Vida Quartet Review
If you take the top guitar duo of Mark Eden and Christopher Stell combined with two renowned solo guitarists - Helen Sanderson and Mark Ashford then you have a very formidable quartet - The Vida Guitar Quartet to be precise.
At the recent Chichester Guitar Festival, the adjudicator Charles Ramirez remarked that he does not want a guitar duo to sound like just one guitar ie two guitars playing at 50%, but expects to hear the full 200%. Well, without question, the Vida quartet sounded like 400% - if not more. With each guitar capable of two part harmony, the quartet often displayed 8 part harmony in their playing. One wonders what thoughts go through the composers mind when they produce such enthralling music. Credit must also go to the arrangers of the music.
The quartet all play on instruments made by Christopher Dean. The music often called for retuning a string by a tone during the performance. I was intrigued by how this was confidently carried out without checking. Apparently this is due to the precision made Roger's machine heads where 3 turns produces exactly a tone shift. Christopher played a 7 string guitar where the seventh string is usually tuned to low A. D'Addario manufacture the 7th strings. Christopher explained that just the one additional string required some considerable concentration in familiarisation.
The concert began with the very delicate Turina piece La Oracion del Torero. This was followed by Leo Brouwer's Cuban Landscape with Rain. This represented a transition period for Brouwer between his earlier avant-garde pieces and his later more descriptive pieces. The rain began as very slow, barely discernable droplets, reached a crescendo of Bartok slaps and eventually returned to calm again as the storm quietly subsided.
We were treated to two ballet pieces by Manual de Falla - El Amor Brujo arranged by Mark Eden) and El Sombrero de Tres Picos (arranged by Mark Ashford). All movements were very popular and well thought out and sounded as if they were written for the guitar. We were also told of the interesting stories of the ballets.
Christopher mentioned that they would like to undertake a project whereby the quartet actually provides the orchestration while dancers perform the ballet. This would surely be something quite unprecedented in the guitar world and certainly something not to be missed.
It was interesting to talk to two ladies in the audience who only 6 days earlier had visited de Falla's humble home in Granada (now a museum). Why did no one tell us of this place when we visited Granada recently! The suite Oyun for a guitar quartet represented a new departure for the composer Carlo Domeniconi who normally writes for solo performances. The 3 movements were based on Turkish folk music.
The programme finished with Bizet's Carmen Suite (arranged by Kanegiser). For some 40 years now I had always thought that Carmen would be ideally suited on the guitar, but had never seen nor heard of any arrangement. This really was the jewel in the crown of the evening. Again it was as if the music was written for the guitar. Enthusiastic applause from the audience produced an encore - Brahm's Hungarian Dance no. 5 (arranged by Christopher Stell from a piano duet).
The whole evening provided very enjoyable listening which would appeal to everyone - not just guitar aficionados. The Quartet are shortly to produce a CD of the concert and I am sure that it will prove to be a very popular recording.