Reviewed Friday 18th July 2014
Guitarissimo reviewed by Barry Lenny
Geoffrey Morris and Siobhan Stagg reviewed by Ewart Shaw

This concert was opened by Guitarissimo, a group formed in 2006 by German guitarist and their Musical Director, Oliver Fartach-Naini, to showcase emerging guitarists studying at the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the University of Adelaide. Their concerts, featuring everything from solo works to the full ensemble, cover an enormous variety of music.

Masters student, Aloysius Leeson, who has been making a name for himself around Adelaide for some time now, opened the concert with two pieces, the first a Spanish classical work, En los trigales, by Joaquin Rodrigo, and the second a Flamenco piece, Impetu, by Mario Escudero. He is studying the way in which the two genres have influenced each other for his Masters degree and these two superbly played pieces invited the listener to observe the differences and look for the similarities.

The next item was a new short piece for guitar trio, Autumn Sunrise, written by Corey Davis, and played by himself with Saxon Wilson and Dylan Boller. Interestingly, he also plays in a progressive metal band, a far cry from the gentility and subtleness of this work.

The Elder Conservatorium Guitar Ensemble came together to complete the first half, with three contrasting pieces, Manta Point, by local composer, Ian Seaborn, Paris, by Alberto López Buchardo, arranged by Coco Nelegatti, and Mbira, by William Kanengiser.

Manta Point is a short piece, a tone poem, with two sections that describe travelling to and from the island, and a middle section diving and looking for manta rays. the ensemble achieve a great balance that brings out all of the colour of such an adventure. Paris is a Tango by pianist, Ramon Alberto López Buchardo, who was known as El Vasco, the first person known to bring the Tango to Paris in 1905, where he stayed until 1918. This lively piece swings along and sets toes tapping and the ensemble really understand the tango rhythms and emotional content. Finally, Mbira is the name of what we generally refer to as the African thumb piano and the music does a fine job of recreating that sound, with the ensemble playing close to the bridge, and even between the tuning pegs and the nut, mimicking the instrument as well as producing a feel of the music of Africa.

In the second half, two Australians, guitarist, Geoffrey Morris, and soprano, Siobhan Stagg, presented a wide ranging collection of songs during which he played several period style guitars: Baroque guitar, Chitarra Atiorbata, Guitarras dos seis cuerdas dobles, and Classico-Romantico guitar.

We are so used to the singer /guitarist in popular music that we shouldn't be surprised to find the singer and guitarist combination at the Guitar Festival. It's still unusual, however. The brief appearance by soprano Siobhan Stagg with Geoffrey Morris proved to be entrancing and entertaining and, indeed, educational. Let's start with the entrancing Miss Stagg. Her warm and beautifully tuned soprano voice has won her many competitions and some significant work in the major opera houses of Europe. She and Geoffrey Morris are an excellent pairing, both of them energetic, and lively, and both of them happy to chat with their audience to give a little context to the works they're performing. Her three brackets of songs from the Baroque and Classical periods were delivered with easy charm.

Jose Marin (1619-1699) a talented musician and singer, who must have had the constitution of an ox, survived a sentence of ten years in the galleys for murder, but was able easily to resurrect his career when released. Let's be educational then. The guitar accompaniments for his songs were exemplary, Spanish in rhythm and tone, whereas the songs by Federico Moretti (1760-1838) both in style and notation, as Geoffrey Morris pointed out, were far more European in nature. It's the bracket of songs by Vicente Martin Y Soler (1754-1806) that caught my attention. Almost forgotten now, as a composer of musical comedies, he was more popular than Mozart in Vienna, a prolific producer of easily listenable tunes and, sadly, easy to overlook on that account. The songs chosen were from a song cycle in which a young woman sings of being in love, out of love, and worried that the man she loves doesn't love her. In one of them, tagged the drama queen by Siobhan Stagg, she makes many changes of mood in barely two minutes, and the singer played them for all they were worth.

Mozart includes a tune from Una Cosa Rara in the last act of don Giovanni as a tribute to the composer's popularity, but it is in The Marriage of Figaro that Cherubino has two love songs to the guitar, which are exactly in the mood and manner of the pieces chosen here. Of course Mozart is far more memorable and I'd love to see and hear Siobhan Stagg as Cherubino.

Geoffrey Morris is an expert on the early guitar and brought four of them on the stage with him, one of which, the chitarra a'tiorbata, had an additional set of bass strings to extend its range. Each was played with deft facility.

Jose Carbo joined the Grigorian brothers for a concert My Latin Heart at the last festival. Can we hope that next time, either Schubert songs to the guitar, which is the instrument on which he composed so many songs, or, hope against hope, a really good lutenist and countertenor duo in the songs of Dowland?

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From This Author Barry Lenny