Pearl Django and “Le Jazz Hot” April 5, 2014 at the Westmoreland Congregational UCC.
The last concert of this season’s John E. Marlow Guitar Series left us on both an upbeat and a downbeat note. The upbeat was the original sound of Pearl Django, a fine quintet of two guitars (Selmer Maccaferri style guitars), violin, accordion and bass from Seattle which dished out a unique blend of gypsy, jazz and bluesy sounds dotted with tricky improvisations that had the audience breaking into spontaneous applause, piece after beat-bopping piece.
The first set kicked off with Daphne, a saucy hit by Django Reinhardt that got things moving and it was all uphill from there. The Marlow Guitar audience typically doesn’t applaud in the middle of a work (it’s not like a Bach fugue is going to get people clapping before it’s over); so, it’s a breath of fresh air for us to let loose for a night and take in the bohemian freedom that comes with a genre we don’t usually hear on the Series or WETA during morning/evening rush hours. Perhaps if the station played an occasional Pearl Django ditty like Prozac Musette there might be less road rage noted during the traffic reports. But, last night, we, at least, had our collective blood pressure lowered and drove home with a good grip of finger clicking energy.
I may have imagined it but I picked up on a hint of the Appalachian in Daphne that just goes to show our musical DNA is connected across continents and ages. It’s not coincidental that a tune which may have started out in eastern Europe might find its way to the eastern mountains of the New World, but you should hear it for yourselves, if not in person, on their CDs: my personal favorite is Modern Times (though Daphne‘s not on it), but there are more recent recordings including Eleven and other notables. A quick visit to Pearl Django’ s website will provide you with many of the delightful sounds we heard last Saturday, so do yourself a favor and visit: http://www.pearldjango.com/files/cdcatalog.htm. You’re sure to add a distinctive sound to your recorded collections.
Regarding the downbeat of the evening, the John E. Marlow Guitar Series’ long time Artistic Director, and impresario debonair, Regis Ferruzza, is retiring after a lifetime of service to the series and broader Washington community. For 20 years, Regis and Tim Healy have been the dynamic duo behind this successful venture and Regis will be missed by all who know and have worked with him over his career… from serving his country in uniform, to accomplished performer, instructor and mentor to the many artists who have made their way to the stage of this exceptional series. Regis will be returning to his home town of Pittsburgh to take in the stellar Italian cooking of his beloved sister and kicking back to listen, no doubt, to all that cornerstone town of America has to offer. We wish Regis all the best as he transitions to the next chapter and turns the page on a job well done. One never knows until one has to walk in another’s shoes all that individual has shouldered; and, I can tell you from one who has helped a bit in the search for the right person to take his place how much Regis has contributed to this town’s musical aesthetic. Please join me in wishing Regis the fondest of farewells. We hope he will come back and visit to just relax, listen, and let others do the job of making six Saturdays a year the highlight of their season. Thank you Regis! We could not have done it without you.
Last Saturday, Rupert Boyd visited the John E. Marlow Guitar Series for the second time in almost as many years and wooed the audience with his homespun talent and good wit including a splendid range of repertoire from Dowland and Bach to Sor, Granados, Piazzolla and a spicy dip of Australian indigenous inspired music by Sculthorpe. The great gift Marlow offers its audience is the international flavor of artists who never fail to introduce us to sounds from their homelands along with many of their own arrangements of well-known classics like the Valses Poeticos by Granados originally written for piano and effectively refashioned by Rupert for guitar. And, the tricky Otono Porteno which inspired an enemy of Piazzolla’s to challenge him, at gunpoint no doubt, to “stop messing with the Tango!” Who could have blamed the guy, even the most accomplished dancers might trip over their feet sliding to the beat of that irregularly twisted opus, but what fun they would have doing it! And, Mozart would have been thrilled with the Suite in E Major, first written for violin, then lute and graciously articulated by Rupert with its own gavotte and menuetts. Between the waltzes, gigue, tango and assorted dances, it was an evening of fanciful movement all around.
Be sure to join us for the last concert of the season on April 5th when Pearl Django brings us their own unique blend of gypsy, jazz and swing. You won’t be disappointed.
We can feel the love. 450 people came out Saturday night to hear our John E. Marlow Guitar Series March 15 performance.
We heard a pre-concert performance by our Beatty Music Scholarship Competition Grand Prize winner, Infinity Willner. She played a wonderful Joropo by Merlin.
Then we sat back to enjoy the sensitive and evocative music of our featured performer, Rupert Boyd (Australia), making his triumphant return to the Marlow Guitar Series stage. He played Dowland, Piazzola , JS Bach, Fernando Sor and Granados and some evocative, contemporary music of Peter Schulthorpe, all of it with great musicality and charm.
This performance was one of the stops on Rupert Boyd’s US tour, organized in cooperation with the International Conservatory of Music (ICM) and the Embassy of Australia. ICM’s Project Manager, Bill Herrmann, organized the tour, sending Mr. Boyd to perform in New York City, NY, Buffalo, NY, Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, Honolulu, HI, San Francisco, CA Flagstaff, AZ, Phoenix, AZ, and Muncie, IN!
We would like to express our thanks to the Embassy of Australia for their sponsorship of the splendid “Meet-the-Artist” Reception this past Saturday night. The weatherman cooperated by delivering a balmy 60 degree day and a full moon! All and all, we would have to call the entire evening, super incredible.
It may have been a blustery February evening in the Nation’s Capitol last Saturday but that did not deter Marlow ticket holders from attending a superbly rendered program performed by Carlos Perez of Chile. Fresh off delayed flights from all that fluffy white stuff the Northeast had endured, Carlos jumped right into his program and warmed the hearts of listeners with Dos Mazurkas by Manjon. It was the beginning of an evening of comfort music with one delightful work after another.
The first half of the program was from the Spanish repertoire with two of the composers related by their studies with Tarrega. But, first, Carlos gave us Manjon’s Dos Mazurkas, then he added the melancholic Aire Vasco with its remarkable and challenging passages of runs and arpeggios executed with disarming facility. These were followed by the younger and longer lived Pujol whose Cubana made it difficult not to get up and dance — the muscle moving rhythms are so compelling it’s a shame to be seated for music so, literally, well, moving. The Scottish Madrileno, too, was a dance form but could also be sung and it mimicked the voice in places were higher notes were held sotto voce for delicate emphasis. This set ended with Damas’ Fandango Variado and all its dashing scales run over and over again with Olympian ease. The audience was, then, well prepped for the second, southern half of the evening.
Round two brought us the South American’s in all their richness and color: Barrios (Paraguay), Sagreras (Argentina), and Nazareth (Brazil). Barrios’ Preludio Opus 5 is the kind of piece that gets the fingers moving in a way musicians love to play especially with it’s awesome coda, while the fanciful and fun melody of Maxixa, charming in its way, led nicely into the following work by Sagreras. It’s worth mentioning here, that programming is an art in itself and good musicians know how to balance a program and lead the audience through the ages. It can be done chronologically, by alternating centuries or decades to contrast style and musical development, or by grouping like-influences together. Carlos gets that superbly well and demonstrated it in his own programming by putting space between Europe and the Americas. These types of presentations teach us something about how composers are impacted by their own times and peers. The programming itself can be a type of formative instruction and when one knows one’s craft, as Carlos does, it shows the composers and their work in a sometimes subtle, but revealing light. Regis Ferruzza knows this too. He’s always talking about how artists arrange their programs, and I trust he would agree, that this one gets high marks.
That being said, what impressed me most on this part of the program was the Nazareth Eponina — a slow waltz that just lusciously lulled the listener into the evening’s closing. I imagined holding my child as an infant in my arms and dancing her to it to settle her in the evening before bedtime or comforting when it was needed. What a precious gift it was. There were many gifts last Saturday, but this one I took away in my heart. Thank you, Carlos, for your gift and for an evening well told.
The KupińskiGuitar 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.
“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