Duo Tapas: violin and guitar play winning St Andrew’s lunchtime concert

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

Vivaldi: Sonata in A minor, Op 2 No 12, RV 32
Mark O’Connor: pieces from Strings and Threads Suite
Arvo Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel, arr, Moriarty
William Squire: Tarantella in D minor, Op 23, arr Moriarty

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 5 August, 12:15 pm

Duo Tapas is a fairly visible little ensemble on the Wellington music scene; but it pays not to take them for granted, as playing much the same repertoire, with minor variations in their frequent concerts. It could be because I haven’t heard a couple of their recent concerts that this programme was entirely new to me.

They began with Rudolph Buttman’s arrangement of one of Vivaldi’s violin sonatas, the last of the set published as Opus 2. The programme listed the movements as Preludio, Allemande, Grave and Capriccio. Other sources offer different movement titles: Preludio, Capriccio, Grave, Corrente; or Preludio – Largo, Capriccio – Presto, Grave, Allemanda – Allegro. Of course I did not discover these variations till I explored the internet later; no doubt they reflected the liberties publishers felt able to take in the 18th century.

I wondered during the performance about the appropriateness of the titles, and had jotted a puzzled note that the last movement hardly sounded ‘capricious’ – rather, just brisk.

Never mind.
The duo were absolutely justified in taking up this successful arrangement of one of Vivaldi’s many lovely pieces, more than usually melodious, sounding as if he had the guitar very much in mind when he cast the continuo lines (for cello and harpsichord).

Mark O’Connor is an American composer, now in his early 60s, who has devoted himself to listenable, rather infectious music. The title refers, obviously, to the stringed instrument and the threads connecting the thirteen little movements in the suite, a sort of history of United States popular music, offering examples of many styles of music from Irish reels and sailors’ songs of the 16th century to recent times. They played ten of them. I had counted only eight when they ended, which was probably the result of failing to notice a pause and change of style. There was a convincing sense of anticipation with Off to Sea, as the sails picked up the wind; the last piece, Sweet Suzanne was the longest, most bravura and arresting: a colourful and entertaining collection.

Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel is nearly as popular as his Fratres: hypnotic, a masterpiece of simplicity. The translation for violin and guitar involved retuning the bottom E string of the guitar to a low F, to deal with the repeated anchor. Rupa Maitra played it with just discreet vibrato and a riveting stillness. Again, a very convincing transformation.

Finally, there was a piece by William Squire, a name that was once, perhaps still, very familiar to cello students. He edited a series of albums of varying difficulty: I still have two of them, as well, to my surprise, as the Tarantella in D minor, played here. It didn’t make a deep impression on me sixty-odd years ago, but this version worked very well, though I could not argue that the duo had unearthed a masterpiece. Nevertheless, the character of the two instruments, the players’ rapport and the way in which their musical instincts combined might have brought the most unpromising composition to life.

Don’t hesitate to get along to their next concert, wherever it might be.


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