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Bolero Andaluz

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet at the Lobero Theatre, Thursday,
February 15; and with the Santa Barbara Symphony at the Arlington
Theatre, Saturday, February 17.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Guitar_Quartet.jpgThe Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ)
performed two outstanding concerts here last week as the anchoring
element in the symphony’s new International Guitar Festival. On
Thursday, John Dearman, William Kanengiser, Matthew Greif, and
Scott Tennant took the Lobero’s stage with just their guitars for a
show that lasted almost two hours. On Saturday, the group appeared
at the Arlington with the full force of the Santa Barbara Symphony
behind them, only to take several encores as an unaccompanied
quartet.

Their music was almost all Latin-tinged, with the notable
exception of an arrangement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.
6 in B-flat Major, “Allegro,”
which they played as their
second piece at the Lobero. The LAGQ is a remarkably assured and
graceful ensemble, undoubtedly the world’s top classical guitar
group, and it did a terrific job of exploring the intricacies of
such composers as Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Rodrigo, and Baden
Powell de Aquino.

The Santa Barbara Symphony brought a new sensibility of its own
to the proceedings, courtesy of maestro Nir Kabaretti, who is both
a wonderful conductor and a clever, adventurous programmer. It may
well have been Kabaretti who came up with the inspired choice of
Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas’s Janitzio as a
bridge between Bizet and the premiere of Santa Barbara composer
Peter Madlem’s Danza. Janitzio was written to
describe the degradation of an early 20th-century Mexican tourist
attraction, and the distorted mariachi sounds that blast through
much of it make for a kind of Latin American version of Charles
Ives. Yet somehow, in the midst of its playful revelry, the piece
finds room for a moody section that contains intimations of the
blues.

Danza was composed specifically for this occasion by
Madlem, a distinguished Santa Barbaran with an extraordinary range
of accomplishments both in and outside the music world. Based on a
baroque transcription of a Canary Islands folk dance,
Danza allowed the LAGQ to showcase its sensitivity and
responsiveness in the orchestral setting. When LAGQ returned after
the interval for Rodrigo’s Concierto Andaluz, it was easy
to feel that the exotic dream of Santa Barbara’s Hispanic metaphor
had, for a moment at least, come perfectly true.

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