RDSO opens season with passion

The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Una Noche En Espana concert provided a sizzling contrast to cooler fall weather by delivering some passionate music from more temperate climes.

The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Una Noche En Espana concert provided a sizzling contrast to cooler fall weather by delivering some passionate music from more temperate climes.

The season opening concert Saturday night at the Red Deer College Arts Centre featured the talents of The Amadeus Guitar Duo performing two lively and tempestuous Latin-themed works with the orchestra.

Guitarists Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchhoff were the opposite of duelling guitarists. They showed us though their minutely synchronized performances why two Spanish-style guitarists are way better than one. The duo’s richly textured harmonies were so spot-on, it was often hard to tell who was leading or who following while watching the complex interplay between musicians.

The jaunty Surama, by Venezuelan composer Alfonso Montes, was written specifically for The Amadeus Guitar Duo, and the husband-wife musicians played the heck out of the spirited tune.

Surama is made up of South American folk dances, including the cha-cha. But there were contemplative moments as well, in which Kavanagh plucked her guitar strings like a harpist, pulling off some gorgeous, lilting melodies.

Kavanagh, a Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music alum, and her German partner, Kirchhoff, colourfully captured the work’s many mood changes. And some cinematic touches were added by the RDSO, such as when the percussion sounded like the clip-clop of horses on the untamed South American frontier.

The Amadeus Guitar Duo also performed the pinnacle of complexity for two guitars, Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto Madrigal. Its 10 movements (seven of which were played at this concert) attempt to cover five centuries of Spanish music, starting with a 15th-century work.

Kirchhoff told the audience Rodrigo’s works are seminal for classical guitar, The composer, who went blind by age three, based this piece, somewhat ironically, on a madrigal titled O Happy Eyes of Mine. Some parts, transcribed by Rodrigo’s pianist wife, turned out to be unplayable because of Rodrigo’s blindness, said Kirchhoff. “He couldn’t see where the frets were.”

Other parts are extremely virtuosic — and amazingly beautiful. In tackling these, the guitarists’ deft finger work was mesmerizing to watch. At one point the duo produced shimmering waves of vibrating melody that kept repeating as orchestral music swelled in accompaniment, producing a rich aural tapestry.

Kavanagh and Kirchhoff, who performed more than 1,300 concerts in 60 countries, have added another success to their list. They dazzled in Red Deer, earning a standing ovation.

The first half of the concert consisted of Manuel de Falla’s El Corregidor Y La Molinara, (The Mayor and the Miller’s Wife) played by the RDSO alone.

Music director Claude Lapalme told the audience the work can be considered the “first-draft” of the ballet The Three-Cornered Hat. The longer score was developed by de Falla from this earlier piece, based on a request from the famed Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballet Russe.

Corregidor was originally written as a pantomime, so is loaded with sound effects — from bird chirps to the sound of a water pail being drawn up on a pulley. There’s some lively dance music, and the bassoon takes the lead in illustrating the buffoonish antics of the title character, a municipal official who tries to seduce the miller’s wife.

It’s an evocative, fun work, and the RDSO delivered all the sweep and attitude needed to pull this Spanish piece off wonderfully.