One feature of St David’s Hall’s International Concert Series has been nights with the guitar. For the past few years Craig Ogden has honoured us with his presence at least once a year, this time with the Manchester Camerata, a superb group of sting players who centrally leave a mark.
Craig has handpicked the programme and it showcases his broad repertoire, Bach to The Beatles being a usual turn of phrase for him. Music by Scarlatti and Albéniz gave us heightened intimacy with just Craig, for a few solo pieces. The hall takes on a very different mood in moments like these and the joy of the music seep through every notes he plays. A cello (the feverishly good Hannah Roberts) and guitar duet from Einaudi, Due Tramonti has a lovely feel but not everything by this super popular composer is original or of note. The Guitar Concerto by Mauro Giuliani had moments that felt like they were plucked from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Papageno’s first aria to be precise. The strings and guitar have merry moments that are hard to resist. Craig had a bit of a well earned rest and we hear Barber’s Adagio for Strings. This is well-known fair and the solemn nature was vivid in the players, a moving encounter by anyones standards.
A surprise hit was Rush by Matthew Hindson for guitar and string quartet. This has moments of minimalism and a cutting vitality. The relationship between the give musicians was razor-sharp and you could easily drink in the artistry on offer. George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun we’ve heard as an encounter from Craig in the past and it’s a spiffy little addition to the concert. Gary Ryan in his Rondo Rodeo does a decent job of evoking the wild west with percussive knocking on the guitar body and scrapping on the strings. Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel has an exquisite mood, here in an arrangement for guitar (replacing the piano) and violin, here the impassioned Rakhi Singh. It’s quite simple in execution and the two owned the work, though I think the original version has a little more yearning and bite to it.
A medley of music from films and TV (The Mission, Inspector Morse, The Deer Hunter etc) were bog standard additions, pleasant in some respects. I’d certainly be down for an acoustic version of the Twin Peaks theme any day. The ending piece, an arrangement of the Walk Dance by Miroslav Tadić made for a stirring parting gift. This Macedonian dance is filled with excitable passages, all players having stupendous moments of tutti, in an ever circular and angular dance. Though we were hungry for an encore, we didn’t get one. Craig had been the back bone of the night. We respected this and felt appeased.
Another fine concert to savor.
Next concert in the ICS is The Sixteen on 15th December 2019 at St David’s Hall.
Photo Credit: Classic FM