String Fever Friday May 12, 2006
String Fever Cleans Up at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
“String Fever” was the tongue in cheek name placed upon a joint concert of the Georgia Guitar Quartet and the Santa Fe Guitar Quartet at the Performing Arts Center on Friday night. Despite the levity of the appellation this evening was seriously excellent in all its parts. It was a performance for connoisseurs of classical guitar for sure but challenging to the performers and mind-expanding for the erudite audience in many ways. Both groups offered highly disciplined musicianship and marvelously disparate sources of composition making for delight on both ends of the show.
The festivities were opened by the startlingly youthful Georgia Guitar Quartet who seemed very focused but very much in tune with each other’s parts of the ensemble. This was classical guitar playing with the fingers, no flat-picking or folksy improvisation. There was very little strumming of chords and pretty strict adherence to the composer’s intent. The difficulty comes with playing together but not over each other and blending differing tones into a flowing body of sound. The first composition, “Flight” was by a member, Kyle Dawkins and utilized varying techniques that produced a tapestry of unusual sounds forming an intricate but riveting narrative. The crowd was already sitting up and listening but the young men showed off their mastery of the guitars in gliding through a gorgeous set of Renaissance dances by Michael Praetorious including the brisk and joyful “Bransle Double” that reached through the five centuries beautifully. Ravel’s “Empress of the Pagodas” once more showed an amazing variety of tone and a trio of Danzas Argentinas by Alberto Ginastera was contemporary sounding yet deliciously Spanish in the melody. The group showed a sense of humor in the textured, jocular reading of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” and played their finest together on the demanding Fugue no. 4 from the Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. One of the evening’s highlights was the lone pop sounding “Sketches” by Brian Smith which was colorful and evocative, followed by a nod to their Southern roots in a fun, bluegrass “dueling double guitars?” The Georgians finished with some stately Boccherini and a souped up Irish traditional dulcimer tune “the Road to Lisdoonvarna” which was spirited and bright.
The Santa Fe Guitar Quartet kept the level at excellent in the second half but stayed with Latin composers for their delightful set. The first portion was the tightly woven, silky trio of pieces by Paquito D’Rivera that exuded Argentina. Yet another set of three “flirtatious dances” by the fascinating Marcelo Coronel proved to be the most demanding yet rewarding of the evening. In particular “Gato” was passionate and deep; played perfectly by the guitars matching up in pairs, one set going note by note and the other providing lines in which the melody traveled. The finale was the ambitious “Four Seasons” of the great Astor Piazzolla, loosely based on Vivaldi’s work of the same title but as different as South America to Europe. Even though the composition was inspired by the elaborate melodies of the 17th century Italian this modern take went in another direction yet came to similar conclusions. Like changing time itself, the music covered the gamut of emotion from melancholy to joyous to a smoldering sensuality. All was heightened by the brilliant interplay, including guitar box percussion from the Quartet. The new tango feeling of Piazzolla with its jazz rhythms just made those seasons shimmer. Despite a roaring, adoring audience the polite gentlemen of the guitars played their announced material and left it at great.