Slava and Leonard Grigoryan (guitars)

Slava and Leonard Grigoryan (guitars)

Octagon Theatre

 

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

Classical guitarist Slava Grigoryan has visited Perth on a number of occasions, invariably performing with expressiveness and technical finesse. At the Octagon Theatre, he was joined by his younger brother Leonard in a
recital that would have tested the mettle of the most adept and experienced of musicians ­ and both came through with banners flying.

The brothers Grigoryan are not the only sibling guitar duo on the international concert circuit, of course. There are other, longer established, ensembles I have heard in the past. But what places the Grigoryan siblings in a special category of excellence is that, unlike other similarly constituted ensembles, there is nothing in the least mechanical about their co-ordination. More often than not, the strictly, indeed implacably, metronomic approach to rhythm favoured by some other guitar duos can all too easily sound rigid and emotionally cold. There was not a hint of this in the playing of Slava and Leonard. In fact, the subtle nuances of tempo that informed their playing mark them as musicians as much as virtuosos.

True, there was some tendency early in the evening in an extract from Mompou’s Variations on a Theme of Chopin for earnestness to take precedence over effervescence. But by the time the duo launched into Piazzolla’s Tango Suite, the guitarists were firing on all pistons. And despite some occasional loss of definition on the part of Leonard, the sizzling intensity brought to bear on the climaxes that dot the Deciso and Allegro movements made for rivetting listening. As well, ceaseless vigilance regarding precise intonation was another factor contributing to listening pleasure although in the slow movement, one felt a need for rather more imaginative treatment of the notes.

How refreshing for once to hear a guitar compilation so markedly off the beaten track instead of the more usual fare by Albeniz, Barrios and Sor. A case in point was two movements from Retrato by the Brazilian composer Radames Gnattali. The siblings were in stunningly agile form in rapid ensemble work, achieving a brilliance that swept all before it. Here, the brothers staked an irrefutable claim to be considered in international terms ­ and all the more notable when considering that the younger Grigoryan is still a teenager.

Violinist Paul Wright made a guest appearance in ensemble with the elder Grigoryan in extracts from Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango in which both musicians succumbed to the Muse in a way that would surely have drawn approving nods from the composer had his shade hovered over the proceedings at a crowded Octagon. This was wonderfully evocative playing as guitar and violin explored the music’s contrasting moods of sultriness, passion and world-weariness.

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