Some thirty markedly enthused people gathered on Friday, January 7, at the small recital room at New School of Music in Cambridge to hear guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan in a program that mixed well known and unknown pieces and composers. Larget-Caplan is in the beginning stages of what promise to be a good career. He’s doing everything right — making interesting CDs, commissioning and performing both classical and Spanish and Latin American music, often with a dancer, and playing very well.
Dressed all in black with a red tie, Larget-Caplan opened his program with J.S. Bach’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-Flat Major, BWV 998, originally titled Compositionen für die Laute, in E flat. Written at the time of Bach’s lute suites, it was probably performed on a lute-harpsichord. The fugue is longer than the other two movements combined, and like most Bach fugues, presents traps that can be most disheartening. As many performers know, opening with Bach may be great for the audience, but is always better if one had already rid oneself of nerves. Larget-Caplan, who played it in D Major, got through it with grace.
From the Quatre Pièces Brèves by Frank Martin (1890-1974) on, Larget-Caplan seemed more at ease (who wouldn’t be after performing a Bach fugue?) and his playing immediately became far more interesting and colorful. The program notes explained that these four lovely pieces were written in 1933 for guitarist Andrés Segovia who refused to play it (another idol goes up in flames). Martin then re-scored it for piano, calling it Guitarre. Kevin Siegfried’s (b. 1969) “Tracing a Wheel on Water” was commissioned by Larget-Caplan in 2003 and has had spectacular and deserved success since then. According to the program notes, it has been performed in over 50 concerts and is the title of one of Larget-Caplan’s CDs. It’s a hypnotic work, what the composer says “is a meditation on my experiences of the water’s surface… a manner in which flowing circles on the water’s surface envelop one another in a rhythm that is always new, yet never changing.” This hypnotic and beautifully written work was, for me, the highlight of a really interesting concert.
Elegie für die guitarre by J.K. Mertz (1806-1856) was, in guitar terms, a long piece, about ten minutes. A piece of great charm, it was just the right thing for a nasty January evening. At least two heads in the audience were contentedly bobbing along the whole piece; people seemed to be entering a state of total relaxation.
If so, they were awakened in the most seductive manner with the ever-famous Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999), here performed with piano accompaniment. Do most people know him for any other piece? This is yet another piece Segovia refused to play, as he did not approve of the rasqueados (flamenco strumming) of the first movement. I admit, I did not look forward to hearing this colorful orchestral accompaniment in a keyboard reduction, as piano and plucked strings (harp and guitar) need a pianistic wizard to get the balance right. Luckily, Larget-Caplan had a terrific pianist, Kai-Ching Chang, about whom I cannot rave enough. The two musicians played superbly together, so the two (first and second) movements they played were like the most exciting of chamber music pieces. Chang might not be well known in Boston, but as a collaborative pianist she cannot be beat. The Rodrigo was full of excitement and passion; I felt as if I were transported to Seville. I’d hear it again in a heartbeat.
I have a new way of scoring concerts. 1), Would I see the performer or group again? Absolutely. 2), Did I like the evening enough to shell out hard cash for a CD? Reader, I bought two.