FringeReview UK 2018
Hector Castro’s Guitar Recital at St Nicholas Church encompassed Llobet’s selection of Catalan Folksongs, then four of David Russell’s Celtic Folksong arrangements.
It’s the season for guitars, whether the Chapel Royal yesterday or Radio 3 after this concert finished.
This is special though. Hector Castro only gave a winning guitar recital here two weeks ago, but was returning with a guitar trio when sudden illness meant he had to step in with another solo gig at two days notice. Castro kept apologizing for his re-tuning – his strings had broken yesterday – and for the tune-warping heat. Wholly needlessly.
Choosing risk over repetition Castro bravely decided to learn new repertoire he’d lined up and the result was quietly bewitching.
Miguel Llobet’s Traditional Folksong setting evince the delicacy and poignant quiet so many Catalan Folksongs possess – say in contrast to the stronger rhythms, or Flamenco in mid-Spain or particularly southern Spain. It’s a sonically different culture – as with everything Catalan – and though the guitar’s common throughout Iberia Llobet’s pieces remind one of differences as well as similarities.
Castro has a warm open touch, fully at home with the warm but never swimmy acoustics of St Nicholas, like many churches of this size ideal for guitar recitals.
‘El Testament d’amelia’ and ‘Canco Del Ladre’ are more personal testaments with a strong melodic lead, with a little story-telling. More typically, the bird-infused ‘La Filadora’ ad ‘Lo Rossinyol’ pare back sonorities to one wandering melodic line recessed I a sparkling distance. ‘El Mestre’ continues the sun-drenched torpor magnificently replicated in this Heatwave, where the doors were eventually flung wide and te same churchwarden fanned the guitarist. Finally ‘El Noi De La Mare’ and ‘Romanza’ picked up with some energy. It’s the nature of even a selection to sound samey in ths repertoire, but Castro with his melodic warmth suggested more suite than a selection.
Tempi altered completely when this composer came home as it were, with a selection of Celtic Folksongs all arranged by David Russell. ‘The Bucks of Oranmore’ is a fine quietly rousing piece with a lilt, followed by ‘Cherish the Ladies’ when one lady in particular was exercising her fan ‘aptly named’ quipped Castro. It’s a graceful, grateful piece leading into the deepest work ‘Neil Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second wife’ a plangent one too, full of undertow, keening and a fine melodic grieving. Finally ‘Spatter the dew’ with its glissandi and thrilling chords recalls another kind of guitar repertoire. In this heat and despite the rapidity of everything in it, it was a way to finish the set.
Not the recital however with the quiet Torroba piece everyone knows and then ‘The Deer Hunter’ theme: too much for one audience member leaving in tears with her child.
The church was indeed brimming with mothers and children, and on such a day as this it was heart-warming and not too heat-warming to see so many shelter with the slant shade of Castro’s quiet magic.