Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Date 12 August 2007 at 8pm Venue Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Reviewer John Jane

“The easiest instrument to play, the most difficult to play well.” This observation could have been enunciated about any string instrument, but, in fact, it was the guitar that the author had in mind. Demonstrating incredible virtuosity and precision, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet LAGQ) makes the 7-string classical guitar look deceptively easy.

William Kanengiser, John Dearman, and Scott Tennant are founding LAGQ members; newcomer Matthew Greif, who replaced Andrew York, makes up the foursome. The group has no apparent leader, and all members take roughly equal responsibility in bringing original ideas and style to the group’s unique arrangements.

This “all-for-one” affinity was clearly evident in the quartet’s first offering, Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia. Dearman’s interesting transcription is noticeably quicker than the symphonic version. The four individual musicians do not play in unison, yet manage to sound as a single voice.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 is hardly renowned as an ensemble piece, but the musicians exhibit a melancholy, and determined energy with the work’s stately Allegro.

LAGQ brought us to the end of the first half with Manuel de Falla's entire ballet suite, El amor brujo. William Kanengiser described the plot about a gypsy possessed by the ghost of her former lover. Each of the thirteen scenes evokes a distinct mood that articulates into the heroine’s passionate encounter. Kanengiser’s scintillating arrangement captures the intensity of the instantly recognizable Danza del terror.

Opening the second set was a tribute selection to the Brazilian masters entitled Imagens do Brasil (Images of Brazil). The first of which was Baden Powell’s “Samba Novo” -- originally recorded by the composer, it was presented in an exuberant arrangement by Maogani's Marcus Tardelli. One of the most easily recognized tunes in this selection was the exquisite "O Morro Nao Tem Vez" arranged by Marcos Alves, another member of the classical guitar ensemble, Maogani.

At the conclusion of the regular programme that concluded with a spellbinding transcription of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, the audience responded with a well deserved standing ovation, pressing the quartet for an encore. They obliged with one of their own favourites, a folkloric lament, composed by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, “Farewell to Stromness.”

© 2007 John Jane