Romanticism is alive and well, you may be glad to hear. At least, it was at Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ in Bethesda on Saturday night, when the Polish guitarist Marcin Dylla took the pulpit for an evening of unabashedly expressive music that ranged from Franz Schubert to the modern-day Magnus Lindberg. Dylla’s a world-class virtuoso — you don’t win first prize at 19 international competitions for nothing — and the evening was a riveting display of guitar technique. But it wasn’t his pinpoint accuracy that dazzled, so much as his deeply felt, almost sensual poeticism. This was playing of almost Romantic-era passion — and it was impossible not to be moved by it.
Dylla opened the concert (the last of the season for the fine Marlow Guitar Series) with the “Sonata Romantica” by Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce. Written in 1928, it’s an overt homage to Schubert, full of songlike passages and quiet passions: Romanticism interpreted through cooler, 20th-century ears. Dylla (whose artful stubble and just-fell-out-of-bed hair gave him a suitably Romantic look) played it with extraordinary delicacy of touch, profound concentration and, you felt, almost starry-eyed affection.