Brief but rewarding guitar recital at Wesley Church

Winter at Wesley Lunchtime Concert Series presents:

Guitarists Cameron Sloan and Jamie Garrick

Music by Johann Mertz, Giulio Regondi, and anon (Irish and Spanish folk-pieces)

Wesley Church, Taranaki St., Wellington

Thursday 8 August 2013

Cameron and Jamie are graduate students in the NZSM Guitar Programme. They presented a short half-hour recital of solo guitar works, starting with Jamie playing a Poetic Miniature by the Hungarian  Johann Mertz, one of the leading virtuoso guitarists and composers of the mid-nineteenth century. It was indeed a poetic interpretation, with sensitive phrasing and appropriate rubato, underpinned by a sound technique. He followed with Giulio Regondi’s Introduction and Caprice Op.23 which features two sharply contrasting movements – an elaborately embellished Adagio followed by a light-hearted Allegretto scherzando with many virtuostic effects like rapid chromatic scales, octaves, etc. These were all competently accomplished but one felt that they were uppermost in the player’s mind, whilst the shaping and structure of the two movements seemed almost forgotten, hanging somewhere in an unresolved limbo that did not grip or engage the listener.

Cameron then presented a wonderfully gentle, traditional Irish melody with sensitivity and elegance, where the only other possible enhancement would have been a wider dynamic range. He then followed with three Spanish flamenco-style pieces, all showing a very sound technical grasp. But the two outer movements needed a considerably more gutsy, less genteel rendition to fully reflect their folk origins, and the appealing melodies of the middle movement would have been even more lovely with a wider dynamic range.

The large volume of the church really called for a more projected sound on a number of occasions from both players, and this is a not uncommon situation with classical guitar student recitals. Doubtless such projection develops with greater experience and technical confidence, but it is also sound practice to do an acoustic “try-out” with feedback from an experienced ear before any concert.

Despite such minor reservations, it is hugely encouraging to see the wealth of classical guitar talent that is currently being fostered in the NZ School of Music programme. Wellington now enjoys a rich variety of recitals in this area both by professional performers like the NZ Guitar Quartet, and by the students who are learning and benefitting from them. This emerging talent needs to be fostered and encouraged, so it was disappointing to see such a small audience at this concert.

Winter @ Wesley another lunchtime series

The Crofton Flute Ensemble

Arthur Sullivan: Arrangement of music from the Savoy Operas; Poulenc: Suite Française (four movements from the Suite); Robison: André’s New Shoes; Daquin: Le Coucou; Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride

Wesley Methodist Church, Taranaki Street

Wednesday 14 July, 12.30pm

The ensemble is made up of seven players, and features flutes from piccolo in the high treble to bass flutes, which most of us seldom see. 

Poulenc’s series of French dances, arranged for the flutes by Brian James, leader of the ensemble, was full of lovely slithering harmonies, and ended with delightfully discordant quirky cadences.

Popular flutist Paula Robison’s André’s New Shoes was a pleasant little piece, in this case incorporating a baritone saxophone as substitute for a double bass (the group’s bass player having gone overseas), but this didn’t really work: it was too dominating.

Louis Daquin’s well-known piano piece Le Coucou went extremely well on flutes: 2 bass, 2 alto, 2 ‘standard’ flutes and 1 piccolo, as did Leroy Anderson’s well-known Sleigh Ride. The very skilled arrangements were by Brian James.

As an finale, the ensemble played a jolly, rhythmic Japanese piece about the adventures of some octopus dumplings, the piece being a theme from a Japanese children’s television programme.

Despite some intonation wobbles, this was a creditable concert by an unusual but competent amateur ensemble.

The series of concerts continues at 12.30pm on the next two Wednesdays: 21 and 28 July.  As part of Winter @ Wesley, there is an art exhibition (mainly painting and photography) in the foyers connecting the church with the hall.