Adelaide Town Hall, Sun 14 Aug
What a wonderful event the Guitar Festival is. Kudos to the organisers who have now worked out a format that works. This offering at the Adelaide Town Hall succeeded in entertaining the full house with a rich, full program that demonstrated the versatility of the classical guitar.
The show was divided into two distinct halves. The first featured this year’s 80-person-strong Guitar Orchestra. If nothing else it was a superb achievement to get so many instruments perfectly in tune! Under the direction of Paul Svoboda and Richard Charlton they played a bright rendition of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, two lively and melodic original compositions from each of Charlton and Svoboda, and the best version of the Dr Who theme I’ve heard.
The second part of the program in turn featured Australian guitarists Karin Schaupp, festival artistic director Slava Grigoryan, and Austrian Wolfgang Muthspiel in tandem with the Australian String Quartet. The opening piece with Schaupp and ASQ playing 18th century music from Haydn was exquisite. I was carried away to a place of deep comfort as the marvellous combination of plucked and bowed strings revealed why this music from so long ago has endured.
In contrast, the contemporary selections chosen by Grigoryan and Muthspiel forced me to concentrate. It is subjective, I realise but the moment I find myself thinking about the music I’m listening to something is lost. It is no longer just music for the heart and soul, but music that wants to engage the conscious. I loved Grigoryan’s expansive technique on guitar, the way he clearly lives in the music he plays physically, and the build-up and release of dramatic tension of the composition, but the lack of predictability in the structure means you can never really float with it.
Similarly with Muthspiel’s Flexible Sky. There were some delightful sensitive passages, occasional subtle suggestions of jazz influences, but in sum it felt like music for the intellect. As I was walking out I heard someone remark that they thought this last piece was “just brilliant”, and certainly audience applause was loud and strong, so I may have been in the minority of those who preferred the more traditional music of Haydn.
Image courtesy of Jacqui Way