Highly attractive lunchtime guitar recital at St Andrew’s

Owen Moriarty, solo guitar

Villanesca (Spanish Dance No.4) arr: Owen Moriarty, by Enrique Granados
Sevilla (from Suite Espanola Op.47) arr: Owen Moriarty, Isaac Albeniz
Staendchen  arr: J.K.Mertz, by Schubert 
Sonata in A minor, Op. 1, No. 4 (HWV 362) arr: D. Russell by Handel
Recuerdos de la Alhambra, by Francisco Tarrega
Laments, Dances and Lullabies, by Miroslav Tadic  

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace, Wellington

Wednesday 7 May 2014, 12:15 pm

This was a most attractive programme, offering a selection from some of the best original music and arrangements for classical guitar. The Villanesca by Granados opened with an almost inaudible pianissimo that built up gradually in volume with astonishing control as Owen Moriarty revealed the intricate, opposing melodic  lines of the writing, then allowed them to recede gradually into breathless silence at the conclusion.

The Albeniz Sevilla, one of the best known works in the repertoire, was by contrast given a very straightforward, almost pedestrian reading in which  it would have been good to hear more of the inner melodies in the outer sections of the piece.

In the arrangement of Schubert’s well known Ständchen (Serenade), Mertz draws on both the original song and Liszt’s solo piano version. Owen Moriarty played the work on a smaller C19th guitar  that evoked a very intimate performance in some private setting for the loved one alone. He crafted the delicacy of the vocal melody with exquisite tenderness, and the interplay of upper and lower voices was quite beautiful in the second section.

The Handel Sonata in A Minor was originally written for recorder and continuo, and was presented here in a very satisfying transcription  by renowned guitarist David Russell. As the programme noted, “this excellent arrangement helps to highlight some of the beautiful melodic lines and ..…harmonic and
rhythmic complexities contained within the piece”. Opposing voices within the texture were always beautifully and clearly enunciated, particularly in the opening Larghetto and the two Allegro movements, with the lively and attractive finale rounding off a most rewarding performance.

Tarrega’s Recuerdos (Memories) de la Alhambra may well be the most famous and well loved piece in the solo guitar repertoire, and Owen Moriarty’s playing showed why. His delicate phrasing, and beautifully balanced interplay of melody and “accompaniment” were exquisite, and one sensed the profound appreciation of every listener in the audience.

The Tadic works were a complete contrast, and full of creative colour and artistry. The opening Makenonsko Devojce (Macedonian Woman) was in rather modal tonalities, and its haunting lines, so expressively played, evoked all the longing and heartache of lost love. The Rustemul  burst into life  with the swirling melodies that are typical of this lively Romanian village dance form, and Owen Moriarty made most effective play on the instrument’s different timbres as the piece moved through its varied repetitions. The final Walk Dance was anything but a walk: it catapulted into frenetic 11/8 rhythms “based on a traditional Macedonian dance called Kalajdzisko oro (coppersmith’s dance)” (Programme Notes). It was the perfect choice to showcase Owen Moriarty’s astonishing technical agility on the instrument, and rounded off the programme with great panache.

This was a most rewarding recital from an artist who consistently opens up the joys of the guitar repertoire to appreciative audiences around the country and abroad. My only reservation was the fact that he made no concessions to the volume of the space, performing always at levels consistent with the intimate settings for which much of the music was originally written. While this is doubtless true to some of the music’s intentions, it can make a performance less than satisfying for a modern audience in larger spaces. Some of the exquisite pianissimi were virtually inaudible even in the third row back – is there an argument here for discreet and thoughtful amplification in the larger settings of twenty first century venues??


6 thoughts on “Highly attractive lunchtime guitar recital at St Andrew’s

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