Sparkling performance

Sparkling performance

Cambrian News, Ben Ridler

The 2018-19 season got off to a very successful start on Friday 5th October in Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor.

A good turn-out greeted the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet (still vividly remembered from their previous visit to Dolgellau in 2005), and their sparkling performance did not disappoint.

One striking feature of this very accomplished ensemble is the equal prominence of all four members (Michael Baker, Vasilis Bessas, James Jervis and Rory Russell)  –  virtuosity is apparent across the board, and it was pleasurable not knowing which player would have the lead or tune from one piece to the next.

It was a wise choice to open with Rossini’s Sinfonia to l’Italiana in Algeri (skilfully arranged by Richard Safhill, a founder member of the group), given its familiar melodies and wide range of dynamic contrast.  Opals by Philip Houghton (Black Opal, Water Opal, White Opal) evoked vivid images of the gems’ translucence and subtly shifting colours.  The first half concluded in South America with Alfonsina y el Mar by Ariel Ramirez, a haunting piece with an intriguing story behind it.  (Engaging and lucid introductions were given to each piece, shared between the four.)

Full use was made in the second half of the guitar’s potential as a percussion instrument, in dances such as Pajduska (Macedonia) and La Muerte del Angel (from Astor Piazzolla, father of the tango).  More meditative and hypnotic on the other hand was The Swan ‘L243’  by Catriona McKay, a Scottish harpist who created the piece after sailing as crew member/musician on ‘The Swan’ in the 1999 Cutty Sark tall ships race.  James Jervis introduced a new sonority into De Usuahia a la Quiaca, theme tune to the film ‘Motorcycle Diaries’, by playing on a charango  –  this one of wood, not the traditional armadillo shell!

A closing encore was insisted on, and the audience left with a spring in their step to the beguiling rhythms of Django Reinhardt’s Minor Swing (arr. Mike Baker) adopted as theme tune for the 2000 film ‘Chocolat’.

Heartfelt thanks to the Southall Trust for generous support towards this memorable concert.