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Classical guitar culture of an international order has made its way into town recently, from different trajectories. The acclaimed Assad Brothers duo brought its serious and semi-Brazilian musical mission to the Lobero two weeks ago, and the artist known as Miloš — born Miloš Karadaglic in Montenegro — made a more diluted, serio-crossover statement Sunday, February 23, at Hahn Hall.
Miloš, joined by a quintet from the London-based 12 ensemble, made his Santa Barbara debut, as part of UCSB Arts & Lectures’ “Up Close and Musical” series. This admirable program normally focuses on serious musical business, but Miloš injected crowd-pleasing jolts of pop song arrangements into his otherwise classic guitar repertoire. In an odd bedfellows situation, Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence,” tunes by Lennon-McCartney, and the Radiohead brooder “Street Spirit,” shared the bill with such classic guitar chestnuts as Granados’ “Andaluzza,” Albéniz’ “Asturias,” and Villa-Lobos’ Prelude No. 1.
All the guitarist played with impressive technical command and expressive charisma, despite periodic glitches. But the smorgasbord effect — 20 separate short pieces — kept us from diving deeper into his aesthetics. Although the program was billed as “Bach to Beatles,” the guitarist played no Bach, whose transcribed music is a staple of the classical guitar repertoire, and a test of any guitarist’s mettle. Bach duty came in the form of a string quintet arrangement of the famed “Aria” of the Goldberg Variations, which can feel lonely and detached when heard divorced from the complete, integrated variations.
Some of the happiest moments in concert involved guitar and strings, enlivening music of the great Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla. For the concert’s final segment, Miloš succumbed to the crossover lure of musical pop tarts. Suddenly, Hahn Hall felt transformed into a fine dining establishment, albeit with entertainment by exquisite musicians and sophisticated arrangements. A little less sugar, please.