Southampton Classical Guitar Society (SCGS) member Martin Slater, kindly took the time to review Rafael Aguirre’s concert at Turner Sims, here’s what he had to say…

This latest concert organized by SCGS in our ever more flourishing new partnership with Southampton Concert Hall, Turner Sims followed in the tradition we have established over many years of promoting the best of the world’s classical guitarists.

Rafael Aguirre has already established an international reputation as one of the most fluently sensitive of performers. This perhaps stems from the fact that he is in fact Spanish and will therefore have almost a genetic connection to our instrument which is equally well known as the Spanish Guitar.

As an illustration of his busy international schedule, Rafael’s concert tonight falls between a visit to South Korea and a subsequent concert in Amsterdam!

The chosen programme tonight could almost have been one chosen by the great Andres Segovia, with its focus on European composers carefully selected from the traditionally tonal periods of Baroque, Classical & Romantic.

The concert began with “Tres piezas espanolas” by Emilio Pujol (full name: Emili Pujol Vilarrubí (10 September 1886 – 21 November 1980)  ). Whilst these pieces are presented by the composer as Spanish, the movements of  (Tonadilla -Spanish 18th century song latterly popular in Cuba). Tango ( a dance from 1880’s Argentina/Uruguay) & Guajira (“Country Music” in Cuban Spanish) have far more to do with Latin America! Rafael’s choice of these pieces to open his concert with was particularly interesting as the second piece was by J S Bach (1685-1750)- the Chaconne BWV 1004. This juxtaposition rang faint bells with Villa-Lobos’ well known Bachianas Brasilieras series. These pieces were all performed with a surprising delicacy and fluidity of touch which demanded every ounce of the incredible acoustic which the Turner Sims Hall provides. Thankfully, we also had an excellent audience which would have allowed the sound of a pin dropping at 100 yards to be heard! We lost not one note of Rafael’s performance.

The first half closed with a well-known piece “Rossiniana No.5” by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). This was Rafael’s presentation from the Classical period and was his favourite of the set of 6. Again, the same approach to performance was demonstrated with not the slightest technical slip audible.

The second half of the concert was devoted to the most popular of the 19th century Spanish  composers , Albeniz, Granados & Tarrega. Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909) came first with his Cordoba & Torre Bermeja , both beautifully and delicately played. There followed Enrique Granados’ (1867-1916) Valses Poeticos-  this was a welcome change as they are not so often programmed. I also found the itemized Vals names interesting because I have in fact attempted them myself in a small way having been inspired by the recording made by John Williams. When I got the score, however, I discovered that it did not exactly match the Williams performance so I think every performer will have his/her individual take on it- the one Rafael chose by Joaquin Clerch was appropriately majestic.

The final programmed piece was the spectacular “Gran Jota” by Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) who was actually a teacher of Emilio Pujol with whom Rafael began his concert. The technique demonstrated in this piece was quite outstanding.

After much loud and appreciative applause we managed to persuade Rafael to play two encores. These could not have been more different to everything that preceded them, both being in a spectacular (and noticeably louder) flamenco form. The first piece was “Panaderos Flamencos” by Esteban de San Lucar & the second was “Granada” by Agustin Lara and they sent all home dizzy with excitement!



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