It is extremely rare to experience transcendence at a concert—the moment when you completely and wholeheartedly embark on an extraordinary musical journey. Italian Virtuoso Aniello Desiderio took concertgoers at the First Lutheran Church in Back Bay on such a departure with his classical guitar last Friday night, as part of the Boston Classical Guitar Society’s Artist Series, which annually features some of the world’s finest guitarists such as: Ana Vidovic, David Russell, Eliot Fisk and Sharon Isbin.
From his first delicate E of Isaac Albeniz’s Asturias, I knew that this performance would be something special. As he pushed and pulled his way through each phrase, it was clear that he had completely internalized the essence of this quintessential suite, and although his somewhat free interpretations were completely tasteful, I fear that first time listeners may have missed some of the true sonorities that are so beautiful and delicate in this famous piano transcription. He followed up with a sweet interpretation of Sevilla, again displaying an ooze of romanticism that gave a great appeal to this work. After a fiery and passionate 1st and 3rd Movement of Joaquin Turina’s Op.61 Sonata, firmly rooted in the Flamenco traditions of Spain, he adjusted the sails and ended with a graceful and poised performance of Gaspar Sanz’s Suite Española – the simple harmonic shifts highlighted by a thorough intention in each voice gave a true sense of authority to this baroque masterpiece. It must be said that he seemed a little less prepared in the Sanz than the former two works, but his all-Spanish first half was nonetheless a fantastic display of understated virtuosity, combined with artistic finesse.
The second half paid homage to some of the great Italian composers and showed a completely different side to Aniello Desiderio. He is widely known and regarded for his interpretations of fellow Italians such as Scarlatti and Paganini, and it is easy to see why; from the effortlessness and shimmering brilliance in his three Scarlatti Sonatas, to the simple harmonic beauty of Giulianni’s Rossiniana No.1, Desiderio displayed an operatic lyricism that lends itself so well to this style of music. His renditions of these master works were note perfect, and I would say that the Giuliani was the highlight of the evening. His fingers were as silky smooth as his tie-less velvet shirt, and each note seemed to resonate as if they were coming from a place beyond the wooden enclosure from which they were born. Though his presentation of Carlo Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba was refreshing and interesting in terms of his cadenza-esque improvisations, I was searching for a steadier approach, particularly in the 4th movement, which calls for immense speed and concentration if played with the required intent. I was nonetheless impressed by is interpretation and it was great to hear a completely unique take on this well-known gem.
In short, the guitar master hailing from The Vivaldi Conservatorio in Allesandria displays an uncanny ability to give authority to a wide array of pieces that cross style periods and musical genres, upholding the traditions of each as well as making each piece his own. A magical evening was topped off by a standing ovation and an encore of Erik Satie’s gorgeous Gnossiennes No.1. The sheer simplicity and poise in that eerie but beautiful melody left us with a sweet remembrance of the late composer and classical guitarist, Roland Dyens, to whom the work was dedicated. The concert had been preceded by a three-work prelude by the Boston Guitar Orchestra who were polished and well led by Robert Bekkers. For more information on the Boston Classical Guitar Society including upcoming concerts, please visit www.bostonguitar.org.
Classical Guitarist, Composer, and Audio Engineer, Carl Straussner completed his Master’s Degree in Classical Guitar Performance under Eliot Fisk. He’s likely to be arranging show tunes for big bands, composing music for animations, directing and producing radio documentaries.