Remember the Peabody Camerata? I heard a concert by them for my second time last weekend. Well, I happened to come across the program from the first Camerata concert I heard back in February 2006 (and the date was Feb. 19 also). Maud Laforest was the soloist in Richard Rodney Bennett's Concerto for Guitar and Chamber Ensemble.
Laforest has teamed with Benjamin Beirs (pronounced to rhyme with "wires") in the guitar duo, Duo Transatlantique, since 2003, and they returned to An die Musik last Thursday evening. All but one of the works on the program were transcribed from the literature for other instruments, and guitarists stealing from other musicians was a theme in Beirs' lively commentary. When transcriptions sound so convincing on guitar (solo or duo), it hardly matters that it's borrowed music. There's been some Manuel de Falla in both of the Transatlantique's recitals I've heard, and I think I've heard de Falla's orchestral music performed on guitar more often than by orchestra. A highlight of Thursday's recital was a set of two pieces by Scott Joplin: "Cleopha" and "Maple Leaf Rag". The audience withheld applause until the end for most sets in the program, but we broke out into applause right after "Cleopha", so stylish was Beirs and Laforest's playing.
The one work on the program written originally for guitar or guitars was "Variaciones Concertantes" by Mauro Giuliani, the 19th century Italian composer who made it his life's mission to provide a literature expressly for the guitar. I'm also remembering some works I've heard by Fernando Sor, who was doing the same kind of work for the guitar in Spain. This is wonderful music to hear -- it's influenced by other composers of the day (Giuliani was influenced by Rossini, among others), it sounds like it could be played on piano or by some ensemble, but it sounds so good on guitar and brings out the full effect of that "little orchestra" label that has been applied to this instrument.
I bought Duo Transatlantique's first CD on their last visit to An die Musik. ("Le Gris et le Vert" or "The Gray and the Green".) Program notes announce a second CD coming later this year which I must add to my collection, but let's hope we can hear the Duo many more times in recital, too!