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Music Reviews : Guitarist Parkening In Recital At Ambassador

January 21, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

On the basis of name value as well as consistent high level of artistry, the current guitar series at Ambassador Auditorium is one of the best in recent memory. Not surprisingly, it is all but sold out.

Thus, the appearance by Christopher Parkening on Sunday evening brought an overflow audience to the hall. Dressed in his customary black turtleneck and matching cords, the guitarist offered a healthy program on paper--no fewer than 17 works--albeit relatively brief in time.

Repertory was generally unhackneyed, quite a trick in the guitar world, which seems to subsist on predictable programming. True, there was familiarity, but never in too obvious a setting. Fernando Sor's Mozart variations, for example, immediately followed a less-frequently heard Sor sonata movement. Such a juxtaposition gave freshness to the variations.

Similarly, Villa-Lobos' Prelude No. 3--one of the most boring pieces in all music--emerged relatively harmless, due partly to its clever placement in the middle of a Villa-Lobos set, and partly to a gentle, loving performance.

It is that soft Parkening touch that seems to bring such throw-away pieces as Saenz's "Suite Espanola" to life. An occasional fluffed or dropped note never seems to intrude on his expressive playing. He has always possessed a fine sense of dynamics, never fearing to play softly, as in Debussy's "Girl With the Flaxen Hair."

There was virtuosity, of course: His brilliant setting of "The Empress of the Pagodas" from Ravel's "Mother Goose" Suite, though a bit rushed, was dazzling, as were three Spanish works arranged for two guitars, in which David Brandon served as the capable second voice.

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