Jorge Caballero – January 28, 2017
When one is in the presence of greatness, one should be aware of it. I was certainly so on Saturday evening in the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring. From the moment Jorge Caballero sat down and composed himself to present an exquisite rendering of four pieces from the Iberia Suite by Albeniz, my understanding of the capacity of the acoustic guitar was forever altered. With an impassioned performance, Mr. Caballero perceptively communicated the poetic Evocation with its echoes of Spanish fandango and jota song forms. He moved with such ease into El Puerto, a fine Andalusian could have cantered in natural gait to its rhythms. And, El Albaicin and Malaga further bore us through the southern Spanish coast sharing its culture and images. Only absent was the fine wine and food to accompany these masterful pieces.
From J.S. Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903, the take away impression was simply stunning, stunning, stunning. To reduce a score written for an instrument with two manuals and five octaves each and impose it onto an instrument with just six strings is nothing less than insane. What’s even more insane is that it actually works, at least in the hands of Mr. Caballero whose command of his instrument is, I’m sure, the envy of many a performer eking out a career in this demanding profession. The rapid fire execution of scales and counterpoint might cause any keyboardist to permanently close the lid on their instrument; but, to conquer its fugal fingering on six strings, well, the only comparison is that both the harpsichord and acoustic guitar are plucked.
Intermission gave listeners time to recover from part one of the program, but nothing could have prepared us for part two. As one of only two guitarists in the world to have mastered Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on six strings, Mr. Caballero made Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue sound like Lesson Book I instruction. All that can be said is the man has skills — many, many gifts and even more skills to back up his inborn, natural ability. I wasn’t expecting to attend a guitar concert and hear all virtuoso compositions originally composed for the keyboard. Guitarists are renowned for their ability to interpret music written for other instruments, but this program presented us with some of the most difficult keyboard music one could tackle and yet there we were transfixed by not only the tremendous aptitude of this performer but by the amazing sound and dynamic of his playing. You would be amazed too, if you were to plug into the Marlow Series. Its reputation attracts the best guitarists this temporal world offers. What a gift to this community, unlike any other. And, Jorge Caballero confirmed for us Saturday just how fortunate we are to be on the receiving end of greatness.
Looking forward to hearing Antigoni Goni from Greece on February 25th at Westmoreland Congregational Church in Bethesda.