Duo Tapas – exotic lunchtime fare at Old St.Paul’s

Duo Tapas

Rupa Maitra (violin) / Owen Moriarty (guitar)

de FALLA –  Cinco Canciones Populares Espanolas / IMAMOVIC – Sarajevo Nights : Jamilla’s Dance   PIAZZOLLA – Histoire du Tango / KROUSE- Da Chara

Old St.Paul’s Lunchtime Concert Series

Tuesday, 7th September, 2010

Something about the splendid ornateness of the interior of Old St.Paul’s Church, if not especially Moorish or Iberian, suited the exoticism of parts of the programme presented by violinist Rupa Maitra and guitarist Owen Moriarty on Tuesday at lunchtime, part of an excellent series of concerts organised for performance at the church. Ever approximate, I arrived late for the concert’s beginning, picking up what I thought was the third piece, Cancion, of the Cinco Canciones populares Espanolas by Falla, an entry-point which immersed me into a world of dark, sultry atmospheres and insinuations, a mournful melody expressed in lovely, earthy accents and tones . A central section took a more cheerful major-key aspect, the transition further demonstrating the rapport of interplay and balance between violinist and guitarist. Both played with a nice touch of “pesante” impulsiveness, textures and rhythms brought to life.

They then played what I figured was Asturiana, a slow, langurous violin melody, soaring over an octave ostinato for guitar, beautifully sustained by both musicians. Finally came Polo, the violin giving voice to passionate declamations over driving guitar rhythms, quintessentially Spanish, and realised with lots of life and colour.

Owen Moriarty inroduced the next item, two pieces by the Los Angeles-based composer Almer Imamovic which, if not exactly Spanish, had an exoticism of their own. Originally written for flute and guitar, their character was appropriately realised by the violin’s range of colour and timbre – the first, Sarajevo Nights, danced a sinuous, melancholy melody with asymmetrical rhythms, both instruments creating tensions with tremolando passages, and the guitarist augmenting the music’s trajectories by knocking his instrument’s body with his hand. The second piece, Jamilla’s Dance, began with cimbalon-like tones from the guitarist and pesante-like slides and colours from the violin, all extremely evocative and colourful. Beginning like the traditional Jewish hora, the dance slowly and suggestively stepped out, increased gradually in vigour and excitement, but suddenly releasing surges of energy, rather like a Hungarian czardas. The musicians recreated the piece’s pent-up excitement with verve and enjoyment.

Famed South American composer Astor Piazzolla was next, with his suite of pieces Histoire du Tango. Listed as a four-movement work, I could discern only three sections, though maybe Rupa Maitra did allude to this in her soft-spoken introduction to the performance, the words of which I had trouble catching. The first section, entitled Bordel – 1900, is a kind of picture of Buenos Aires at the turn of the century, a work expressing the composer’s playful, more sunnily-disposed side, indulging himself occasionally with a sultry swerve into a different episode, but generally keeping things light and evenly-poised, the violin catching the piece’s light and shade, and the guitarist keeping the rhythms going using both strings and percussion effects. The second piece, Cafe – 1930 gave us the true tango, Piazzolla-style, darker and more pensive, a guitar solo filled with dreamy melancholy, and the violin really digging into a melody laden with feeling, the tone tight and focused, carrying as much weight as it needs and no more. A major-key episode lightened both colour and rhythm, before the music again gathered and wrapped all around in more sultry atmospheres. The third piece, Nightclub – 1960, was mentioned, but not listed as played – instead we seemed to get Concert d’aujourd’hui (Contemporary concert), a piece featuring off-beat harmonies and angular melodies of the garrulous and gossipy type, a kind of “up-dating” by the composer regarding his more developed style of writing, and that of the tango itself, influenced greatly by jazz. A fascinating work, skilfully presented.

Finishing the programme with a piece by American composer Ian Krouse, Owen Moriarty assured us that this was one of the easier Krouse pieces to play – its title Da Chara, is Gaelic for “Two Friends”, and was, like the pieces by Almer Imamovic, written originally for flute and guitar. Its ostensible “Gaelic” character could be discerned in the free and airy opening melodic phrasings from the violin, with their occasional rhythmic snap, the guitar taking over with a solo, then joined by the violin to repeat the opening melody – very attractive ‘filmic” kind of music and skilfully realised. The guitar began a march-rhythm, joined by the violin, the players further energising the music with a wild, reel-like dance, the players letting their hair down in great style, Rupa Maitra catching the folk-fiddle aspect of the music nicely, and Owen Moriarty generating surges of energy from his instrument.

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