Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Exquisite guitar work accompanies soaring baritone Carbó

The José Carbó Trio
José Carbó - baritone
Andrew Blanch - guitar
Ariel Nurhadi - guitar
Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest ACT
September 22, 2019

by Tony Magee

WHEN Franz Schubert set the poems of Goethe, Schiller and Müller to music, he frequently used the opportunity to create more of the piano part than simply a pretty accompaniment to a singer’s voice. The piano could also be a character in the story, sometimes an implement, or even a force from nature.

In Der Erlkönig (Goethe), the piano represents a galloping horse, thundering through the night. On board are a father, clutching his desperately sick child. Together, the three urgently speed for the nearest medical help.

The singer has to portray four different characters in the lyric. The father, the son, the narrator and also, tragically, death calling to the boy.

All this, when played properly, delivers one of the most captivating pieces of music of the Romantic vocal repertoire.

So closed the first half of a brilliant concert by the José Carbó Trio at Wesley Church, Saturday last.

In arranging the piano accompaniment for two guitars, Andrew Blanch and Ariel Nurhadi took on one of the most difficult musical challenges imaginable, something which baritone José Carbó talked at length about before they performed the piece. 

Musically, the playing was sublime and provided an exquisite base over which señor Carbó sang the four characters so well, one could easily distinguish who was who, aided by his impeccable German diction.

L-R: Ariel Nurhadi, José Carbó & Andrew Blanch. Photo: Will Perez Ronderos

The duo guitars don’t quite capture the thundering hooves of the horse, however they bring to the piece a fresh new vibrancy, in which the pianistic sense of urgency is replaced by multiple senses of serenity, calm, forboding and deception.

I think there is more to explore right at the end, as the guitars really need to portray the horse pulling up to a stop - they have arrived. Devastatingly, the singer mournfully and slowly reveals: “In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.” - In his arms, the child was dead.

The trio closed the concert with a powerful and stirring rendition of the aria “Cortigiani vil razza dannata” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”. Carbó’s voice filled the church voluminously and presented the audience with a climactic finish that elicited rapturous applause from the near capacity audience.

Also on the program were the songs of Gluck, Debussy, Faure, de Falla, Hahn and Tosti. In all these cases, the arrangements are by the trio, reduced from orchestrations or piano accompaniments and translated into the most exquisite duo guitar settings, providing José Carbó with a sound wash almost as a cushion of clouds, over which his pure voice floats in heavenly motion.

The combination is unique and the quality is such that the three could be placed on a stage anywhere in the world and receive ovations of delight. In particular, there is scope for an entire Schubert lieder recital. A huge amount of work obviously for guitarists Blanch and Nurhadi, but one which would present the world with a new, refreshing and unique insight into some of the most stunning poetry, melodies and accompaniments in the history of literature and music.