Saturday, February 10, 2024

SUITE MAJICA - Andrew Blanch, guitar, and Emily Granger, Harp.


Emily Granger and Andrew Blanch performing "Suite Majica" at Wesley Music Centre, Canberra.

Wesley Music Centre, Canberra, February 8th 2024.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Given how beautifully harp and guitar blend together, it is surprising that there are not more compositions written for this combination. Andrew Blanch and Emily Granger solved this problem by commissioning well-known Australian composers and musicians to write or arrange pieces especially for this combination. They’ve then preserved the resulting compositions on a beguiling debut CD entitled Suite Magica .  This concert was part of a whirlwind eight-city tour to promote the CD. It also served to introduce the duo to a wider audience.

Guitarist Andrew Blanch already has a growing profile as a concerto soloist having performed and recorded with orchestras through Australia, Spain and most recently Brazil where he recorded a new guitar concerto by Chilean-Australian composer Daniel Rojas.

Principal Harp with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, US-born, Australian based harpist Emily Granger effortlessly straddles the worlds of classical, popular and art music, including appearances with Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Blasko and Renee Fleming, recitals in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center,  and performances with the Chicago, Sydney and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras.

This experience was evidenced in their casually dressed, relaxed and confident demeanor as they took the stage at the Wesley Music Centre  to introduce themselves and their program.

Their recital, which lasted just on an hour without interval, commenced approprietly with the composition which also provided the title for their album, Suite Majica.

Suite Majica was composed by Argentinian classical guitarist and composer, Maximo Diego Pujol especially for guitar and harp. It consists of four beguiling short pieces which cleverly exploit the dynamics of the individual instruments while showcasing how beautifully they blend.  

The confidence and virtuosity of the two musicians belied the complexity of each piece allowing the audience to delight in the resonance and beauty of this particular combination of instruments.

The first of several special commissions by the duo followed. A pretty, inventive ear-worm composition from Elena Kats-Chernin, entitled  Fleeting Encounters demonstrated exactly why this composer is so popular among instrumentalists seeking engaging repertoire.

Similarly Sally Whitwell, with her suite, Tiny Dances, displayed her inventiveness with six short miniatures, the first and last of which involved the use of a ticking metronome.

A lovely arrangement by Australian guitarist/composer Richard Charlton of Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une infant defunct, was followed Forest Stories,  a dreamy composition by Sydney-based composer, Tristen Coelho, which cleverly conjured up impressions of a walk through a forest.

Blanch and Granger ended their alluring program with a dazzling display of virtuosity with a composition by Brazilian guitarist, Marco Pereira, Fantasia Concertante which left their audience demanding an encore.

Of course they obliged, offering their own arrangement of Ross Edward’s lovely lullaby, Emily’s Song following which the blissed out audience hurried into the foyer to secure their own autographed copy of a CD destined to become a personal favourite.

Emily Granger and Andrew Blanch concluding their performance of "Suite Majica"
in the Wesley Music Centre in Canberra

Images by Peter Hislop

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.