Guitarist Craig Ogden is a great one for letting audiences in on some of his trade secrets. On this occasion – Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 4 December 2019 – it was to do with the tone and tuning of the three lowest strings. That was by way of introduction to the opening three solo numbers. A nicely strutting account of Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata in E, K 380, was followed by 'Asturias' from Albéniz's Suite Española. Like so much of his piano music it sounds completely at home on the guitar, and Ogden pointed up the expressive contrast between the dancing outer sections and rhetorical middle one. For the last of this group, he played entertainingly with the elegant pirouettes of Agustín Barrios Mangoré's Vals Op 8 No 4.
He was joined by cellist Hannah Roberts in Ludovico Einaudi's instantly forgettable Due Tramonti, before the rest of Manchester Camerata came on-stage for a bright, alert reading of the Rossini-ish first movement of Giuliani's Guitar Concerto No 1. The orchestra's account of Barber's Adagio was full of warmth and tenderness, and it was allowed to unfold steadily, with a finely controlled hushed ending.
To end Part 1, Ogden teamed up with Manchester Camerata principals Rakhi Singh, Sophie Mather, Alex Mitchell and Hannah Roberts for Rush, by Australian composer Matthew Hindson. The intricate textures of the pizzicato opening were delivered with pin-sharp precision, and the final hoe-down, led by the viola, was breathlessly exhilarating.
Göran Sollscher's inventive transcription of George Harrison's 'Here Comes the Sun', which started Part 2, has rightly become a staple of the solo guitar repertoire. Of the two pieces by Gary Ryan that followed, 'Lough Caragh', the second of his two Songs from Erin, was the aptly gentle, meditative foil to 'Rondo Rodeo', from his Scenes from The Wild West, whose good-humoured, dancing energy was reinforced by unusual techniques - playing near the bridge and above the nut, and drumming fingernails on the case to suggest horses' hooves.
Rakhi Singh and Ogden made Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel a moment of stillness before Manchester Camerata came back for a medley of film and TV themes arranged by music production company Morgan Pochin. This tended towards the over-lush, especially in its treatment of Stanley Myers' Cavatina and Jay Ungar's Ashokan Farewell, tunes which make their points best when allowed to be their straightforward selves. The Fandango from Boccherini's Guitar Quintet in D, G 448, got a spirited reading, though the cellists tapping on their instruments, in the absence of actual castanets, was not so effective as the real thing.
After John Brunning's pleasantly anodyne Romance No 1, the evening ended with Ogden and the Camerata raising the roof in Walk Dance, an exciting study in typically complex Balkan rhythms by Serbian-born Miroslav Tadić.
A well-planned evening, this was billed as 'A celebration of the guitar'. It was certainly that, showing the instrument in all sorts of different lights.
Copyright © 15 December 2019