Concert Reviews

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Duo Canella-Dubès

Concert Series

Red Maids' Performing Arts Centre

Saturday 27 April 2019

The Duo Cannella-Dubès specialise in creating a

 fresh historical insight into the guitar. They play 19th century Panormo instruments strung with synthetic gut, but embrace music not only of that period, but also genres as diverse as American folk song, 20th century atonality and the electric rock of 1960s USA. Tonight we even heard an altogether original rendering of Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

In Romantic-era style, Vincent opened with an improvisation, serving to focus minds and attune ears to the emotive expression in the music – as well as to the sonority of the Panormo instruments themselves, one that was new to many in the audience.

The arrangement of the opening Bach was daring and intricate, Vincent taking a traditionally ‘guitar 1’ role and Nausicaa ‘guitar 2’ for the most part, with some lovely call-and-response work. The sequenced segments of Sor’s fantasy for two guitars were also delivered in a carefully controlled way, with some wonderful Spanish stylistics as per the composer’s requirement, and bright, lively movement in the melodies.

Vincent kindly explained the programme in English, and told us that Dimitri Shostakovich is one of the Duo’s favourite composers. His contemplative prelude and fugue put the Panormos in new territory, but the dissonances and melancholy style were conveyed with great skill by Vincent and Nausicaa. His Spanish Dance, written as a study, is more fun than the previous one, to use Vincent’s own word, and contains changes in rhythm and challenging high-speed melodies into the upper reaches of the fingerboard. These were handled with delightful dexterity, in a clever arrangement that rounded off the first part of the programme with energy.

The Romantic-era guitar is less punchy and loud than modern Spanish or Australian instruments. The gut strings have shorter sustain. However, such differences were put aside in the hands of the Duo and their selection of music. In part two, players and instruments alike were showcased wonderfully as they took on Fernando Sor’s huge creativity and the severe technical demands he imposed, belying perhaps the genteel manners of a 19th century musical soirée. The style certainly reflects the formality of the times, and the tendency towards ‘orchestral’ music to be played on the guitar, rather than a ‘guitar music’ native to the instrument of the kind that would come later. The Duo gave a rendition of great verve in the fast passages, and agility in the glissandos, arpeggios and harmonics. French virtuoso Antoine de Lhoyer is another favourite composer of Canella-Dubès. His Duo Concertant Op. 44 again showed their tight communication and mastery of long-format works requiring the full range of technique; these pieces are not for the faint-hearted concert performer.

The second fresh stylistic sphere explored this evening was in the folk song Shenandoah. Vincent again supplied an atmospheric prelude, this time in the style of the lap-steel guitar, the two guitars working well to allow the song to come through the reflective mood, and once again equal to the expressive requirements of the music.

Just as the 19th century composers looked for new sounds, so did electric instrumentalists of the late 20th century such as Jimi Hendrix. The Duo next gave a refreshing interpretation of two of his songs, with the Panormos adding to the novelty. The surprises were not at an end, however. As an encore, the Duo regaled us a beautiful performance of Tárrega’s Recuerdos with the tremolo rendered on Vincent’s’ small, pear-shaped bandurria using rapid strokes of a plectrum on the steel strings. The result was intriguing, and it was interesting to hear the supporting arpeggios separated out into Nausicaa’s part.

We are grateful to the Duo Cannella-Dubès for their very engaging presence and a varied and illuminating programme. Our congratulations too to them on their wonderful playing and the quality and ambition of their arrangements.

Nick Regan April 2109


The Albach Duo

Concert Series

Red Maids' Performing Arts Centre

Saturday 11 November 2017

Rebecca Baulch is known to us not only as

Founder member, with Amanda Cook and Hayley Savage, of the celebrated Appassionata Trio, but in her role as tutor at West Dean guitar summer school and recently for the fascinating talk she gave us this year on staying 'in the zone' while playing in front of others. This evening we were delighted to host Rebecca with David Black, prize-winning guitarist, arranger and the other half of the Albach Duo.

The programme for this evening's concert was varied: Ireland to Scotland and Wales, Italy to Argentina. From the outset, the set of Irish tunes showed the duo's wonderful mastery of light and shade and of strikingly complex interaction. The nineteenth-century romantic style of Schubert's Duo in A minor suited them very well, the combination of delicacy, fluency and high precision in the high-speed scale sections of the allegro a delight to listen to and see in an arrangement played by Bream and Williams, although never published. The pair of Scottish pieces, A Farewell to Stromness and Wild Mountain Thyme, are both audience favourites, and were treated by the duo with care and atmosphere in David's own arrangements.

After the interval and a complementary glass of wine, the duo began with a large set of music: the four Scarlatti sonatas. Like Alexandre Lagoya's arrangements of the first and second, Rebecca's arrangements of the second pair gave them an admirable immediacy in both flow and melodic appeal, the duo again displaying very impressive individual and combined virtuosity.  The same control and lyricism were present in the set of three folk songs from David's home - simple melodies made interesting, and charming, for the guitar in Stephen Goss's sometimes surprising arrangements.

For the final set of pieces, we travelled a long way geographically and stylistically to Argentina and the tango. The Piazzolla was rendered with beautiful atmospherics, effects and the characteristic energetic movement of the tango. David and Rebecca continued to demonstrate easy control of the full range of the guitar's resources - tremolo, trills, tambora, harmonics - and lovely coordination and understanding of each other's playing and of the music.

We were treated to an encore of Abel Fleury's Milonga del Ayer to round of an evening of

great programming, exceptional playing, and the company of two charming and engaging people.

Nick Regan November 2107


Traditional Irish folk songs      (arr. Robin Hill)

- Lark in the Morning         

- She Moves Through the Fair

- Portcanna Jig

Duo in a minor       Franz Schubert (arr. J. Bream)

A setting of the G minor Quartet Op. Posth. D173

- Allegro con brio

- Andantino

- Allegro

Farewell to Stromness     Peter Maxwell Davis  

Wild Mountain Thyme     (arr. David Black)

Traditional Scottish folk song


Sonata K.159 D major (arr. Lagoya)     Domenico Scarlatti

Sonata K.173 D minor (arr. Lagoya)  

Sonata K.13 G major (arr. Baulch)

Sonata K.162 E major (arr. Baulch)

Traditional Welsh folk songs      (arr. Stephen Goss)

- Dafyddd y garreg wen

- Suo gân

- Lliw gwyn rhosyn yr haf

Lo que vendrá  (arr. Austell-Estrada)   Astor Piazzolla

Adiós niño  (arr. Baulch)    Astor Piazzolla  

Milonga       Jorge Cardozo

Taquito militar  (arr. Coulthard)   Mariano Mores


Milongueo del ayer      Abel Fleury

Michael Partington

Concert Series

The Bradbury Centre

Saturday 19 March 2016

Michael Partington, now based in the USA, is in the UK for a series of concerts, and we were delighted to host one of them as part of our Concert Series.

A bright start with the always fresh-sounding Coste was followed by the trio of Torroba pieces, which he gave a beautiful Spanish bravura and lyricism, the Alcázar finishing off the set with marvellous right-hand work. Michael went on to describe Johann Kaspar Mertz' style as influenced by the Romantic works of Mendelssohn and Schumann, and he brought this out in clean, beautiful tones and colours in the Elégie - 'a rich, powerful composition with anger, sadness and impotence, as well as celebration'.

Michael is a champion of new repertoire. The first of the new pieces in tonight's programme was US guitarist and composer Bryan Johansen's La Folia Folio, a set of modern variations on the often-used 16th century Spanish piece La Folia. Johansen's treatment is perhaps light-hearted in intent, but no less demanding of the player for it, with its requirement for jazz, Elizabethan, Arabic, Spanish and flamenco styles. The big finale is a joy, and lovely end to the first half of the programme.

The wonderful Piazzola set opened the second half, with Michael using his Martin Blackwell double-top instrument delightfully to deliver the rich and moving music. Following this was the Stephen Goss, performed for the first time only a month ago - the composer himself has yet to hear it! The work is an introspective and delicate description of a memorial chapel. The final pieces, the Albéniz, are familiar to most guitarists and pianists, but Michael's arrangements are novel in striving to respect the piano original to the maximum, including, in Mallorca, maintaining a bass line lost in other transcriptions by using a remarkable barré held down with the thumb on the 6th string on the front of the fingerboard. The accompaniment is full, and the melodies ring through. Michael makes no compromises to simplicity in his arrangements, but handles the tough task with calm and great musicality.

The encore, Farewell to Stromness was an apposite choice in the light of the death last week of the composer, Peter Maxwell Davies. Michael did music and composer full justice.

Michael kindly stayed to chat and sign CDs, and later, at the Eastfield Inn, regaled us with fascinating insights into the psychology of the performer, complete with book references and personal anecdotes. We headed home gratefully with that, our new CDs and an excellent concert to digest. Our warm thanks to Michael for a great evening of music.

Nick Regan March 2016


Rondeau de Concert, Op. 12      Napoleon Coste


Nocturno        Federico Moreno Torroba

Andante (from Sonatina)     1891-1982

Alcázar de Segovia (from Castillos de España)

Elégie         Johann Kaspar Mertz


La Folia Folio        Bryan Johanson

        b. 1951


Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four    Astor Piazzolla

Seasons of Buenos Aires)      1921-1992

- Otoño porteño

- Invierno porteño

- Verano porteño

Watts Chapel*       Stephen Goss

        b. 1964

Mallorca       Isaac Albéniz

Cádiz (from Suite española)      1869-1909

        arr. Partington


Farewell to Stromness (from The Yellow Cake Revue) Peter Maxwell-Davies


*written for Michael Partington

Craig Ogden

Concert Series

Red Maids Performing Arts Centre

Saturday 7 March 2015

Craig Ogden has the air of someone happily fulfilling his destiny. He is perfectly at ease doing what he was evidently put on the planet to do, with a playing style and presence that exudes calm and enjoyment. He writes off his between-piece talks as waffle; however, these are definitely part of the evening’s entertainment and complement his musical communication - they give insights into many aspects of the performer’s art as well as into the pieces themselves. He spoke of the decisions needed to satisfy opposing corners of the performer-promoter-audience triangle, detailed the causes of a guitarist’s incessant tuning, demonstrated the alarming flexibility of the neck of his Greg Smallman guitar and regaled us with the story of being conned into giving up a previous Smallman to a serial swiper of fine instruments.

But the near capacity audience was there for the music. “An interesting programme!” was a frequent comment and Craig showed what technical prowess is needed to engage fully with Domenico Scarlatti immediately followed by George Harrison, or Bach followed by Django Reinhardt. As he explained, it could be argued that Scarlatti sounds better on the guitar, with so many tonal possibilities compared to the original keyboard performance. The harpsichord has a limited dynamic range and a plucking mechanism without flexibility, whereas there is the potential, at least in the hands of an expert like Craig, to coax so many tones out of the guitar. So despite the inevitable loss of the sheer density of notes played in a keyboard version, sensitive arrangement and spirited playing of three Sonatas delivered a musical result that the composer would surely have appreciated.

Here Comes the Sun followed, with Craig acknowledging the sophistication of Göran Söllscher’s arrangement and its nod to Bach’s Prelude BWV 1006a.

John McCabe died in February so it was a fitting tribute for Craig to play his 1968 composition, Canto. This brought out wide ranges of dynamics and tones from player and instrument. McCabe composed the piece at a high point in the classical guitar’s popularity and it reflects a time when revolution was in the air with intervals and chords that stretch the ears and variations on themes that never quite complete. The piece finishes quietly, its spirit lingering. We then returned to familiar sonorities: Turina’s Sonata for Guitar continued to delight with tonal variety and a turn of speed that did nothing to compromise the clarity of each note.

The second half of the programme was equally diverse: Bach followed by Reinhardt’s Nuage a contrast of measured control and fulsome swing. Then further contrasts of tradition and modernity as Albeniz’ Torre Bermeja gave way to the rambunctious Rondo Rodeo by Gary Ryan, where pigs squeal and horses gallop.

Craig took us to his birthplace with an encore: Waltzing Matilda, otherwise known as The Jolly Swagman, arranged by William Lovelady. The tune shimmers out of the descending chromatic scales like sun through the eucalyptus.

All in all it was a summery session, and the Bristol Guitar Society thanks Craig for the flashes of sunlight he brought to a wintery evening, and an equally entertaining master class the following day.

Tim Rigley March 2015


Sonata in A K.322          Domenico Scarlatti

Sonata in D K.177          1685 – 1757

Sonata in D K.178

Here Comes the Sun      Guitar George Harrison   arr. Göran Söllscher

Canto                             John McCabe  

        1939 – 2015

Sonata for Guitar           Joaquín Turina

                                      1882 – 1949


Lute Suite no. 4              J. S. Bach

(BWV 1006a)                 1685 – 1750



Gavotte en Rondeau

Bourree & Gigue

                          Django Reinhardt  arr. Roland Dyens

Torre Bermeja                Isaac Albeniz

                                       1860 – 1909

Rondo Rodeo                  Gary Ryan

 Xuefei Yang

Concert Series

Red Maids Performing Arts Centre - Saturday 22 November 2014

A capacity audience enjoyed this excellent recital, which took place in Bristol Classical Guitar Society’s usual venue of the Performing Arts Centre at Red Maids School. The acoustics here are pretty much ideal for our instrument, and the seating allowing everyone a good view of the action.

Throughout a very substantial programme, Ms Yang alternated between two guitars, one a Smallman, the other a Fisher, and the audience responded with rapt attention, hardly a cough being heard to interrupt the musical flow. Quite a contrast to those Segovia recitals of years ago when the great man was constantly bothered by loud audience coughing. Maybe we are all fitter now!

This evening’s programme contained much variety, as well as virtuosity, and got off to a great start with a selection of Albeniz’ piano evocations of Spain, transcribed by the artist. At least two of these usually appear in duo form, so it already says a lot for her skill that there was never any loss of momentum, or sacrifice of the original texture. A slight change in the program brought forward a beautiful arrangement with variations on The Fishermen at Eventide, which was also a Yang arrangement and, as she explained, evokes the Chinese zither, with lots of slides, bends, strong vibrato and quick arpeggio figures. The first half closed with a fluent performance of one of the guitar’s most important modern works, the Nocturnal after John Dowland by Benjamin Britten. Ms Yang’s verbal outline of the different sections that make up these variations (on Come Heavy Sleepe), and its form, plus her strongly dynamic playing, must have been helpful to those encountering the piece for the first time.

The programme continued in the second half with Bach’s monumental Chaconne, again in a transcription by the artist. This received a well-thought out and moving performance and was clearly much appreciated. Receiving only its third performance was Steven Goss’ Illustrations to the Book of Songs. Apparently the original music is long since lost; Goss' work is inspired by the extant poems, which are around three thousand years old. There are six highly contrasting sections, each evoking a different atmosphere and again drawing on zither-like sounds, with oriental scales much in evidence. This was a delightful work to hear, and I certainly hope to hear it again.

The music of Paco de Lucia does not usually figure in classical guitar recitals, but seemed to cause no problems to the fingers of Ms Yang, who explained that she did not usually play flamenco but was inspired to play Fuente y Caudal as a tribute to the great flamenco guitarist, who died earlier in the year. Following a sensitive rendition of Bream’s transcription of Debussy's La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin, the programme concluded with a well-thought out Homenaje Pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy by Falla, followed by his Spanish dance from La Vida Breve, again one of those works usually shared by two players! Xuefei Yang’s clean technique and tone made it sound like at least two guitarists, and she dashed it off with great verve. Following much enthusiastic applause, a single encore was offered: Gerald Garcia’s arrangement of Spring Breeze, a lovely Taiwanese folk song.

As can probably be gleaned from the foregoing, this was a highly successful and enjoyable evening of guitar playing, delivered by a musician whose charming stage presence, consummate technique and musicality left nothing wanting.

Review by John Edwards










   Gary Ryan


Concert Series

Red Maids Performing Arts Centre - Saturday 16 November 2013

Gary Ryan is an exceptional musician. Additionally special in his concert tonight was the palpable delight among the audience in spending the evening in his company.

The programme advanced in near chronolgical order. Immediately, the poise and precision of Gary's playing stood out. Preatorius felt as fresh as Dowland. In the Bach, his explanations of accents and time signatures, the knowledge that the double on each section is a descant using the reworked melody from the section, made the listening all the more enjoyable, and the complexity of Bach's composition all the more magical, but Gary's cleanness of articulation, described as 'jewel-like precision' by previous critics, was remarkable; under every duress of speed and of musical or technical demand, his accuracy and voicing are faultless.

The atmospherics of Brouwer's lullaby and Andean dance were equally exquisite, with the big, round voice of the Stephen Hill instrument filling Red Maids hall with ease. Walton's Bagatelles, which spare no demand on the player, Gary dealt with admirably - the orchestral expression, the hectic chord changes of I, the harmonic passages in II and the beautiful melodies of III; and always the amazing clarity.

If startling technique was the first thing to delight the audience, the second was the variety of the programme; the stylistic range of Gary's mastery. Hot Club Français, a eulogy to Django Reinhardt-Stephane Grapelli's 1930s quintet and an original Ryan composition, is a clever marriage of classical and 'gypsy' jazz idioms that made a fizzing, brilliant end to the first half.

After the break, the variety continued as Gary guided us from Argentina to Japan, Spain, Brazil, Ireland - and the Wild West. Piazzola's tango was as characterful as Yocoh's variations on a simple Japanese melody in praise of the cherry blossom, subtle string bends and the strings damped in imitation of the 'koto' transporting us to the East. Then the beautiful moorish melody of Albeniz's magnificent Mallorca, broad and lyrical in Gary's hands, and Roland Dyens' rhythmically intriguing and difficult-looking arrangement of Felicidade. Gary himself commented that Dyens' arrangements always teach you something about how to use a guitar in an interesting and original way.

This was indeed a performance to see as well as hear, and the final two pieces were a spectacular end to the programme. Lough Caragh is Gary's enchanting souvenir of the west of Ireland, rich in idiomatic phrases, harmonics and campanella reminiscent of the Irish harp. In breathtaking contrast is Benga Beat, a show piece perhaps like nothing many of those present had seen before - certainly at a classical guitar concert. It is a feast of infectious rhythm, incorporating just about every imaginable guitaristic resource to evoke a panorama of Africa, the stylistics carefully observed and delivered through exciting, impeccable technique. The musicianship is amazing.

The encore of Gary's Rondo Rodeo, then, ended, on an energetic note, an evening of skilful programming, staggering playing, impressive composition, and pleasant company. Gary Ryan is rightfully one of the world's most sought-after guitarists: tonight's concert really was the experience of the joy of the guitar in performance.

Review by Nick Regan






Vincent Lindsey-Clark


Red Maids Performing Arts Centre - Saturday 27 April 2013

It is rather beside the point to attempt to pick highlights in a Concert Series that has seen so many memorable performances, but this evening's concert by Vincent Lindsey-Clark was, by any measure, exceptional.

The music in the programme was, dare one say, mainly unfamiliar to the audience. However, Vincent's opening set of five Dances and Songs established immediately that the programme, while novel, would be hugely listenable, and the playing remarkable. This first set was received with warm, and excited, applause. The theme of miniatures continued with the first six of Ponce's 12 Preludes for Guitar. Tone and interpretation were superb, and Vincent draws a full and clear response from his Kwakkel instrument in every area of the fretboard.

On stage, as way from it, Vincent is engaging and entertaining. His joke regarding 'putting off' playing Peter Warlock's Capriol Suite perhaps gave hope to us all! His arrangement was highly effective; he handled the extremely tough demands with marvellous skill and precision, moving the sumptuous four-voice harmonies in Pieds en l'aire seamlessly, and playing through the death-defying chord changes it the end of the Mattachins with pinpoint accuracy.

Moreno Torroba's Album No.5 belongs to the more familiar repertoire in the programme. Vincent's impressive right-hand technique once again worked efficiently through the technical demands to deliver a wonderful range of Iberian colour, while remaining an outward picture of composure, through to the end of the beautiful habanera Niña Mersé.

Vincent's extensive musical knowledge has been commented on before. A confessed fan of flamenco, his rendering of Paco Peña's rumba Lola demonstrated that he has a fearsome command of this style too. The characteristic fast arpeggios, rasgueados and golpes, and the infectious rhythm, made a splendidly energetic end to the first half. The applause going into the interval was long and much deserved.

During the interval drinks I heard repeated admiring comments including the words 'colour', 'tone', 'technique', 'humour', 'hectic', 'relaxed', 'concentration'. Sales of sheet music and the CD Theo's Brother were brisk (Vincent's music is now available in very nice editions from the Canadian publisher d'Oz).

The second half consisted entirely of original compositions. A feature of Vincent's compositional style is his emotive description of the scenes in the world around us. In the new-age sounding Pulsar, we feel the grand mystery of the stars, in Shadow of the Moon, the strange and humbling effect of the sight of a solar eclipse, in Three Days in Hong Kong the cultural mix of an Asian city, and in Seascapes the unsettling beauty of the grey ocean. Each picture is painted with a pleasingly contemporary sound palette, with great musical sensitivity and energy, and impressive use of the breadth of the guitar's resources.

The final item was Vincent's new suite Fiesta Americana, written for Berta Rojas. It is an enchanting and vivacious exploration of Latin American dance styles. The dual 3/8 - 3/4 time signature of La Danza Galopa and the infectious Cuban groove of Salsa Roja are bouyant and stylish. Then the delicate harmonic cascades of Flight of the Butterfly provide a change of mood before the high-octane Fiesta finale. The playing was immaculate and seemingly effortless, and the sound of the instrument a pleasure. A rousing end to a very special evening, which Vincent topped off, by request, with a delightful encore of When I'm Sixty-four (after Bach and Villa-Lobos).

This was a superb evening of music. It is a rare privilege for us in the 2010's to hear a first-class guitarist-composer in concert, in the tradition of Tárrega, Barrios and Presti. Our thanks and congratulations to Vincent Lindsey-Clark. We look forward to hearing much more of his music.

Review by Nick Regan 27 April 2013



Lindsey-Clark           Dances and Songs:         May Dance, Song of Dawn,

Chandelier Waltz, Song of Dusk,

Anglo Tango

Ponce                       12 Preludes:                    Preludes I-VI

Warlock                    Capriol Suite:                  Basse-Danse, Pieds-en l'air,

arr. Lindsey-Clark                                             Mattachins (Sword Dance)

Moreno Torroba        Album No. 5:                  Quien te puso petenera, Cancioncilla,      
                                                                         Trianeras, Niña Mersé


Lindsey-Clark             Pulsar

                                   Shadow of the Moon

                                   Three Days in Hong Kong


                                   Fiesta Americana:          La danza galopa, Salsa roja,

                                                                          Vuelo de la mariposa, Fiesta finale

Berta Rojas

Redmaids' Performing Arts Centre, Bristol, Friday 2 November 2012

Review by Alan Sheppard

 A full house warmly welcomed Berta Rojas on her return to the Performing Arts Centre in Bristol, for a concert promoted jointly by the Bristol Spanish Guitar Centre and the Bristol Classical Guitar Society, of which Ms Rojas is Patron.

 The programme leading up to the interval consisted of contemporary music by living composers, and began with a piece entitled Laura, by Vincent Lindsey-Clark. This had a Latin American feel, with a very full texture allowing the artist to demonstrate her commanding technique. Also immediately apparent was the volume ad projection of the Michael O'Leary guitar.

 Continuing with works by Vincent Lindsey-Clark we heard three movements from the suite Fiesta Americana, which was written for, and dedicated to, Berta Rojas. There were, firstly, Galopa, based on a Paraguayan dance, then the reflective Flight of the Butterfly, with a very delicately played passage in natural harmonics, and finally Salsa Roja, notable for its strumming and percussive effects.

 A long and tiring flight from Paraguay induced the only memory lapse in an otherwise faultless performance during Cielo Abierto by the Argentinian composer Quique Sinesi. This piece was the most modern sounding in the programme, and featured some very well executed tambora, which involves drumming on the strings to produce the sound, rather than plucking or strumming.

 The first half was brought to a close with the two-movement Pasaje Abierto, or Open Lane, by Edin Solis of Costa Rica, consisting of the Prelude - Tema de Alicia, and Danza. The Prelude was still and serene, and very sensitively played. The contrasting lively Danza is influenced by African rhythms and contained fast arpeggios and étouffés, or right-hand string damping to cut the notes short.

 After the interval, the rest of the programme was given over to the music of Agustín Barrios, of which Berta Rojas is the leading exponent. The six pieces presented really captured the essence of Barrios, especially the first, Un Sueño en la Floresta, in which one can imagine Barrios conjuring up sounds from his guitar while in the forests of Paraguay. This piece has one of the most beautiful tremolo melodies of any work written for the classical guitar. The following jaunty Vals Op.8 No.4, led on to Ca'azapa, an arrangement of a Paraguayan tune with a catchy bass line. The beautiful barcarole Julia Florida followed; this nostalgic melody is one of Barrios' most popular works. Las Abejas (The Bees), marked allegro brillante in the score, provided another opportunity for wonderfully virtuosic playing in its depiction of that most industrious of insects.

 Finally, Maxixe, a brilliant showpiece, brought the programme to a conclusion. However, the audience insisted on two encores. Both were Barrios pieces: Danza Paraguaya and the Prelude - Saudade from La Catedral.

 This was a most successful concert for all concerned, and Berta Rojas' next visit to Bristol will be eagerly awaited.

András Csáki

Red Maids School  Saturday 11 February 2012  Review by Andrew Britton

The young Hungarian guitarist András Csáki, a prize winner at many important competitions, including Tokyo (First Prize, 2008) and the Guitar Foundation of America (Second Prize, 2011), attracted a good-sized crowd despite the prevalent cold weather. Playing on a resonant Kohno model, part of his Tokyo prize, his aim, he told the audience, was to take them on a musical journey that would encompass diverse periods and cultures. This is precisely what he did, for the most part avoiding strict chronological order.

He began with the music of an undisputed Renaissance master, performing two weighty fantasies by John Dowland in guitar/lute tuning (third string tuned to F♯, a capo at the third fret). The first, the ‘Tremolo’ Fancy in G major (Poulton No. 73), so called for its early use of the technique, but regarded as of ‘spurious’ attribution by some scholars, was followed without pause by the monumental Forlorne Hope Fancy (Poulton No. 2), a highly dramatic work built upon a descending hexachord, a six-note figure which is repeated seventeen times during its course. Both pieces were played cleanly and fluently, their chromatic complexities stylishly unravelled.

With J. S. Bach’s Suite in E minor (BMV 996), Csáki again elected to play the work attacca, which served to blur the shape of individual movements. Played without repeats, it clocked in at just past ten minutes. Again the playing was fluent, the ornamentation deft, but, disappointingly, the performance lacked dynamic contrast or tonal variety. Aside from the Sarabande, all movements were played at a fairly brisk allegro, which did little to highlight the differing characters of the dances.

Paganini reserved his guitar playing for private moments and most of his hundred or so guitar works are of a small-scale, intimate nature. The Grand Sonata for Guitar and Violin (M.S. 3), accommodated by Csáki on one guitar, is an exception – a full-scale, three-movement sonata to be approached only by the fleet of finger (the octave passages in the first movement are a particular hazard). I am happy to report that the guitarist played it all with consummate ease, although he might have engaged a little more with the bel canto beauty of the central Romance. In 1836 the English journal, the Musical World, announced that Paganini and the great Italian guitar virtuoso Luigi Legnani were rehearsing at the former’s estate near Parma, in readiness for a tour of England. No doubt this work would have featured in their programmes. Alas, for various reasons, the tour did not materialize.

Albéniz’s Sevilla has been a mainstay of the guitar repertoire since Tárrega’s arrangement in the late nineteenth century.  As an opener for the second half of the concert, it proved as popular as ever, generating much well-deserved praise. Eschewing any hint of hispanic exuberance, Csáki instead adopted a restrained approach which favoured fine phrasing and good tone.

Sor’s Gran Solo, an extended work in sonata form dating from the guitarist’s early years in Spain (before 1795), has suffered in the past from performances based in inaccurate editions. Unlike the majority of Sor’s oeuvre, it is an unashamed showpiece, requiring a highly developed technique to render it successfully. Csáki relished its bravura qualities and delivered a convincing, exciting performance, no doubt honed in numerous competitions.

Advised that La Catedral had received one too many performances in Bristol in recent years, Csáki substituted the same composer’s Waltz Op. 8 No. 3. His interpretation benefited from a relatively slow tempo which helped highlight the work’s chopinesque qualities. It is to be hoped that the guitarist may put aside his competition warhorses sometimes and allow himself the freedom to explore some slower, lyrical and expressive pieces – he is more than equipped for the task.

The only hint of modernity arrived with Piazzola’s Acentuado, No. 3 from Cinco Piezas (1981). This short movement was beautifully played, but seemed slightly isolated in the context of this predominantly baroque/romantic programme. As Piazzola’s only solo guitar work, a complete performance or a group of pieces might have proved more substantial.

The concert concluded with a veritable virtuoso workout, Tárrega’s La Carnaval de Venecia, based upon a folk tune varied by Paganini, Chopin, Johan Kaspar Mertz and others. To modern ears this work, designed to show off the guitarist’s many qualities and techniques, can appear rather overblown. Consisting of a long introduction, several variations and a finale, Csáki wisely entered into the spirit of the piece and extracted from it all the fun he could. The audience reacted particularly to the playful glissandi variation, and the work was dispatched with appropriate virtuosity and panache.

A standing ovation brought forth two encores, the Prelude from Bach’s Lute Suite No. 4/Violin Partita No. 3 (BMV 1006a/1006), which was taken at a fast pace, and a sensitive rendition of Barrios’s Prelude in C minor, the latter producing the best tone of the evening. Mention must be made of Csáki’s pleasant stage manner and his informative, entertaining introductions.

Andrew Britton


The Katona Twins

Red Maids School Performing Arts Centre 26th November 2011

The duo of Peter and Zoltan Katona is praised for its versatility and flair almost as often as for the twins’ impeccable technique. This performance was full of all three. The programme ranged from Scarlatti to 1970s Charke, all but the latter in the twins’ own arrangements.  

Rossini’s overture from The Barber of Seville opened a programme of strong Spanish flavour. The brothers, at times standing with their guitars and at times seated, added to seamless musicality an array of flamenco percussion effects, rasgueados and high-speed runs, right-hand fingers striking firm apoyando, thumb resting on sixth string for stability.

Playing standing up was the first, but by no means the biggest, surprise the twins delivered this evening. Scarlatti’s Metamorphosis received an arrangement that shocked - but finally delighted - the audience. The second of three Scarlatti pieces, Peter announced that whereas they had changed the key of the Sonata in C minor but left everything else, in the case of the Metamorphosis, they had kept the key and changed everything else. The result was a tour de force with heavy metal-esque drive, improvised solos and a coda of percussion.

Despite an excellent set of arrangements from Bizet’s Carmen suite, it was Metamorphosis that was the talk of the interval drinks. The arrangements, the performance style, and the amazing technique had been a wonderful shake-up.

The ‘modernisation’ of the classical guitar experience continued as the second half kicked off with Derek Charke’s arresting Time’s Passing Breath. Peter and Zoltan played in trio with a ‘third instrument’ of digitally manipulated bells, pre-recorded by the composer. The sense of a search for new horizons here was uplifting - perhaps ultimately more satisfying than even transcribed orchestral masterworks.

The Spanish mood strengthened from here on. In Boccherini’s Introduction and Fandango, the instruments again took something of a bashing in the spectacular percussive passages, Granados’ Spanish Dance No 2, ‘Oriental’ was poised and atmospheric. The tightness of the Katona ensemble remained as impressive as ever.

And so finally to Falla’s 1927 ballet El Amor Brujo. No French or Italian take on Spanishness this, but an Andalusian master speaking his own dialect. Even for those who are not fans of reducing large-scale works to the relatively modest forces of the guitar, the effect was admirable, with the arrangements of the Ritual Fire Dance, the Magic Circle and others making skilful use of the duo format: demanding but manageable to both players; sharing spadework and limelight.

A request had been sent up for an encore rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The honesty and zest of the Katona philosophy was spelled out: openness to new repertoire; mastery of all modern guitar techniques, and, yes, the ability to put on a show. The vivacious rock, followed by a brief, classical Mallorca, summed up an evening that challenged many guitarists in the room. We left not only delighted and amazed by the Katona Twins’ playing skill, but with the unequivocal feeling that in their hands the classical guitar is growing up.


Neil Smith in concert

Red Maids School Performing Arts Centre 19th March 2011

The BCGS had the rare honour this year of welcoming in our Concert Series the English guitarist Neil Smith.

Neil is one of the UK’s best-known guitarists, and his reputation is worldwide. Neil’s depth of musicianship comes from a career is of rare variety and prestige: he played in 60s jazz-rock bands before studying classical guitar with Adele Kramer (friend of Adolf Hitler and pupil of Miquel Llobet), and John Duarte, and theory with pianist Robert Marsh; he won a scholarship to Canada to study under Alirio Diaz and Leo Brouwer. He has toured the world, recorded seven albums, performing under Sir Simon rattle and sharing the stage with Rostropovich and Segovia, and was honoured to play for Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. He is the author of the fascinating book Have Guitar Will Travel. He directs international guitar festivals, gives masterclasses and writes regularly for Classical Guitar magazine.

The concert was a great success, combining well-known Spanish works by the Spanish composers Albéniz and Tárrega with the lesser-known works by modern composers such as Rak and Morel.


Danza Mora  Anon. (1st millennium)

Suite in D  Michael Preatorius (1571-1621)

Danzas Españolas Enrique Granados (1867-1916)

Gran Jota  Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)

Danza Brasileira

Misionera  arr. Jorge Morel


Neil Gow’s Shadow arr. Neil Smith


Rumores de la Caleta

Leyenda  Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

Canción de Cuna

Danza del Altiplano arr. Leo Brouwer

Suite España  Stepan Rak

The following morning at ten, Neil was engrossed in masterclasses at the Pierian Centre with members of the BCGS. Without exception, students and audience reported to an envious membership that not only had they learned a great deal about addressing the challenges in their pieces from Neil’s class, but that, importantly in any learning context, they had found the experience encouraging and good-natured. As well as an excellent concert performer, Neil is unquestionably an excellent teacher.

Neil’s CDs are available at His book Have Guitar Will Travel is available from


Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)

Allemande (My Lady Hunsdon's Puffe)

John Dowland (1563-1626)

Sarabande & Double
Bouree & Double
from Violin Partita No.1 in B minor (BWV 1002)

J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Berceuse (Canción de Cuna)
Danza del Altiplano

Leo Brouwer (1939- )

Bagatelles for Guitar:
I   Allegro (assai)
II  Lento (sognando)
III Alla Cubana

William Walton (1902-1983)

Hot Club Français

Gary Ryan (1969- )


Verano Porteño

Astor Piazzola (1921-1992)

Sakura Varations

Yuquijiro Yocoh (1925- )

Mallorca Op. 22 (arr. Segovia)

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

Felicidade (arr. Roland Dyens)

Antônio C. Jobim (1927-1994)

Lough Caragh
Benga Beat

Gary Ryan (1969- )


España, Op 165:      




Capricho Catalán


Isaac Albéniz (arr. Xuefei Yang)

The Fishermen at Eventide

Traditional Chinese song

Nocturnal after John Dowland Op 70

Benjamin Britten


Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor

J. S. Bach (arr. Xuefei Yang)

Fuente y Caudal

Paco de Lucía

Illustrations to the Book of Songs:   

Folk Song 1


Flower and Youth


Wan Dance

Steven Goss (for Xuefei Yang)

La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin

Claude Debussy (arr. Julian Bream)

Homenaje (pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy)

Manuel de Falla

Spanish Dance No.1 from La Vida Breve

Manuel de Falla (arr. Xuefei Yang)

Concerts we have hosted since 2008