Thursday, September 15, 2005

20th Century Guitar Music

An Italian guitarist, Stefano Cardi performed at the DBS Auditorium tonight. I'm glad it wasn't the concert hall, or probably more than half of the audience would not be able to hear such exquisite sounds of the guitar due to his light touch. Of course, when one talks of 20th century music, terms like atonality, avant-garde, experimentalism etc will come into mind, but nope, not for the classical guitar, which hasn't progressed as fast as the rest of the music world. Most of the music presented tonight was mostly tonal, except probably for one by Toru Takemitsu...

He started off with a pretty traditional piece by Manuel Ponce. It was a piece which was written in a Baroque dance style, for that's what Manuel Ponce was famous for, writing in the different styles of music back in history. The beginning of the performance was a little unsteady, but he settled pretty fast into the third piece. I was expecting music which were more dramatic and nonconventional, but was treated to a night of largely harmonious music. I really like his light touch, which was really pleasant to the ears.

It was Toru Takemitsu's kind music which I had been expecting. Mostly dissonant sounds, but it's truly a pleasure to listen intently into how the vibrations interact with each other to bring out the atmosphere. Seriously, if I had just switched off because of the dissonances, I wouldn't certainly have dozed off. Thankfully, I have listened to sufficient modern music to be able to appreciate such pieces. I sincerely enjoyed that piece, but I also happened to notice that the applause wasn't that enthusiastic after that. Guess the audience tonight wasn't able to connect as well... Would it be the same if he had played that piece in Europe?

Stefano Cardi also played two pieces by this Chinese composer Shih Hui Chen. Either he couldn't bring the oriental side of the music out well, or that the composition itself was problematic. But since he was reading from the score for this piece, I guess he wasn't too familiar with it as well...

Most of the pieces he played were written by great melodists in the 20th century and Stefano Cardi has certainly brought out the lovely melody lines with the most crystal clear tone. The problem he had was the boisterous string noise which sticks out like a sore thumb in his music. It has been possible to reduce, if not eradicate the string noise which is extremly unmusical. I don't know, but classical guitarists ought to start spending some effort on taking out this problem before we can even start comparing ourselves to the other classical instruments.

Another problem he had was the slight articulation problem in selected parts of the pieces. And towards the end of the concert, he didn't quite give the music time to breathe. At points where a fermata is needed, he just went straight on to the next section. It was a crucial pause which allows the audience to indulge in the emotions they're feeling at the point, and would have been so much more perfect if he had given the music a little more time to breathe.

Stefano Cardi played two encores, the first is his composition for Fritz Kreisler. A sweet and wonderfully tonal composition. The next is his transcription of Fritz Kreisler's famous Joy of Love. Yes, I can probably guess that he is a fan of Fritz Kreisler. =)

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