in: Reviews

March 18, 2009

Six Strings Brought Delight to Acton

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Guitar virtuoso John Muratore visited Acton Sunday, March 15, as part of the intrepid Music at St. Matthews Concert Series and its enthusiastic sponsors, the church’s Church Musician David Potts and Pastor Bob Moore.

Muratore is surely one of greater Boston’s most gifted guitar virtuosos, and his broad range of repertoire is one of his most valuable attributes. That range was on display throughout this recital, and one is hard-pressed to single out highlights, as there were so many.

The recital opened with the engaging three-movement Sonatina of Federico Torroba, its many colors illumined by Muratore’s impeccable technique and soulful interpretation. These felicities were next applied to Cuban Leo Brouwer’s remarkably evocative El Decameron Negro, where Muratore’s gifts of tonal variation and percussive technique were given ample display. Three Spanish Pieces by Emilio Pujol – characterized by Muratore as “…the father of modern Spanish guitar music” – conjured a delightful Iberian tang. Estidio Brillante from Francisco Tarrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, with its hypnotic mandolin-imitative tremolandi, brilliantly closed the recital’s first half.

Muratore returned with two works by the protean Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos: Chôros no. 1, and the first of Five Preludes. In his worldly travels, Villa-Lobos had encountered the sojourning Andreas Segovia, and it was likely this contact that inspired the composer to write his Five Preludes during 1939-40.  Argentine firebrand Astor Piazzolla’s Dos Piezas summoned a superbly involved interpretation from Muratore, its many unusual percussive requirements and string sonorities met with total assurance. The wistful Sarabande by Francis Poulenc followed; it was his sole composition for solo guitar. Muratore mused, in one of his many informative and engaging interactions with his audience, that he wished Poulenc had written more for guitar, and one would agree, given the emotionally palpable “pull” of this short work. William Walton’s wonderful Three Bagatelles were given a virtuoso reading, each movement a delight in color and mood. The recital closed with separate tributes to two jazz legends penned by New York composer Frederic Hand: Homage to Bill Evans, and Homage to Dave Brubeck, this latter work taking Brubeck’s familiar Blue Rondo a la Turk as its departure point.

The audience awarded Muratore with a warmly-felt ovation, and he obliged with an encore: the delightful Danza Pomposo by Alexandre Tansman.

Concerts of this depth and breadth are not new to John Muratore, but this recital was a novel and most welcome occasion in an exurbia neighborhood of Greater Boston where attentive audiences eagerly await such opportunities. Kudos to Muratore and St. Matthews for bringing such a welcome recital to Acton!

John W. Ehrlich is music director of Spectrum Singers, which he founded 28 years ago. He has been a singer and conductor in the Boston area for more than 30 years.

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