Guitars Galore!

Lucca’s Istituto Musicale Luigi Boccherini not only offers musical training of the highest standard to the surrounding area and beyond but gives an exciting series of concerts for much of the year. In May alone there are three series, one of which is dedicated to the eastern Italian school with works from “Devil’s trill” Tartini to Merkù. The Boccherini guitar festival (even Lucca’s own son, Boccherini wrote delicious guitar quartets) lasting three days particularly grabbed the fancy and yesterday evening we were treated to an exuberant and highly enjoyable recital by the Marseilles- born guitarist Gaëlle Solal. The programme was as follows:

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Solal did not actually play it in that order but mixed the classical pieces with contemporary compositions, which I thought was a much better idea. Her enormous  talent was shown in the wonderful ground-bass pieces, especially Bach’s chaconne, transcribed from the last dance movement of a solo violin partita. I loved the Weiss chaconne from his suite X (Originally written for baroque lute of which Silvius Weiss was the major performer of his time). Of the modern compositions I was particularly drawn to the wonderfully varied moods and rhythmic intensity of the Guinga pieces. Guinga (real name Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar) is a Brazilian guitarist and composer born in a slummy district of Rio de Janeiro. As a child, he was nicknamed “Gringo“, because of his light skin, and “Guinga” comes from the way Carlos pronounced the word. Guinga actually trained as a dentist and apparently still practices despite his guitar world tours. Gaëlle really got her teeth into Guinga’s music and also told us how she was very nervous about meeting this famous guitarist who she has admired above all others. However, as a result of a friend’s lucky introduction, she finished up playing with him by chance for half the night. I would have loved to be present on that occasion!

Guinga has accompanied great Brazilian singers like as Beth Carvalho and João Nogueira and recorded with samba legends Cartola and Clara Nunes. Make up your own minds about Guinga’s music (and Gaëlle’s amazing performance of it) here.

I liked the arrangement of this Turkish folk melody by Kevin Seddiki:

Solal’s interpretation of Albeniz’ Torre Bermeja (another guitar transcription form the piano original) showed how much in command of the repertoire she is:

And here is some Gismonti

The audience in the graceful church of the Suffragio, now converted to a small concert hall with beautifully soft and clear acoustics (how lucky Lucca is with its number of churches, many of which, out of religious redundancy have been converted to marvellous music venues) consisted mainly of Gaëlle’s master-class students at the Istituto. Their applause and cheers at the end of the concert was indicative of how this wonderful guitarist had won their hearts and minds – and ours too by the end of the evening.

There are many good guitarists in the world but sometimes I think that I’d rather hear them in the comfort of my armchair at home listening to one of their CDs – live, some of them seem so solemn and do not really appear to involve their audience. With a Gaëlle Solal recital you have to be there in real time – she imparts such personality to her performances, introduces each piece with such delight and is so full of enthusiasm and joy that you can only come out (like we did) feeling truly warm and happy.

I learnt from Gaëlle that passacaglia was originally Spanish street music -the word derives from pasar (to walk) and calle (street).This is her stunning CD of performances of classical chaconnes and passacaglias this beautiful guitarist signed for us:

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One thought on “Guitars Galore!

  1. Francis Hi there! Loved all 3 pieces Seddiki Solal and Gismonti refreshing to hear familiar tunes by unfamiliar composers and played so virtuosistically makes a change to the usual repertoire! Thanks for the recordings truly amazing!

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