I had the pleasure to listen to a concert by Australian born guitarist Craig Ogden yesterday, so here is a little review, in case you have never heard him play before, like myself (until yesterday that is).
He was the first guitarist I have seen live in concert not using a footstool. Instead he had a fold-out leg rest (no idea what make) attached to his Greg Smallman guitar. The latter also had an armrest attached which covered most of the guitar's lower bout.
He started the concert with three movements (Prelude, Gavotte en Rondeau and Gigue) from Bach's Lute Suite BWV 1006a in E major. He began the Prelude way too faste for my taste and hence seemed to struggle quite a bit resulting in some missed notes, noise and a few short interruptions, which he ignored professionally, just playing on as if nothing happened. The two following movements still had some minor issues, but were played well with clear dynamics.
Unlike some other guitarists, he likes to talk to the audience and is very sympathetic and funny. His first little speech was addressing the fact that he did not play the whole Bach Suite, which would have been considered a faux-pas in the past, but is now en vogue again. He mentioned that fact that guitarists have to tune a lot between pieces, especially if the latter require scordatura, so the talking would allow the strings to settle, requiring only little retuning before he can start the next piece. He also pointed out that it is arguably more fun to listen to the guitar on a CD, because you don't have all the tuning between the pieces.
The next piece was Walk Dance by Serbian guitarist Miroslav Tadic. This was based on a folk tune and used a special right hand technique, i.e. playing multiple strings each with both the thumb and one finger simultaneously. He played this very percussive and insteresting piece with the typical sound of Eastern European folk music brilliantly.
Next came two Tango arrangements of Astor Piazolla pieces (Milonga del Angel and La Muerte del Angel) played flawlessly with lots of verve, virtuosity and musicality.
His following interpretation of Recuerdos de la Alhambra was professional, with a nice tremolo tone, but one could notice that it didn't really challenge him enough to put much musical effort into it, which is not surprising for such an overplayed piece.
The last piece before the break was Barrios' Vals op. 8 No. 4, which seemed to be more down his alley, hence he interpreted it with the same musical dedication he had shown in the Piazolla arrangements.
After the break he played Sevilla and Asturias (the latter in the original Segovia arrangement). I never tire of these, as the music is timelessly excellent and he played them very well both musically and technically. His speech before these addressed the need to remove lots of notes from the piano originals to make them playable on the guitar, leading to many arrangements of these pieces differing in difficulty depending on how many notes have been left out.
The speech before the next piece, Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" arranged ecellently by Roland Dyens, addressed guitarists' obsession with their right hand fingernails and what you can do if they break before a concert. He said that he had seen students grow their left hand thumbnail to cut it off and use it as a replacement for a broken fingernail in case of disaster. Less pleasantly he mentioned that others also grow their toenails for the same purpose.
Despite the technical difficulty and his (as he admitted himself) lack of experience with playing Jazz music, he played the piece brilliantly and one could tell he enjoyed it, because he started tapping his right foot.
The concert ended with two pieces by Gary Ryan, "Lough Caragh" and "Rondo Rodeo". The first is based on an Irish folk song arranged and played very lyrically in D with a dropped D tuning. It reminded me a bit of Leo Brouwer's Cancion de Cuna in the same key. The second piece is a fun piece sounding like Bluegrass Banjo music, so an ideal piece to finish a fun concert.
The encore was a piece written by Craig Odgen himself for an advertising campaign for Emirates airline. The latter had engaged him for writing the music to endorse flights to Australia, but he didn't tell them that he had never composed anything before apart from some "not very good" pieces for his MA in music. Nevertheless, the piece turned out quite well and had a pleasantly sounding ABA structure describing the sunrise (part A), a typical sunny Australian day (B) and the sundown (part A again).
All in all a very pleasant evening and the perfect conclusion of an otherwise very busy Friday at work.
Dringt durch des Aberglaubens Nacht, die Euch zu finstern Köpfen macht. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715 - 1769)