Sunday, November 3, 2019

Great Guitars of Canberra

Great Guitars of Canberra
Larry Sitzky Recital Room CSM 1 November

Reviewed by Graham McDonald

The local music critics usually do not review student recitals, for good reason, but this fundraising concert for the Friends of the School of Music presented some young musicians who were very, very good. They were mostly senior guitar students of the CSM with the addition of two much younger guitarists who were remarkably competent for 14 or 15 year olds.

It was not a long concert, a little over an hour, with each of the fiver performances presenting only one or two works. Opening the concert was Owen Elliot with two pieces from the Spanish tradition by Rodrigo and Albeniz. Both were played well as he coped with some tricky left hand fingering and a fine right hand tremolo. He was followed by the two young performers, Callum McPhee and Torran Murray, who played two tango inspired works for duo guitars. These were not overly complex but were handled well with obvious communication going on between the two.

The next performer was Shane Campbell with the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata No 1 and transcribed for guitar. This slow movement is mostly a single line with occasional added harmonies which while pleasant did not really explore the possibilities of the guitar. He followed this with another slow and reflective piece, Granada by Albeniz, transcribed from the piano original.  Certainly well played but perhaps one of the pieces chosen could have had a bit more punch.

Callum Henshaw presented La Catedral, a work in three movements by the Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios MangorĂ©. A fascinating piece of music and Henshaw produced bell like high notes over the top of a work full of complex fingering  and lots of notes, all of which he found.

The final work was for guitar quartet, Five Tails in Cold Blood by Richard Charlton and commissioned for the 30thanniversary of Guitar Trek . Elliot and Campbell were joined by Renee Selvey on guitar and Benjamin Grace on classical bass guitar for this charming work. The five movements are based on impressions of reptiles and fish and use the full range of what can be done with the classical guitar. There are hints of 70s prog rock in the first movement and Hawaiian slack-key guitar in the third part. A most satisfying way to end the concert and I suspect we will hear much more from these talented young musicians.