Craig Ogden and Manchester Camerata
December 4 2019
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Stylish, virtuoso playing and a something-for-everyone programme
With Australian Craig Ogden you don’t just get some of the finest guitar-playing on the planet. His chats to the audience between each piece let you into all sorts of secrets. The last time he came to Nottingham he revealed the miraculous properties of nose grease (don’t ask); this year he ensured that his audience will never hear guitarists tune up in future without rushing up to embrace them with warm hugs of sympathy. Those pesky bass strings have a mind all of their own, it seems.
His Wednesday night concert was as comprehensive and diverse a celebration of the guitar as you could squeeze into two hours, including solos, duos, chamber ensemble and works for guitar and orchestra.
Each half of the concert began with Craig alone on stage: virtuoso Scarlatti and Albeniz to begin with and then a lovely arrangement of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun to begin Part 2. The duos included Einaudi’s Due Tramonti, a magical evocation of the sun setting behind two mountains for Craig’s guitar and the cello of Hannah Roberts. And there was also a mesmerising performance of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel in which he was partnered by Rakhi Singh.
The first half came to an extraordinary end with Matthew Hindson’s wildly rhythmic, insanely fast (and aptly named) Rush, where it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the instruments burst into flames, so ferociously were bows drawn across strings. There was a similar threat to instrumental safety in the Fandango from Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet in which the cellos were sportingly mistreated in imitation of castanets.
The range of moods and styles encompassed by the programme was as wide as the instrumental combinations: film and TV music (Inspector Morse, The Deer Hunter etc) rubbed shoulders with Giulani’s elegant (and very classical) Guitar Concerto as well as a subtly nuanced, intensely beautiful performance of Barber’s Adagio for Strings, its depth and detail achieved without a conductor.
And there was music by Classic FM’s John Brunning, some Irish nostalgia and rodeo high jinks from Gary Ryan and, for those who like music off the beaten track, the concert ended with a toe-tappingly energetic piece by Miroslav Tadić based on a Macedonian Coppersmith’s Dance. Whatever the style, be it popular or classical, each item in this thoughtfully devised programme was treated with as much artistry as the considerable talents of Craig Ogden and the sixteen string players of Manchester Camerata could muster.
Craig Ogden, guitar
Hannah Roberts, cello
Rakhi Singh (solo violin and leader)