Quick Review: Guitar Concert at Epiphany

Today’s concert at the Church of the Epiphany featured guitar soloist Douglas Rogers, a young (he looked young) Virginia native and graduate of the Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins), who teaches at the Levine School in Washington.  He chose an interesting program.

Two selections.  First, three “Celtic Airs” by contemporary composer Gerald Garcia, two based on folk tunes from the Outer Hebrides (that’s atop o’ Scotland), and one based on an Irish jig.  All very nice, and the jig rhythm is still with me.

Then he played twelve etudes (or studies) by the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos, who wrote them in the late 1920s for Andres Segovia.  Segovia, says the printed program, did not like the pieces (I don’t know if Villa-Lobos knew that, or what he thought of Segovia’s taste) and he didn’t publicly play any of them for almost twenty years, until he played three of them in 1947.  The full set of twelve etudes were not performed until the 1960s.  Whether they are played on a regular basis now, I don’t know.

The program also says that “This work is renowned for revolutionizing modern guitar technique.”  On that, I cannot comment.

The Villa-Lobos pieces took up the bulk of the 50 minute program – probably 35 minutes or so.  They clearly were demanding.  They contained no memorable melodies.  Some of the twelve sounded much like some of the others.  But they certainly were not offensive, although you did get the feeling that you were listening to “studies” and not to pieces necessarily meant to be performed.

Having said that, because the guitar is such a pleasing instrument when played well, the etudes could have lasted a second 35 minutes and I would have been happy.

I really enjoyed Rogers’ technique.  It was flawless and smooth, and I think that is pretty much what you want in a classical guitarist.

I do have my own views about Villa-Lobos — all positive.  I like the dance-like rhythms, the evocations of Brazil that his music contains.  I must say that none, or little, of that was apparent to me in the etudes.  On the other hand, Rogers’ sole encore, a more typical Villa-Lobos I think, brought that all back.

Douglas Rogers is definitely a musician to enjoy.


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