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Brighton Year-Round 2019

Richard Bowen Guitar Recital

Richard Bowen

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: St Nicholas Church, Dyke Road, Brighton


Low Down

Richard Bowen’s Guitar Recital consisted of many South American composers including Villa-Lobos’ Five Preludes and Alfonso Lauro’s Venezuela Suite, and individual pieces by among others Augustine Barrios.


Richard Bowen’s been a fixture on the international circuit for many years. Of late he’s been emerging from a minor injury and is now back on evocative form. His repertoire is vast and from memory. Here he concentrates on South American and particularly Brazilian guitar music.


His guitar recital consisted of many South American composers including Villa-Lobos’ Five Preludes and Alfonso Lauro’s Venezuela Suite, and individual pieces by among others Augustine Barrios.


Bowen began with a fine opener, Jose Cardoso’s Milongsa, an up=beat traditional dance-form spun into white gold here. The Brazlian Antonio Carlos Jobim 1927-94. Living in Ipanema he’s written not only ‘The girl fRom…’ but this the Solidao, more retrained elegiac but somehow quietly zippy.


Another Brazilian Luiz Bonfa (1922-2001) was taught by a Uruguyan and there’s much cross-fertilisation in his Sambalamento, a kind of fusion of two oxymoronic states of mind that marry rather well in samba rhythm.


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: A 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. I’m not sure of the Vals No. 3 was the one or the other! So I’m referring to both. Incidentally Lauro wrote the waltz El nino in 1971 and dedicated it to his eldest son, Leonardo.


Throughout his South-American palate, Bowen makes of Lauro a deft occasionally wistful composer, more melodically inclined without the thew of contrapuntal obsessions that admittedly never impaired Villa-Lobos. Lauro’s sometimes almost as memorable too and this small classic is often performed.


Villa-Lobos’ pieces are particularly renowned, and nearly all classics. His Five Preludes are nearly all jewels, and Bowen played the middle three though in Julian bream’s order of 3, 2, 4.

The third is a 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 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 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.


So you’d not exepct to visit a contemporary Medeival history academic but that’s what Jonatas Batista Neto also a Brazilian. His Velos Retratos is an attractive melody, uncomplicated and pure of its kind, a charmer.


Brazlian Zequinha de Abreu 1880-1935? What about Tico tico made famous by the Andres Sisters. Know how it goes? Yes it’s here and Bowen relishes it.


Augustine Barrios 1885-1944 is the greatest South American composer from Paraguay. His homage to Julia Florida – his Barcarole – might seem harmless though she was 14. Mmm. But it’s a great piece and really does enjoy its Baracarolle rhythms.


Finally the Spanish composer Lobet (1878-1938) might have been a fine or finer guitarist than Segovia but stayed at home. His Catalan folksong arraignment El Noi De La Mare owns a limpid authority. Not a bad summary of Bowen’s gifts.