Perfecto, Apasionado Pablo!

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2017-08-01 04:01

Classical guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas graced the Michael Fowler Centre with his debonair presence on Saturday night and showed unassailably why he is hailed around the world as the successor to Andrés Segovia and fêted as an ambassador for Spanish culture. Performing Joaquín Rodrigo's best-known work, Concierto de Aranjuez, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Villegas was the embodiment of technical mastery placed at the service of idiomatic authenticity and passion. Rodrigo, blind since the age of three and never himself a guitarist, described his concerto as capturing "the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains" in the gardens of Aranjuez, created by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century. Villegas, astonishingly agile and acute, did justice to all of that, making his instrument veritably sing, with even the quietest of his unamplified notes almost percussive in its clarity. The small but rapt audience who were clearly there to hear him and not the Bartok atrocity that followed applauded and standingly ovated until he obliged with an encore, introducing it with melting charm.

The Bartok, while deftly directed by the courtly Alexander Shelley, was never going to fill the house and deliver Señor Villegas the capacity crowd he so richly deserved. Bizarrely, champions of this execrable dirge (Concerto for Orchestra) call it "life-affirming"; this must be some musical variant of George Orwell's Newspeak. Bartok, never exactly at the forefront of tunefulness, was evidently near death when he perpetrated this piece; it would more accurately be called Distemper Set to Something Occasionally Resembling Music.

Happily, tunefulness will abound for the rest of the year. Ahead are such titans as Berlioz, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Wagner (in melodious mode), Elgar and Sibelius. And there's more: in his Pianomania tour with the Orchestra in September, the incomparable Freddy Kempf will be offering up Handel, Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin. All in all, a veritable melee of melody in which it will be genuinely "life-affirming" to be engulfed!