Jamie Garrick (guitar)
(Prelude from Lute Suite in C minor by Bach)
Le départ – Le retour by Napoléon Coste
Études esquises (excerpts) by Gerald Garcia
Julia Florida by Agustin Barrios
Suite del Recuerdo by José Luis Merlin
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 23 September, 12:15 pm
Very unusually for these more punctual days, my train from Wellington’s northern reaches was late and I missed the first piece and some introductory words from the guitarist. I missed the Prelude from one of Bach’s lute suites, in C minor, BWV 997.
Coste’s Le départ – le retour was under way and I found myself in the world of his early 19th century contemporaries, Fernando Sor, Giuliani, or perhaps Berlioz (who also played the guitar and was two years older than Coste), composers with whom I am much more familiar.
Clearly Jamie Garrick is at home with this very singable music, for he can make the guitar sing, weaving through the rhythms, beautifully breathed, like the bel canto opera of the time (Bellini was also a near contemporary). This was an age when the guitar had become very popular, with several composers writing very popular concertos such as Giuliani and Carulli.
The other three pieces were by 20th century composers. The pieces from Gerald Garcia’s 25 Études esquises were quite short. They were divertingly varied in tone and style, from the first fluent piece, the third dominated by repeated notes high on the E string, then a piece with a melody that rose and fell, built on series of discrete and agreeable phrases. Not a monumental, Beethovenish creation but an attractive sampling of only 20 percent of the whole collection.
The recital’s best-known guitar composer followed: the Paraguayan Agustin Barrios. Julia Florida is a barcarolle, written in 1938, late in his life; Garrick played it unaffectedly, capturing the gentle sadness and charm of its melody.
José Luis Merlin, born in 1952, is also a South American, born in Argentina. His Suite del recuerdo, a collection of six short, characteristic pieces of great variety. It opened with an Evocacion , described as sad and nostalgic, which was repeated as the fifth movement, providing a rather gladdening memory (recuerdo) of its earlier exposition, the heart of the suite perhaps, and making the warmest emotional impression. Most of the other pieces were lighter and happier in tone and for the most part the music avoided commonplace guitar devices. Though No 4, Carnavalito, which seemed to depict a fairly sedate carnival, indulged in some characteristic strumming.
Garrick is a talented young player with an unerring instinct for an attractive and imaginative approach to the guitar, and the ability to make music that moves beyond conventional notions of the character of guitar music.