MANUEL CABRERA II Guitar Recital Esplanade Recital Studio / Saturday (2 April 2011)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 4 April 2011 with the title "Sweet strumming".
The Filipino guitarist Manuel Cabrera II, a resident of Singapore, is a new name to this reviewer. On the strength of this solo recital, he is a considerable artist well worth following. Playing a programme of guitar music from around the world, he exuded a quiet industry and authority which belied a soft-spoken and almost diffident stage demeanor.
Music from the Americas opened, beginning with Paraguayan Agustin Barrios Mangore’s La Catedral, a three-part reflection of Montevideo cathedral. Its meditative serenade, thoughtfully shaded, hastened to slow march before closing with a flowing Allegro.
Easy amicability then darkened slightly for two of Argentine Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. In the vigorous portrayal of Summer, rhythmic impetus never slackened while through the decorative figurations of nostalgic Winter, the achingly beautiful melody emerged without hitches.
For the Mexican Manuel Ponce’s Sonatina Meridional, subtle changes in tonality inflecting its folksong musings added to the allure of this work written for Andres Segovia. Sunburst fom the American Andrew York (formerly of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet), written in the slow-fast form, provided the obligatory shower of fireworks.
The second half was even more varied, beginning with Australian Graeme Koehne’s A Closed World of Fine Feelings and Grand Design, quite a mouthful for a deceptively short and innocuous work that pondered upon a series of arpeggios. Although Polish composer Marek Pasieczny’s Homage to Manuel De Falla sounded more modern, it is an updated variation of the Spanish song and dance form.
The Russian Nikita Koshkin’s Usher Waltz, named after Edgar Allen Poe’s short Gothic horror story, was a true showpiece of macabre inspiration. Almost a Mephisto Waltz, it delighted in spiky dissonances and the violent Bartok pizzicato, with strings snapped against the wood of the guitar.
To close was Cuban Leo Brouwer’s Ciudad de las Columnas (City of the Columns), the most substantial work on show, a picture-postcard tribute to Havana. Cabrera invested in its seven movements a colourfully variegated sound palette, replete with the intermittent buzzing of humming birds, introspection of a convent, and broad strolling strides of its streets and plazas.
Cabrera said he had hoped for a hundred people to attend, but more than twice that number turned up, and were rewarded with Lesley’s Song by Frederic Hand as a lovely encore. More please.