New Zealand School of Music Classical Guitar Concert
Music by Jorge Cardoso, Maximo Pujol, Stephen Goss, Peter Warlock, Antonio Ruis-Pipó and Vivaldi
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 9 October, 12:15 pm
Three weeks ago I heard some of these student guitarists at Old St Paul’s (17 September). This time all twelve students in the classical guitar department of the school contributed to a mainly different programme that was, if anything, even more interesting and more accomplished.
The Suite of Latin American pieces by Cardoso that had me a bit confused last time was the last work in the earlier programme; here it was first. Perhaps because of that, the trio (Jamie Garrick, Christian Huenuqueo and George Wills) sounded more practised than before. Nevertheless, Samba d’Ouro (Ouro is evidently Portuguese for Gold, as well as being a place name in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Caterina) might have been lifted by a little more rhythmic sensuality. Camino de Chacarera (which is a folk dance typical of north-western Argentina), was sensitive and nicely articulated. From the next piece, Zamba de Plata, much longer than the first two, there was more movement, along with charm and delicacy in its syncopated rhythms.
And the last two pieces, both evidently from across the Andes, built on the players’ growing confidence: Polca Peruano, elusive but quite melodious, and Vals Peruano, in a triple time slightly disguised by cross rhythms which made it teasing and delightful.
Fin de Siglo (‘End of the century’) by Maximo Pujol, from Buenos Aires, seemed less concerned with visceral pleasures and more with drawing attention to interesting textures and moderately complex shapes: the first part, Andante Tranquillo, and the second, Allegro, a post-Piazzolla, tangoish rhythm. In the middle of the Allegro there’s a nice contrasting, melancholy section which the players captured with grace and feeling.
The same selection as in the last concert from Satie’s Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes, arranged by American guitarist Stephen Goss repaid a second hearing. These were for guitar quartet (Jake Church,, Cormac Harrington, Emmett Sweet and Cameron Sloan). While the two Gymnopédies are the more familiar, the Gnossiennes, forming an entity so successfully, lent themselves to more interesting colourings and a hint of mystery. The main impression of the playing was care, thoughtfulness and writing that was beautifully adapted to the guitars.
Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite might have seemed an unlikely case for guitar adaptation, but then it’s based on Renaissance musical ideas which were naturally disposed to the lute and the quartet handled their dance rhythms firmly and gracefully.
The last two pieces involved the full guitar orchestra, twelve in all, with Owen Moriarty conducting. Ensemble was admirable and the variety of sounds and dynamics made these thoroughly entertaining, even if the price was some lack of spontaneous rhythmic lift. The first was Américas by Antonio Ruis-Pipó, actually written for eight guitars, with contributions in the form of clapping and finger-clicking, all generating a convincing orchestral feel.
The last work was an arrangement of Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso, Op 3 No 8, the set entitled ‘L’estro harmonico’. Here the concertino, for two guitars, was shared by two players taking each of the two parts: Christian Huenuqueo and Cameron Sloan in the first, and George Wills and Nick Price in the second part. Vivaldi survives almost any sort of arrangement and here the disposition of the parts through the several groups created a really full orchestral sound, with varied dynamics and changes of plucking techniques between each section. Maybe they didn’t take the word ‘spiritoso’ in the second movement quite seriously enough, but there was little to carp about in the entire, most delightful performance.