Delightful lunchtime recital from violin and guitar

Unfamiliar music for violin and guitar works charms

Music by Almer Imamovic, Anthony Ritchie, Ciprian Porumbescu, and Ian Krouse

Duo Tapas (Rupa Maitra – violin; Owen Moriarty – guitar)

Old Saint Paul’s, Mulgrave Street

Tuesday 26 July, 12.15pm

A concert like this usually offers a variety of surprises: there’s the unexpected delight from particularly charming pieces of music, and there were several such instances; the experience of an unusual instrumental combination and the way music originally for others has adapted so well; and the realization that the world has never been so overflowing with beautiful, rewarding music – most of it, naturally, to be broadly labeled as ‘classical’.

The uncovering of hundreds of gifted composers of earlier times, who have come to be overshadowed by a handful of geniuses with names like Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, has given classical music a very different look over the past half century, with the realization that many of them sometimes produced better music than the ‘great’ ones did, on their off-days.

And in our age, there are so many talented composers in every country that no one could even claim familiarity with the names of many of the best of them.

Almer Imamovic is a good example: a guitarist and composer from Bosnia whom Owen Moriarty came to know when both were studying in Wales.

The pieces by Imamovic were originally written for flute and guitar, but the violin seemed the perfectly natural voice for the melodic lines. The Song for Marcus opened in up-beat style, bearing more sign of Turkish origin than of the Balkans, though of course most of the region was part of the Ottoman Empire for many centuries and there is a sizable Muslim minority in Bosnia. Based on two related tunes in the energetic opening section, then passing to a calmer middle section, the two instruments were in perfect balance and made one oblivious to the quite other character of the timbered gothic church where we sat.

Their final offerings were Theme for Caroline and Tapkalica, clearly from a similar source, the first a charming, simple melody which evolved very interestingly to subtly syncopated rhythms. In the second, the guitar began alone, with rhapsodic cadenzas which came to be a fine show-piece for the lovely musicality of violinist and the fleet-fingered guitarist.

The only piece from a dead composer, who came from the same part of the world, was that of Cyprian Porumbescu (from Romania: 1853-83). His Balada was filled with a Balkan nostalgia, exquisitely soulful but in music that found an equally captivating way to express quiet passion.

Ian Krouse is a Californian composer for guitar and other instruments (Wikipedia reveals an opera on Garcia Lorca); evidently eclectic, as his Air had an Irish tang in the lie of its melody; this too had its origin for flute and guitar and was more than comfortable in this perfectly idiomatic and charming account for violin and guitar.

Pieces by Anthony Ritchie occupied the rest of the programme. There are five parts to his Pas de deux, Op 51a, originally scored for two guitars; they chose Au revoir, evidently inspired by the end of a relationship which it described in lamenting but not lugubrious terms, using quite simple means to create an elegiac spirit; again, like the Balada, with a degree of suppressed passion.

It was not always easy to hear the remarks by the performers and I’m not sure whether it was pointed out that the Three Songs were a transcription of Ritchie’s Op 118 (Three pieces for viola and guitar). The title as given in the programme does not appear in his list of works.

Never mind.

Ritchie is one of those happy composers with sufficient self-confidence to allow tunes to appear in their music on a regular basis, and Au revoir and the Three Songs for Violin and Guitar (‘Song – Stone woman: a sculpture in Ilam Road, Christchurch’; ‘Tomahawk Sonnet’ and ‘Lovesong’) were so blessed. I had awaited a touch of Maori ferocity in the Tomahawk piece, but was later told it was the name of Ocean Grove, a suburb of Dunedin on the south coast of the Peninsula. It suggested a peaceful day. And the same went for Lovesong in which Ritchie seemed to be showing evidence of a heart repaired from the grief of Au revoir.

I’d heard none of this music before and the whole recital proved a delight, thanks to composers who knew their business and players who absolutely knew theirs.

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