Audience Review: Antigoni Goni, GREECE

ag_med_sqSaturday, February 25th brought us another international guitarist celeb marking the fourth of just six features on this season’s Marlow Guitar Series. It’s always so nice to travel to foreign lands without having to leave one’s own back yard and Saturday’s adventure to Greece (for much of the program) transported us to a realm of ancient classical poetry updated for modern ears.

Tarrega was a traditional warm up hailing from the Iberian peninsula with Endecha y Oremus and Antigoni Goni, our artist of the evening, put her Andrea Tacchi guitar to good use in her presentation of the work. Wonderful sounding instruments like Spanish and Latin music and for good reason: the maker, a Florentine by birth, began making guitars at the young age of fifteen and sought out the most prominent Latin and Spanish luthiers to establish himself as one of the preeminent craftsman of today. It’s no wonder Tarrega’s work hums and strums so naturally on these fine acoustic instruments. But, that’s to be expected.

What was not anticipated was the application of Ms. Goni’s instrument to the more esoteric work by Dusan Bogdanovic . Carved out of a two thousand year old ancient Greek column, Bogdanovic’s Hymn to the Muse takes its theme from the Seikilos epitaph, the oldest surviving complete musical composition known to date. The Epitaph is inscribed: “I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance.” And, the poetic text with music is inscribed: “While you live, shine. Have no grief at all. Life exists only for a short while and time demands an end.” This original melody is re-imagined by Bodganovic in a blend of pythagorian and modern dissonant tonality, the setting somewhat haunting yet accessible. It’s about loss and living beyond to one’s own end. Fitting advice from the ancients, as the Greeks so well must have lived it. This work, having been dedicated to Ms. Goni, was a deeply personal interpretation as was her presentation of Mikis Theodorakis’ trio of pieces alternately using the guitar as both a percussion and string instrument. Just goes to show how interesting listening outside the box can be, and Ms. Goni demonstrated that for us on Saturday.

See you next time, when Margarita Escarpa joins Marlow again for what is sure to be a well attended evening. Don’t delay. Buy your tickets today! www.marlowguitar.org

Deborah Drayer

Review: Deborah Drayer – Rupert Boyd, Classical Guitarist from Australia

JEMGSweb_squares_RBLast 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.

— Deborah Drayer

Review: Deborah Drayer : Carlos Perez, Chile

JEMGSweb_squares_CP-smIt 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.

— Deborah Drayer