Brighton Year-Round 2019
Laura Browne’s guitar recital consisted of Villa-Lobos’ Five Preludes and Alfonso Lauro’s Veenzeula Suite.
Segovia Competition winner Paul Gregory has mentored many guitarists. In normal times you’d expect some of the most gifted to have recordings and gigs all over. These are interesting times and here’s another star living in them.
Laura Browne’s guitar recital consisted of Villa-Lobos’ Five Preludes and Alfonso Lauro’s Venezuela Suite. Her tone’s perfectly attuned to this repertoire and I’d love to hear what else Browne plays. Her technique’s impeccable her sense of musical space and pin-drop pause ideal. She introduces each of the pieces with confidence.
Villa-Lobos’ pieces are particularly renowned, and nearly all classics. ‘Melodia lírica’ the first arrives in dusky E minor yearning till its B major section takes over and we resolve in E major – it’s a classic postcard of longing with a fine cascade of notes as it speeds to B major then hits a dizzying sweetness. Quiet elements – hushed and separate – enter here briefly but are far more present in No. 3. This is one might say the outset Villa-Lobos melodic turn and he recorded it.
The second celebrates a Homage to Street Urchins, is fast and scurrying in E major, a scherzo to the surrounding moods. It’s cheeky, perky and not a little gamine.
The third is Homage to Bach, in a minor, with a sense of Bach’s approach to that instrument in the wide lyrical spaces and sarabande approach. It sounds in its sun-downing baroque benediction and contrasts like a Bachias Brasileras that got away. Its pulse is slow despite flurries: the still centre in a turning guitar.
The fourth’s a reference to Villa-Lobos and Augustine barrios donning native South American gear to boost money at gigs. But this Homage to native peoples again in E minor owns a contrast and melodic profundity that certainly suggests no colonial imposition but a kind of empathy. Like its Bach-inspired predecessor it starts slowly with contrast scurrying activity but the overall wonder and pulse is unwavering: and there’s a magical muted coda.
The firth is less well known and less distinctive. Its bustle is obvious: ‘Homenagem à vida social’ navigates the night life and not a few carnivals and wholly fitting in its place at the end.
Alfonso Lauro’s Venezuela Suite or Suite venezoluna was written in 1951-52 whilst he was in prison for liberal views awaiting the dictat of a sundry dictator. It’s a remarkably cheerful work and in truth hints nothing of its generation.
The Suite venezoluna has five movements: Registro (Preludio), Danza negra, Cancion, and Vals. The first movement, Registro, refers to preluding – literally registrar a warm-up for hands like the Italian Renaissance ricercare. Think Couperin’s unmeasured Preludes to his earlier suites, and so much else. The Danza negra is an Afro-Venezuelan dance quoting Venezuelan the folksong San Pedro; another popular tune, La Tumba, is quoted in both of the last two movements, a typical cancion de serenata and a vals. Sort of going to the ball. Incidentally Lauro wrote the waltz El nino in 1971 and dedicated it to his eldest son, Leonardo.
Browne makes of Lauro a deft lighter-toned composer than Villa-Lobos, more melodically inclined without the thew of contrapuntal obsessions that never impaired Villa-Lobos. Lauro’s sometimes almost as memorable too and this small classic is often performed.
Another quiet thrilling debut. Let’s hear more of Browne’s repertoire.