Maestro Nir Kabaretti has found a captivating collaborator in Pablo Sáinz Villegas, the Spanish guitarist who performed with the Santa Barbara Symphony on November 18 and 19, and who has been the orchestra’s inaugural artist-in-residence this fall. The program featured two substantial selections featuring Sáinz Villegas, Rodrigo’s classic Concierto de Aranjuez and a world premiere of an adaptation for guitar and orchestra of themes from Isaac Albéniz that was composed by Patrick Russ, a graduate of UCSB. These selections were balanced by a pair of forceful works chosen for the orchestra — Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo and the Suite No. 2 from L’Arlésienne by Georges Bizet.
Sáinz Villegas should be a case study for any classical guitarists out there who are considering making the leap to playing concertos in large halls. His sound production is exemplary — clean, crisp articulation and a beautiful burnished tone, and all at a consistently audible volume, even with the full orchestra playing at his back. His enthusiasm for the setting and his fellow musicians was obvious, especially on a second encore that he played with the orchestra but without Kabaretti. That’s the kind of thing that residencies make possible, and as a result, we should all be looking forward to more of them.