Scottish guitarist David Russell made all the right moves last night at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall. Absent were the predictable Bach transcriptions, the flashy, albeit beautiful, showpieces that have become guitar sampler cliche's. He chose his program wisely and well, playing each work with complete assurance as he gradually divulged a musical imagination that stretched far beyond the limitations of six strings.
In the first half, a common key of A minor connected otherwise diverse source material by Bach, Dionysio Aguado and the Hungarian guitar virtuoso Joseph Mertz. Russell's arrangement of the Bach Sonata in A Minor for flute had a flowing, airy grace; Mertz's Hungarian Fantasy crackled with arpeggiated textures.
After intermission, Russell expanded his horizons considerably. His tasteful sense of color found a perfect outlet in six miniatures transcribed from Grieg's Lyric Pieces for piano. Deft harmonics and muted strings established a dreamlike atmosphere in the lullaby segment, a feat Russell accomplished even more explicitly in his "Little Music Box" encore by Francisco Ta'rrega. For Carlo Domeniconi's Variations on a Turkish Theme, he used wide vibrato, bent notes, and lightly hammered attacks to transport the guitar out of its element and into the oud's world.