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MUSIC REVIEW

Classical guitar's hidden charms

The power and charisma of this marginalized instrument shine in a Phil series.

November 17, 2005|Josef Woodard | Special to The Times

IN the scheme of this week's eclectic Los Angeles Philharmonic-sponsored series "The Art of the Guitar," Tuesday night's chamber music soiree at Walt Disney Concert Hall might have seemed the low-key, off-night piece of the puzzle. But only on paper.

In fact, the engaging program -- with music by Bolcom, Schubert, Piazzolla and Castelnuovo-Tedesco -- may have been the hidden prize in a series focused on the instrument's more well-known aspects.

Tuesday's implicit message involved the secret power and charisma of the too-often unheralded and marginalized classical guitar, as both accompanist and spotlight sharer.

To kick things off, the justly renowned Eliot Fisk -- who will return as soloist with the full Philharmonic this weekend in Rodrigo's galloping warhorse "Concierto de Aranjuez" -- teamed with flutist Catherine Ransom Karoly for Bolcom's ripe, venturesome "Tres Piezas Lindas." In it, the composer brandishes his distinctive old-new language, suggesting Spanish guitar traditions but retaining his kaleidoscopic style.

He shifts from sweet tunefulness in the "Cancion" to the tart "Tango," with its well-placed dissonance, to the flourishing sweep of "Danza," played persuasively and interactively.

Among the evening's grand gestures in modest packages, Piazzolla's "Histoire du Tango" addressed a large subject -- the story of tango, and the composer's artistic evolution into "nuevo tango" legend -- in a tidy space and format. Performed with brio by violinist Mark Kashper and guitarist Adam del Monte, the musical narrative moved from traditional tango colors to the wildest movement, "Concert d'aujourd'hui."

After intermission, the accomplished Brian Head was the guitarist in a more central role. Head enjoyed a parity of attention with clarinetist Michele Zukovsky in a Ferdinand David arrangement of Schubert's "Sensucht" Waltz, partly impressive for the rare opportunity to hear the guitar (which Schubert played) on Romantic turf.

The stage population grew for Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Quintet for Guitar and Strings, Opus 143, which the Italian-born and mostly L.A.-based film and concert composer wrote in 1950 on commission from the local Music Guild for the visiting Andres Segovia. It's a joyous, energetic outing, with few hints of having been written in the thick of Modernist entrenchment, and was aptly realized.

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