by Robert Rollin
On Saturday, September 24, the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society kicked off its season at Plymouth Church with a Showcase Concert featuring the Gruca White Ensemble, Duo Allant, and soloist Adam Larison. The highlight of the evening was the set performed by flutist Linda White and guitarist Robert Gruca. Their performance of Chick Corea’s landmark composition Spain absolutely sparkled. Gruca set up a soft, fast-moving groove with measured restraint, and White entered with the attractive, low-register solo. Her tone color was gorgeous. The two played with amazing precision and perfect ensemble. This was the rare case of a duo recreating a piece composed for larger jazz combo without sacrificing any of the original’s energy and charm.
Dušan Bogdanović’s five-movement Songs and Dances from the New Village calls for tapping on the guitar in various places and some extended techniques in the flute. The performance was excellent. The two performers stayed consistently together, even through the constant asymmetrical rhythmic groupings. The piece’s continuous nature made for a somewhat overly-long presentation that might have benefitted from a pause or two.
In Dreams of Yesterday and Tomorrow from Carl Dimow’s Klezmer Suite, White, performing on bass flute, displayed a wonderful, dark, low-range color, some intensely penetrating jazz articulations, and octave multiphonics. Gruca was an attentive collaborator throughout.
Duo Allant, consisting of flutist Kathryn Umble and guitarist François Fowler, was excellent during Berimbau, the short and lyrical second movement of David Morgan’s One Dance, Many Dancers.
In Mystical Islands, the first movement of Umble’s and Fowler’s jointly composed Oceans (2016), the flute leads with a solo tune as the guitar accompanies with blurred arpeggios. Spiral Depths, the second movement, begins with a whole-tone line that segues into a syncopated second theme. A unison passage in the coda of the third movement, Endless Waves, ties things together, ending with an expressive ritardando.
Adam Larison presented nicely varied selections, beginning with Segovia’s transcription of Isaac Albéniz’s Mallorca, which made effective use of dynamics. In J.K. Mertz’s transcription of Schubert’s lied Lob der Tränen, Larison played a beautifully delineated, soaring melody with lovely variety in dynamics, especially in the final fade to nothingness.
The guitarist’s performance of Robert Beaser’s Shenandoah was a bit mannered at times — after all, its source is a simple folk song. Still, the tremolo variation, followed by a rasgueado section, was beautiful. Throughout his performances, the pauses Larison inserted between phrases seemed a bit labored.
The concert began with Agustín Barrios’ Valse, Op. 8, No. 4, played by Yeram Yoon, who was being honored as the top student in the educational program of CCGS. His technique was excellent during this fast movement. A bit more dynamic variety might have further enlivened the fine performance.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 3, 2016.
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