Brilliant guitar recital from Owen Moriarty at St Andrew’s

Owen Moriarty – guitar

Music by Marek Pasieczny Joaquin Rodrigo, Manuel Ponce, Mauro Giuliani

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 8 April, 12:15 pm

At some stage at most guitar recitals, the famous words of Chopin come to mind. “Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly, two.” We had only one, though Jane Curry, head of guitar at the university School of Music, was there too, evidently without her guitar.

Owen Moriarty began with the youngest piece, a Little Sonata by Polish-born Marek Pasieczny (it was wrongly spelled in the programme). It was in four movements, inspired by Schubert’s set of four piano pieces, the Impromptus, Op. 90; and the title was suggested by Hindemith’s ‘Kleine Sonate’.  In truth, it was quite some distance from Schubert, but I knew what he meant: each movement was in a spirit that, give or take a couple of centuries, owed something to the outward shape or spirit of Schubert’s. Schubert’s first piece is marked Allegro molto moderato; Pasieczny’s is Moderato galante; the second, the favourite Schubert Impromptu, in quaver triplets in E flat, is simply Allegro while Pasieczny’s is marked Lento religioso, rather different.

Never mind. The first was ‘galant’ – mid 18th century – sure enough, in character, though somewhat advanced in melodic shape and harmony. Like most of the programme, it afforded Moriarty excellent scope for his superb dynamic subtleties; and the gentle second piece was an even better example of the way the player shifted the sound not merely through the vigour of the plucking but by the position of his right hand working the strings. The third piece, Arpeggiato largamente opened with spacious broken chords that led to charmingly worked out themes; while the fourth, the equivalent of Schubert’s fast A flat Impromptu, exploited the guitar’s essential strumming technique, vigorous and somewhat grand as it reached the end.

Rodrigo’s Bajando de la Meseta is one of five pieces in a suite characterising regions of Spain, this one literally, ‘Lowering the plateau’; Meseta refers here, specifically to the plateau of New Castile (Castilla Nueva), the most central region of Spain in which Madrid is situated. It opened in a deliberate manner, lento strumming, in fast common time, which shifted to triplets, increasingly virtuosic with fast scales and fancy decorative passages.

Ponce’s Balletto and Preludio comes from a generation before Rodrigo. He had an association with Andres Segovia and the two were complicit in publishing this pair of pieces as a newly discovered work of the great lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss, a contemporary of J S Bach; this was the era when Kreisler was turning out pieces that he attributed to various baroque composers.

It certainly worked as a piece of that age, the Balletto, charming, slow and danceable; while the Preludio was subject to several rhythm changes with motifs weaving through various lines adroitly delineated by the player.

The real spectacle came with Rossiniana No 1 (of six) by the Italian guitarist Giuliani whose guitar concertos (more than one I think) were familiar a few years ago, but not heard (by me) recently. This was one of six pot-pourris on tunes from Rossini’s operas arranged freely and with huge flair and an eye to impressive virtuosity. The tunes were somewhat familiar, at least one from L’italiana in Algeri?, with the last leading to the typical Rossini crescendo of increasing excitement and spectacular agility by both the guitarist’s hands

Another piece by Rodrigo was the last item in the programme: Pequena Sevilliana – The Girl from Seville. Coming from Andalusia, flamenco music was to be expected, but quirky, with little twists that involved the fingers darting all over the finger-board. It was a delightful finish to a highly entertaining and revelatory recital of, quite simply, international calibre guitar playing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *