Advertisement

Dance And Music Reviews : Guitarist Benjamin Verdery At Northridge

September 29, 1986|JOHN HENKEN

Benjamin Verdery is a sociable entertainer. Saturday evening, the young New Englander quickly established a comfortable parlor atmosphere in the Recital Hall at Cal State Northridge with his informal dress, conversational asides and eclectic, pops-oriented repertory.

The program featured only two works originally for guitar, both by former teachers of Verdery. Anthony Newman's "Variations and Grand Contrapunctus" revels in the exploitation of highly idiomatic special techniques and timbres. The Contrapunctus part sounded rather frantic at times, but the Variations grew effectively and the moody denouement worked well.

"Trilogy" by Frederic Hand is a set of jazz homages, harmonically afflicted with cocktail-lounge banalities. But the third movement, inspired by Dave Brubeck, jumped with sufficient energy and abandon to redeem the others.

Among the arrangements, the most exotic worked best. Vahdah Olcott-Bickford's adaptation of Strauss' "Blue Danube" is a marvelously evocative tour de force , discounting the hiccuping Scottish snaps in the main theme. In encore, Verdery offered two Jimi Hendrix songs, sounding little like the original but flashy, fluent tributes nonetheless.

Verdery has a right hand capable of articulative and timbral variation across a broad dynamic range. His left hand, unfortunately, frequently lost its way and proved heir to the buzzes and squeaks that can beset the guitar.

Some of that right-hand technique was displayed in Verdery's transcription of Bach's famous Chaconne, where he played the fastest runs with his thumb, almost like a flat-picker. He milked the poignant, piano passages, but missed most of the grandeur.

Verdery opened with three pieces by Francois Couperin, and closed with two by Albeniz. The Couperin was troubled with wrong notes and memory lapses, and both sets sounded rather dry at times. Verdery was at his best, however, in the wonderfully hushed opening of Albeniz's "Cordoba."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|