Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Last week I saw Caetano Veloso in concert at the Hill. The Brazilian Bob Dylan had unfortunately decided to go electric this time. The show was nice, but the energy was low since most of the crowd, like me, had showed up expecting the more soulful Brazilian acoustic melodies. While the electric stuff was great, when Veloso played his acoustic stuff unaccompanied you could feel that the music was at another level.

Yesterday's show by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) at Rackham was packed. There would be no singing and the auditorium is perfect for such acoustic performances. The guitar is a sort of bastard child among instruments when it comes to classical music. It is often considered not to be pure enough to make it on the symphonic concert stage. You notice that many classical guitarists have this chip on their shoulder, Andres Torres Segovia included. The LAGQ has done a great job rearranging a lot of classical music that is mainly for strings for the four guitars and it's a job well done. Yesterday's Brandenburg Concert No.6 by Bach was a perfect example.

But, they also have tremendous range in their repertoire as they played samba/bossa-nova music from Brazil, Celtic-inspired compositions and Spanish flamenco from Manuel Falla and music by a Russian composer who never went to Spain - Rimsy-Korsakov. The Korsakov piece was in lieu of the Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt which they played a few years ago in Ann Arbor. What's really beautiful is to see, for a change, four guitars not dueling with each other on the stage but playing together to create one voice.

It is a vicious cycle, not many composers really write for the guitar and hence there isn't much 'classical' specifically for the guitar. It is therefore quite commendable that the LAGQ, while not composers themselves, have managed to inspire a couple of composers to write music for them.

Since UMS has decided to focus on guitarist this season there will be a lot of guitar gods passing through in the next few months, including Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers.

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