New Zealand School of Music Guitars
Music by Brahms, de Falla, Ravel, Philip Houghton, Barrios
St. Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday, 10 October 2018, 12.15pm
It was not easy to understand what were the alterations to this concert’s programme, caused in part by illness; the microphone not working (as indeed it did not the previous week) didn’t help matters.
First up in this varied programme were Rameka Tamaki and Oliver Featherston. They played as a guitar duo Theme & Variations from Sextet Opus 18 (second movement) by Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897), arranged by the great guitarist John Williams. The work was in B-flat major, and was composed in the summer of 1860, while Brahms was staying near the River Elbe. It was premiered later in Hanover, by an ensemble led by Brahms’s colleague, the violinist Joseph Joachim.
The second movement andante was played in a very pleasant arrangement. The fact of it being a theme and variations based on Hungarian rhythms and sonorities made it somehow suitable for guitars. There was perfect co-ordination between the players, despite plenty of technical demands. For the most part the music was gentle and delicate, throughout this quite long movement.
Music from Falla’s opera La Vide Breve is quite well-known, particularly the orchestral music from it, such as this Spanish Dance, adapted for performance by two guitars by Emilio Pujol, and played by the same duo as was the first piece on the programme. It was a thoroughly pleasing performance of this delightful, bright piece.
Next were two solos, both by Agustin Barrios (1885-1944), who was born in Paraguay, but lived in other parts of Latin America for most of his life. He wrote many works, mainly short ones, for guitar. Chris Everest played his La Catedral and Rameka Tamaki played Julia Florida. The first consisted of three movements; after a short Preludio came an Andante, followed by Allegro. This was an attractive solo, the player obtaining gorgeous resonance from his instrument. The middle movement was slow and pensive, beautifully executed. The third movement was fast, with a sustained melody over running accompaniment. This demanded, and achieved, great skill.
Like the first, the second soloist played from memory. Gentle and lilting Julia Florida qualified as a pretty piece (that is not meant to sound demeaning!). Like the previous piece by Barrios, it was full of interest, and quite demanding on the player – I thought I noticed a few missed notes, but overall, it was another fine performance.
Megan Robson, Finn Perring, Chris Everest played an arrangement of String Quartet in F, (second movement) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), arranged by Winton Yuichiro White, a contemporary American composer chiefly associated with film music. Ravel completed the quartet in 1903.
The movement is marked Assez vif – très rythmé. The pizzicato theme is eminently suited to the guitar; what was striking in the arrangement was the long passages played at a very high pitch – not so common perhaps in guitar music. It was a spirited rendition, ending in a flourish. As the programme note stated “White made use of the classical guitar’s large range of colours and techniques, utilising a 7-string guitar, to create a convincing impression of the piece.”
The programme ended with a delightful Suite by Australian Phillip Houghton (1954-2017): A Masque for Lady Nothing. It was made up of seven short movements, and was played by Joel Baldwin and Oliver Featherston (violin and guitar).
2. Bonsai Garden
3. Tinkers’ Dance
4. Le Tombeau de Juliet
5. The King’s Blue Frog Galliard
6. Lovers Dance
7. Spanish Spaniards Pilfer Portuguese Parrots
The work was commissioned by the Sydney Guitar Trio, for the 1999 Darwin International Guitar Festival and is inspired by ancient modal music illustrating seven scenes for a masque (a Renaissance celebration of dance, song, art and all things magical), held in a long-lost kingdom. Below I reproduce the programme note, slightly edited.
“Each movement depicts a different story – Fanfare: the entire kingdom gathering in the woods outside the castle. Jugglers, incense, dancing and a body painter named Bosch. Let the celebrations begin! Bonsai Garden: a world where everything big is small, where stillness is a fragrant breeze. Tinker’s Dance: bawdy and swaggering, not too fast though, they’re all drunk. “Le Tombeau de Juliet” depicts the tomb of Juliet in silence, all hearts each recall their own true love. “The King’s Blue Frog Galliard”: is a gleeful and slightly clumsy dance, obnoxious and rude. The typical instrumentation of the lute is imitated with bright ponticello and harmonics. “Lovers Dance” is flowing, graceful and entwined. Spanish Spaniards Pilfer Portuguese Parrots depicts how in olden days, not only did Spain have a superior armada than Portugal, but also a superior network of parrot smuggling.”