Like Andres Segovia--who, coincidentally, appeared locally this past week--Carlos Montoya enjoys a level of adulation reserved for those select musicians who continue to perform successfully in the face of advancing years. And, as is the case with his illustrious countryman, the 82-year-old flamenco guitarist continues to alternate flashes of brilliance with streaks of technical mishaps.
A near-capacity audience at Beckman Auditorium, Caltech, discovered on Saturday that Montoya still commands a powerful, accurate left hand. Time and again, he nonchalantly tossed off dizzying series of runs, with or without right-hand assistance. True, the guitarist had the advantage of amplification--albeit tinny--that allowed these flurries to emerge unforced. Yet, in such dazzlers as "Jota" and "Petenera," those fingers still possess an obvious youthful energy and dexterity.
Where the stone-faced musician seemed to encounter problems was in the right hand. While strummed flourishes were crisply attacked, numerous crucial tremolos proved uneven and weakly struck, noticeably in "Tarantas" and "Guajira."
No one in attendance had any reason to expect perfection--and no one seemed to be complaining. Each brief work on a very brief program (three 20-minute sets) was met with warm, often extended applause, which was returned by a quick, military salute or an open-armed gesture from the guitarist.
What kind of critical churl would dare pass judgment at such a love-in?