Grace Notes Elevate Alexandria Guitar Festival

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The annual Alexandria Guitar Festival is one of the undiscovered gems of the summer music scene, bringing some of the planet's best classical guitarists to town for a week of intimate and always interesting recitals. The seven-concert series closed, alas, over the weekend -- but not before showcasing some spectacular talent.

Kenneth Meyer, who opened Saturday night's recital at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, is a thinking man's guitarist -- he focuses on the inner structure of a piece, rather than poetic effect, and plays with impressive gravity and power. In lighter works (such as the frothy, lights-on-but-nobody's-home "La Rossiniane," by Mauro Giuliani), that approach was too earthbound to be really effective. But he brought three lyrical, wistful pieces by Hans Werner Henze beautifully alive, and infused Augustin Barrios's lovely "La Cathedral" with almost ethereal light.

The Colombian guitarist Ricardo Cobo may be one of the finest guitarists of our time -- certainly he's a first-rank interpreter of Latin American music, as he showed in the tango-flavored second half of Saturday's program. From the driving "Acrilicos en Asfalto," by Eduardo Martin, to smoky cafe music from Horacio Salgán and the classic "La Muerte del Angel," by Astor Piazzolla, Cobo has the smoldering sensuality of Latin music deep in his blood, and played with heart-clenching passion.

But even the formidable Cobo may have been upstaged by the breathtaking recital Friday night by the young Italian virtuosos Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela, who perform together as Soloduo.

Extraordinarily sensitive, with effortless command and an almost unbearable delicacy of touch, the duo's playing was nothing less than rapturous -- profound and unforgettable musicianship of the highest order.

-- Stephen Brookes

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