Orlando's Accidental Music Festival, now in its third year, and the Timucua Arts Foundation, presented world-class act Dublin Guitar Quartet on Sunday evening at Orlando Museum of Art's SunTrust Auditorium, which delighted a nearly full house with a fresh program of modern music.
The classical guitar ensemble devotes its incredible talent to the music of modern composers and adds a distinct flavor to its interpretations. The softly-emerging Cuban Landscape with Rain, by composer Leo Brouwer, imitates a gentle rainfall as it opens with a single repeating note. As more complex rhythms emerge and intensify, a sudden din cries out from raspy strings. The effects were swiftly executed by the quartet, with a precise sense of coherence and unity.
Pat Brunnock played the leads and higher melodies, although the interaction with the other three members, Brian Bolger, John O'Shea and Tomas O'Durcain, brought the quartet together as a single organism. Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 4, Buczak, did not translate to the guitar as well as his second, Company, although the strumming of the composer's signature syncopated rhythms was invigorating. The shifting dynamics of Company were accomplished with style and really captured the distinctive voice of the music of Glass.
The other-worldliness of the meditative music that Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is known for was brilliantly captured through a delicate performance of Summa, in which soft bell-like intonations emerge as if from nowhere, rising to create an aura of sound. Both Chimurenga, by David Flynn, and Soundscapes over Landscapes, by rock band The Redneck Manifesto, offered more upbeat rhythms and at times harsh dissonances that explored the sonorities of the instruments.
In addition to standard six-string guitar, Brunnock played an eight-string guitar, and a six-string electric on Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint. The piece is a multi-part polyphony for live electric guitar and tape. Brunnock handled the live lines over a playback of the rest with poise. Although a little overcome by the louder pre-recorded track, his lines wonderfully intertwined with the rest of the guitars, creating the effect that characterizes some of Reich's music: slightly out-of-phase melodies interlock in a multi-layered web of sound and seemingly gel as one.
Perhaps the most daring of all the selections were the excerpts from György Ligeti's incredibly original and exploratory Musica Ricercata, originally for solo piano. The ominous second movement uses repetition, syncopation, sudden shifts in dynamics and widely separated pitches to create musicality with only two notes, for the most part. The piano effects were wonderfully emulated by the quartet, employing high harmonics to reach the same pitches Ligeti indicates.
The fast third movement was one of the most fascinating moments to witness, as the quartet traversed the range of their instruments. The breakneck tempo challenged the guitarists' picking abilities. Up to the task, they alternated their fingering between thumb with forefinger, as if plucking with a plectrum, and thumb only. The evil waltz that follows brings back the eeriness of the first selection they played, while the eighth movement has a joyous quality that was elevated to a different height by the unrestrained arrangement.
This one-of-a-kind quartet shines a novel perspective to the music they arrange. Their appearance in Orlando was a highlight of the Accidental Musical Festival since its inception in 2011 and a unique experience for everyone in attendance.
Special thanks to F.c. Belt, and to B. Glazer and S. Head.
To learn more about upcoming Accidental Musical Festival performances, click here.
To learn more about upcoming Timucua Arts Foundation performances, click here.
To visit the site of the Dublin Guitar Quartet, click here.