Galina Vale - Two opinions
Rarely have I heard such a divided audience reaction than for the Galina Vale concert. In short, the two extremes of the views heard were - prodigious musical skills marred by a sometimes bizarre theatricality which some loved and others hated.
The performance got off to a poor start with a recorded accompaniment to the Vivaldi Lute Concerto, not only recorded but a synthesiser - that least musical of supposedly musical instruments. Sadly, it obliterated the obvious technical ability and musicality of Galina's performance.
The programme was brilliantly diverse, a hugely complete anthology of guitar music across 3 continents and 350 years, encompassing many different styles and an enormous range of techniques - even that of the Flamenco genius Sabicas.
Galina tore through this long and complex programme with gusto and a technical ability that was breathtaking yet tempered by control and delicacy in the de la Maza and the well known Falla. The latter was one of the best renditions I have ever heard of this well known piece. It was fiery and faster and almost Flamenco, probably closer to the original than most players ever achieve.
After the intermission the second Manuel de Falla piece of the evening was simply too fast and lacked subtlety. The usually delightful Sabicas, that most sweet and delicate of Flamenco guitarists was unrecognisable. The Albeniz majored in technique but lacked real artistry. The Paganini - if ever a piece needed formidable technique it is this - shone, it had all of the pyrotechnics and the control and delicacy that had been lacking earlier, a delight but a beacon in the gloom.
Sadly, the Für Elise was then back to a breakneck pace - we should have all had seatbelts. The Barrios that followed was delightful, a little gem, and the ending with the Mussorgsky was truly staggering, an awesome orchestral tour de force but here played on a solo guitar with such brilliance, such ferocity, such passion that one almost forgot all of the earlier shortcomings. In this piece alone the sheer technical brilliance perfectly suited the majesty of the mighty Mussorgsky.
What an amazing performance from Galina Vale at the first of the new season's concerts. Such incredible technique in all aspects of her guitar playing. The volume and speed and clarity were superb. Some say the pieces were played too fast, but I never found any loss of emotion in the playing. The programme of music was well chosen with many refreshing new pieces that I had not heard played on the guitar before. Because of the confines of the hall there is not room for a full orchestra, and yet on this occasion we were treated to Vivaldi's Lute Concerto with a Kareoke style orchestra backing. What a beautiful piece and the sound balance between orchestra and guitar was just right. The Venetian mask added to the sense of fun.
All the pieces were enjoyable, in particular I liked the excitement of Rossini's Tarantella. The final piece from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with its grand chords looked incredibly difficult to play and I later read in the programme notes that the arrangement was considered `impossible to play'!
All told it was one of the most entertaining evenings with many new pieces all brilliantly played. That evening we did a round trip of 100 miles just to see the concert and it was well worth every mile. I look forward to Galina's early return.