Guitar duo shine in recital… pity no one saw it

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Slava and Leonard Grigoryan… for this recital they chose an eclectic mix of duo guitar music that showed the diversity of their musical interests.

music / “CSO Recital Series Two”, Grigoryan Brothers, at the Great Hall, University House, June 16. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

FOR the past couple of years the Canberra Symphony Orchestra has presented its guest performers in a series of solo recitals the week leading up to their appearances with the orchestra.

And, while the Grigoryan Brothers will be performing a concerto by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo with the CSO later in the week, for this recital they chose an eclectic mix of duo guitar music that showed the diversity of their musical interests with much of it familiar to those who have seen the brothers performing over the past couple of years.

The concert opened with a work written by Slava Grigoryan titled “Fantasy on a Theme by William Lawes”. Lawes was an English composer of the early Baroque period and this piece intriguingly starts off as very modern piece of music before ending with much older sounds. The Grigoryan Brothers followed this with an arrangement for two guitars of “None But the Lonely Heart” by Tchaikovsky, which has an oddly South American feel to it.

These were followed by a piece that is part of a new recording project of duo guitar arrangements of Handel keyboard suites, arranged by their father. This piece was “Suite No 2” from “Book No 2” and was a great example of how well this music can work for two guitars. Both bass and treble parts are very linear and this fits well for these instruments. In the final Gigue movement they achieved a tonality and articulation remarkably like a harpsichord. As a contrast the next piece was a suite by American guitarist Ralph Towner, who the Grigoryans acknowledge as a major musical influence. Towner’s work sits comfortably between classical music and jazz, with the final movement of this suite leaning definitely to the jazz side.

The rest of the concert included two more of Slava’s compositions, another arrangement by their father of a Dvorak work and a sparkling Brazilian composition from the 1950s. This was all played with the skill and musicality which the Grigoryans deliver.

The Great Hall does work acoustically for these concerts, but at the expense of any sightlines. The room holds about 250 people, of which 30 could see more than one of the brothers’ heads. It surely cannot be too much to ask that a modern city, with as active a musical culture as Canberra, has a small acoustically appropriate concert hall where the audience can see the performers.

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