Festival Gala: featuring Australian String Quartet with Pepe Romero, Máximo Pujol Trio & Slava Grigoryan plus special guests Aurora Guitar Ensemble
Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sat Jul 19
This was a case of the support act nearly stealing the show. The curtain opened on the glorious sight of 26 guitarists in brightly coloured shirts seated and ready to play. Their composer and musical director, Paul Svoboda, raised his arms for quiet, waited a few appropriate seconds, and launched Aurora Guitar Ensemble. What a beautiful sound. Svoboda himself is mesmerising as he choreographs his players with precision and grace. If I closed my eyes I could hear an orchestral string section. At times I heard wind instruments, and a piano. But I’d open my eyes again and there were just guitars. Beautifully played guitars and superb arrangements; quite simply some of the most uplifting music I’ve heard in years.
Enter the Australian String Quartet (ASQ) and Slava Grigoryan to play a piece by Australian composer Shaun Rigney. Modern and experimental, it took some getting used to. It seems a difficult piece to perform, and I imagine it might be one of those that is more fun to play than to listen to. ASQ were not so much playing together on this disjointed and occasionally discordant piece as keeping out of each other’s way. As violin one swapped parts with violin two who handed over to cello who had its lines completed by viola it bounced around quite frenetically at times, and in the quieter moments or gaps there was the guitar holding it all together. It was fascinating to watch and enjoyable to listen to, but more music for the head than the heart perhaps.
Spain’s classical music superstar, Pepe Romero, joined ASQ next and treated us to Luigi Boccherini’s Fandango from the late 18th century. In contrast this was a much brighter and more harmonic interlude with the guitar parts more integrated into the composition. There were also fine moments that showcased the difference between bowed strings (violin, cello) and plucked (guitar), and how deliciously complementary they are.
The Máximo Pujol Trio from Argentina were the final featured act and delivered sensuous moments of tango. The interplay here between Pujol on guitar and Eleonora Ferreyra on bandoneon, a type of concertina, was a joy to behold and listen to. It was just like the instruments were talking to each other. It also felt European, but it was actually music from the ‘Paris of the South’ – Buenos Aires.
A wonderful evening’s entertainment.
by Michael Coghlan
Australian String Quartet photo by Jacqui Way. Artwork by Sue Ninham