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BWW Review: ADELAIDE GUITAR FESTIVAL 2016: GUITAR FESTIVAL SYMPHONY GALA Was A Concert-Goers Dream

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Saturday 13th August 2016

The Guitar Festival Symphony Gala featured the sensational Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, once more demonstrating the versatility and excellence of this group of musicians. For this concert they were conducted by one of the best conductor's around, Benjamin Northey. To begin the concert four superb soloists, Karin Schaupp, Aleksandr Tsiboulski, Leonard Grigoryan, and Ken Murray, combined to perform Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto Andaluz. This lively tribute to Andalusia conjures visions of so many aspects of Spain, such as the Flamenco, castanets, bullfights, the sunny summers, the cantinas, and the colourful festivals. In the hands of four such skilled and talented guitarists, backed by the stunning sounds of this orchestra, the work was filled with life and drew great applause.

Cuban composer, Leo Brouwer's Austral for guitar and chamber orchestra, inspired by all that is Australian was given its world premiere by Ricardo Gallén. This, and the final work of the evening, Andrew Ford's Raga, were both commissioned by Kim Williams, in partnership with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Guitar Festival, and what a good thing that was for the audience and the musicians, to have two new works in the one concert. Brouwer's work is complex and, at times, fragmentary, ideas suddenly changing, making it playable only by greatly skilled guitarists and, of course, Gallén is just that. He brings out all of the subtleties of some passages, as well as the explosiveness of others as though it were an easy matter, which it surely is not. It is always a thrill to hear new works played by masters of their instruments.

Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose (Ma mère l'oye) in the orchestral version of his suite, originally composed for piano, four hands, is always popular with audiences and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra more than did it justice. From the delicate opening notes of the first movement, Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (Pavane of Sleeping Beauty), the audience was captivated as it ebbed and flowed before the lively second movement, Petit Poucet (Little Tom Thumb/Hop o' My Thumb),

The excitement of the Oriental influences and percussion in the third movement, Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodas (Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas), gave way to the dark overtones of the opening of the fourth, Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête (Conversation of Beauty and the Beast), as the two beging to understand one another, all beautifully declared in the subtlety of the Orchestra under Benjamin Northey's sensitive conducting.

It was all over too soon, with a truly atmospheric interpretation of the final movement, Le jardin féerique (The Fairy Garden), leaving us grateful that we have such a magnificent orchestra that can be called upon to play anything from Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen (twice in Adelaide) and Philip Glass's trilogy of Einstein on the Beach, Akhnaten, and Satyagraha, and all of the performances of the State Opera of South Australia, through to pop music, to jazz, to brand new compositions, and the entire orchestral repertoire, as well as festivals such as this.

Electric guitarist, Zane Banks, had the opportunity to present the world premiere of Andrew Ford's concerto, Raga, a unique blend of rock and traditional Indian music. The claim that it was a mix of Ravi Shankar and Jerry Garcia was a little hard to entirely agree with, and it didn't always quite come together, but the orchestra and soloist, with the added kit drums, were not going to be beaten and turned in a very creditable performance of this work that, perhaps, tried to be too many things at once.

Overall, this was a wonderful evening of great music performed by some of the best in the business, and the audience showed its appreciation in no uncertain terms.


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