FringeReview UK 2019
Paul Gregory and Yoko Ono gave a Guitar and Piano Recital compsising Mauro Giuliani 2 Rondo op.68 for guitar and piano, Francisco Tarrega’s Prelude in E and Gavotta (Maria) solo;
Jose Ferrer’s Bolero for guitar and piano, Carlos Moscardini’s Duende Mulatos (Candombe) solo. They ended with Remedés Ganattali Sonatina 2 for piano and guitar and an encore: Alexander Kramskoi Valsa for piano and guitar
Paul Gregory and Yoko Ono are at the heart of Chapel Royal concerts, so there’s an occasional danger they might be taken for granted, despite their international profile. Till you hear them. They don’t normally play together though – who ever heard of guitar and piano?
Quite a few composers. Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani are the two great classical founders of guitar playing in the early 19th century, and Giuliani (1781-1839) like Paganini – yes him – often paired the guitar with unexpected instruments like violin and piano, as well as multiple guitars on occasion.
Giuliani’s light late-classical tunefulness sounds a bit like his contemporaries a decade and more younger than Beethoven: Hummel, Field, Spohr, Weber. So glimmers of romanticism, but nothing dark. Giuliani’s a melodically gifted composer with fascinating textures that ping back and forth in his 2 Rondo op.68 for guitar and piano. It’s a memorably insistent, airy three-part work with a tricky but elegant balance between the two players. It’s the classical core of what follows, and seductively easy to listen to and underrate. Delicious.
Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) is often called the father of the modern (Romantic) Spanish guitar. His Prelude in E is achingly beautiful and his Gavotta (Maria) both for solo guitar are like a dark prelude and dance finale arising from a smoky mid-Romantic palate. Gregory needless to say delivers these with a rapt cocoon of sonance pinged back by the Chapel’s acoustic, so ideal for this repertoire.
Tarrega’s pupil Jose Ferrer is unknown to me. His Bolero for guitar and piano shows the next generation’s marginally more astringent harmonies, but there’s no recognizably modernist palate here. There’s a memorable kick to this music though, and it’d be good to hear more.
If Ferrer’s obscure, try Carlos Moscardini (b. 1959). Well he’s not if you know Argentinean tango guitar music, which of course one doesn’t – in South America it’s far more a Brazilian thing, but since both countries are vast, that’s far too simplistic. Moscardini’s in fact a professor of tango guitar, in Buenos Aires. His Duende Mulatos (Candombe) again for solo guitar is striking – that ‘duende’ means a kind of demonic spirit, and there’s a cool jazziness too sliding actors the melodic material. something Garcia Lorca wanted. Of course this is suffused in familiar rhythms, not exactly tango, but infused with the rhythmic insistence of this. Again it’s attractive music it’s a privilege to know in performances like this.
Remedés Ganattali is someone I can’t even locate but his Sonatina 2 for piano and guitar is really something special, like a bookend to the Guilini. Gregory and Ono again enjoy the special architecture of two percussive instruments playng softy off each other. It’s a hypnotic effect, and something that might be capable of hallucinating you.
There’s a lovely film-score-like opening movement in the Sonatina, though it only evokes it doesn’t sound like film music. There’s a particularly memorable second movement, insinuating but calm, a kind of gentle elegiac quality infusing the playing too. Finally the finale really is catchy and the sheer percussive elements of both instruments come to the fore.
But in terms of the unexpected the encore beat everything: it’s Russian. But it doesn’t sound Russian. Alexander Kramskoi’s Valsa for piano and guitar is a gentle, wistful affair. And gently stunning too. Living from 1912-73 he’s a completely new name.
This was a recital of mostly unknown music, the more so a it went on. All of it argued for its place, and most of all made an elegant case for this unique repertoire and its sovereign performers.