FringeReview UK 2018
The Albach Guitar Duo – Rebecca Baulch and David Black – performed a clear-cut triple set: Irish folk songs, four Scarlatti Sonatas, then tangos by Piazzolla and his contemporaries Jorge Cardoso, Mariano Moraes and Abel Fleury.
The Albach Guitar Duo last played at the Chapel Royal eleven years ago. That’s a great pity, since they’ve performed everywhere else. Their impressive list of CDs (with other artists too) attests to the kind of range we’ve missed: from all-composer ones of Stephen Dodgson, through lighter veins to more contemporary commissions.
Rebecca Baulch and David Black performed a clear-cut triple set: Irish folk songs, Scarlatti, then Piazzolla and his contemporaries. Their sonance is a soft but penetrating one, where the antiphonal conversation between guitars lends a kind of hard nimbus to their sound. It’s quietly compelling. They’re certainly one of the most stylish guitar duos around and that list is headed historically by Julian Bream and John Williams.
The Irish set started with an unfamiliar piece, Lay, and then ‘She moved through the fair’ which emerges too from an introductory aura of strumming. ‘Potana Jig’ is more straightforward acting like a finale. All are particularly attractive since there’s more material added which gives context and atmosphere; and the tune goes out free, a Robert Graves once said.
The Scarlatti Sonatas are particularly special in this arrangement. Paul Gregory famed for his baroque guitar, states that Scarlatti sounds better on two guitars than one, and he should know. The contrapuntal fun, the brio and harmonies work felicitously here too.
The Duo played four, some with keys transposed. They started with K13 originally in G, a perky very contrapuntal piece starting with a kind of peal, deploying all the antiphonal wit of the duo. K173 originally in B minor is a far darker piece, with two very busy hands on the harpsichord, perfect for this arrangement. Dark as it is, it’s pacey and decisive, with an albert bass briefly flickering but despite its key, usually heralding something slower, it never relents, despite a few eddies.
K159 originally in C but here in E is the famous hunting piece, with its horn calls trilled at the opening, again perfect for two guitars, thrilling and popular. Again it’s at a relatively brisk tempo. Finally K 162 original yin the radiant numinal E major allows some repose, though there’s a faster trio refrain. It’s a piece of wonder and innocence and here functions as a quite lengthy and memorable fade out, like summer haze. These are exceptional readings too, an effortless synchronicity, which ones takes too much for granted
Piazolla’s Tango started with Loco Vendara a strongly accented piece, as you’d expect, with a hint of smoke and harmonium, realized with aplomb. ‘Adios Nonino’ erupts with railroad rhythms, full of glinting dark menace that widens into a strutting tango with heavier than normal accents. But its got a melting heart and a surpassingly romantic central melody. Finally his most famous ‘Libertango’ seems a summation of his art, though there’s so many out there its curious this great piece is singled out. Perhaps its combination of crispness drama and an almost parodic sense of what a tango is catches on. The duo find a completely different sound world here.
Jorge Cardoso’s atmospheric whispering ‘Milonga’ followed, never asserting itself above a whisper at it gently rolls and Mariano Moraes’ more assertive ‘Taquito Militar’ spins out more like a military dance late into the night than anything too military. But it’s fast with antiphonal strumming as heavier accents strike in and out. There’s a pause with real depths, well over halfway for once, which makes this something special, and then flurry to the end.
Finally Abel Fleury’s ‘Milonga del Ayer’ with its gentle decanting fall, rather like rain after a party was a perfect send off. New inner voices for the duo were evident, making this a more fascinating version than the solo guitar.
This is a truly distinguished duo, and with a repertoire both intelligently chosen and as is clear by now, superbly executed.