerts) by The Kupinski Duo (a man and wife, probably in their early 30s), from, yes, as you may have guessed, Poland. Among other pieces they performed, was the mandatory Asturías, of course. I didn’t realize that it was, as in all of Albéniz’s pieces for guitar, originally written for the piano. It makes me want to buy the sheet music at Dale’s. Albéniz himself said his compositions sounded better on the guitar. I agree. Sadly, as you know, he died at 48 of kidney disease, but at least he lived longer than Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Mozart. Carol, John Marlow’s widow, attended a dinner for the Duo Sunday evening at the Conservatory’s president’s home, Tim Healy, in Chevy Chase. The Duo also played their amazing arrangement of Rossini’s overture to his opera, La gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie). You probably don’t know it by that name, except perhaps in translation (I didn’t) but you’d recognize its several themes immediately. In a nutshell, it’s the story is about a young girl who is unjustly accused of stealing a silver fork, when, in fact, it was taken by a magpie! Of course, there are the usual romantic entanglements. Rossini was a classic procrastinator. It was reported that the producer had to lock him in a room the day before the first performance to write the overture. Rossini then threw each sheet of music out of the window to his copyists, who wrote out the full orchestral parts! The opera is no longer performed but the Overture is. I hear it on WETA (public radio), formerly WGMS. He outdid Prokofiev, who completed Peter and the Wolf the week before the performance! That’s almost like Gershwin writing the piano part to his Rhapsody in Blue and couriering it across Manhattan for Ferde Grofé to orchestrate. Gershwin learned that he was supposed to play the piece, actually a concerto, originally conceived by Paul Whiteman, as an experiment in jazz as a serious art form, just five weeks before its performance! He didn’t have time to write a concerto so Whiteman suggested something shorter. He also offered the help of Grofé, Whiteman’s arranger, and an excellent composer in his own right—witness the Grande Canyon Suite, with its famous On the Trail, the theme-song for Phillip Morris cigarettes (remember Johnny, “call for Phillip Mor—read,-ēēēēēē!). Unfortunately the Rhapsody was not performed that evening although it was on the program. Preceding the concert was the usual half-hour lecture by Larry Snitzler—always erudite and always interesting from his personal contact, fascinating stories, and friendships with some of the great guitarists and other musicians of the twentieth century—Nadia Boulanger (many musicians flocked to her studio in Paris), Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, John Williams (the greatest of the present generation, in my estimation), and, of course, Segovia (whom I heard at Lisner—I had stage seats!—and Constitution Hall (with the NSO) in the early 60s. Larry spent a month in Europe with his wife. Forty-eight years ago, at age 21, he bought a Ramirez and, for the first time ever, parted with it while leaving it at the Ramirez shop (not the retail sales store) in Madrid for repairs. I have enjoyed extended conversations about music, particularly tidbits about 20th Century composers and pianists, which we share. They also include some personal contacts I’ve had with these artists as a stage-door Johnny when I was in my teens and twenties.” – BOB SCHARF

Review #2:Tamayo-Montesinos Duo, Classical Guitarists from Cuba and Spain

JEMGSweb_squares_MT-smDouble Delight — that’s what we heard on the second concert of the 2013 – 2014 John E. Marlow Guitar Series on November 23rd, and this dynamic duo did not fail to please. 

Performers like this are the reason why the Marlow series, in its 20th Season, has become such an international showcase for the finest classical guitarists in the world today.  We have been blessed, extremely so, as the result of untiring efforts on the parts of Tim and Susan Healy, Regis Ferruzza, Carol Marlow, Joan Collings and many others who, over the years, have dedicated themselves to building an establishment well-regarded by the greater Baltimore-Washington community and far beyond. 

When performers the likes of the Tamayo-Montesinos Duo grace our hall, there’s no escaping the fact that time and dedication pay off for the artists, for those who work to provide the platform for their art, and, not least, for those who have the reliable opportunity to hear exceptional music.

This adorable couple hail from the exquisite city of Salzburg, Austria, but it was not always so.  She is Spanish, he is Cuban, and they met at an international competition when she was too young to date, but there was a spark there from the beginning which ultimately produced, for our listening pleasure, the fine output of music we heard on the 23rd which waltzed us through the centuries between Sor and Koshkin.

The first half of their program superbly demonstrated the great command they have of the repertoire of Bach, Sor and Paganini!  Try starting out with that handful of notes (although I might of eased into it with the Sor first).  Bach’s Concerto BWV 971, after Vivaldi, has a delightful catch-me-if-you-can third movement which sweetly defined the dynamic between the two talents whereas Sor’s L’Encouragement offered us introspection and perspective on a work which highlighted the players perfect synchronization of the musical text – what a lesson it was.  Then, the Prima Sonata (originally for violin and guitar) by Paganini spun us into a fast, faster, fastest frenzy that simply charmed the programs right out of the hands of the listeners.

For their second act, the audience was fully engaged by Leo Brouwer’s transcriptions of three Lennon-McCartney songs which I, for one, had a hard time not singing along to…  The take away from this was, it was too darned bad they didn’t have a recording of it because I would have purchased the lot and sent them to friends at the four corners of the earth for the holidays!  Hopefully, Anabel and Marco will record them soon and make Paul McCartney the first recipient of the first disc off the press.  What a superb and wholly imaginative interpretation of these transcribed songs.  Please, WETA, play this over and over again ASAP!!!!

Then, Koshkin’s ragtime movement in the Cambridge Suite beguiled us for a while before the last piece by Menken (transcribed by Marco himself) painted a whole new image of Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.  For a decidedly classically bent constituency, the second half of the program reimagined the 20th century and gave us something new and fresh to take out in our heads on the way home.

Wow, this is why I love this series.  It has it all:  a range of musical history without being stodgy or dated, performed within the disciplined hands of gifted artists with fresh ears and outstanding talent to boot.  Who could ask for anything more?

-Deborah Drayer
Silver Spring, MD


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