Adel Guitar Festival – Quintette

By Ben Nielsen

A concluding act of the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, The Australian String Quartet joined with a variety of headlining guitarists to present Quintette, a spectacular gala performance.

Guest artists Slava Grigoryan, Simon Powis, Ana Vidovic and Edin Karamazov each took turns performing with the Australian String Quartet. It was certainly unusual to see a standard string quartet perform with a guitar, but the results were something quite spectacular. Forceful, rich and ethereal; the ensemble achieved a variety of colours through the versatility of each instrument’s sound production.

The program was versatile and vibrant, beginning with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Quintet Op. 143. Also featured was Asturias by Albeniz and Fandango from Quintette No.4 in D Major by Boccherini.

Regarded as Australia’s leading composer for the guitar, Phillip Houghton’s In Amber was both serene and evocative. Dream, the second movement of the work, is based on themes heard by the composer during stages of sleep. The movement was a particularly fascinating exploration of organised sound through colour and tone.

Leo Brouwer’s Quintetto, consisting arrangements of seven of The Beatles’ songs, was an unexpected repertoire choice but pleasantly surprising. It is difficult to expect much from tunes that are so commonly covered, but Brouwer’s was a work of art. The piece was brimming with a variety of styles, textures and techniques; Penny Lane and Eleanor Rigby definite highlights of the seven movements.

The overwhelming size of the Adelaide Festival Theatre seemed to swallow the five musicians. While the auditorium was nearly full to capacity, perhaps having several performances in a small, more intimate venue would have been more worthwhile. Chamber music, and the shared musical experience that comes with it, is after all better suited to this.

During the performance, applause occurred between every movement of each piece. Although this is usually the sign of an ignorant audience, surprisingly, the performers did not seem overly concerned. It was certainly an appropriate sentiment delivered by extremely appreciative listeners; however it was detrimental to the residual ambience of each concluding note, and the pieces became too fragmented.

Quintette was a spectacular concluding performance to the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, a unique opportunity to see our own celebrated Australian String Quartet perform with a line-up of stellar international guitarists.

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