A sold-out audience gave a close listening and warm reception to classical guitar super-star Manuel Barrueco for the opening concert of CAMA’s Masterseries. “Master” is the correct word for Barrueco, a guitarist’s guitarist. He has, in the words of Eliot Fisk, the “very patrician and aristocratic style” of a classical purist; and yet the cosmopolitan openness to make an album with a who’s who in rock and fusion guitar, or record arrangements of Lennon and McCartney hits with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Wednesday’s program was divided evenly between baroque and Latin beauties. The first half opened with that repertoire workhorse Suite in D Major, BWV 1007 (originally in G major for cello) by J.S. Bach. The well-known “Prelude” led the way, but the spotlight was on the lesser-known movements. In the “Sarabande,” for instance, the weight and longing of the slow-turning tempo was constantly burnished by snappy grace-note pull offs. The “Gigue” was enhanced beyond the score with rapid scale fill-ins that felt like improvisations. (Bach, that improviser extraordinaire, would have been pleased.) The splendors, however, that Barrueco brought to several sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti outshone the Bach. The challenge with adapting a cello work to the guitar is to add notes; the challenge for adapting a piano work is not to subtract too many, and Barrueco is a guitarist who can handle the many voices of the piano at once.
Yet, for all of this, it was the second half of the concert — works by Spaniards Enrique Granados and Isaac Albéniz —that unleashed the guitar’s native energy. Although none of these pieces were written for guitar, they all felt like they should have been in the hands of the Cuban-born Barrueco. Lively dances such as Granados’s Andaluza and Albéniz’s “Sevilla” may be standards of the repertoire, but few guitarists can render them with such fluent authority. n