In the age of specialization, when a musician secures a particular niche and is content to stay there, it's refreshing that not everyone takes this route. Uruguayan-born guitarist Eduardo Fernandez could easily sustain a healthy career restricting himself to the warhorses popularized by Segovia, so refined is his artistry. Yet as his concert Friday night at the National Presbyterian Church proved, Fernandez prefers to stretch and explore territory other guitarists either won't or can't cover.
The usual Bach opener yielded to Four Ricercari by Renaissance lutenist Francesco da Milano, finger-loosening pieces that presented Fernandez as the consummate technician and colorist. Sor's "Fantasy on a Favorite Scotch Air" took a subtle virtuosic leap forward, demanding speed and fluidity in equal measure. Having established his credentials in short order, Fernandez turned his attention to works that unlock the guitar's potential for producing bold, unpredictable sounds. "All in Twilight," four miniatures by Toru Takemitsu, and especially "Sequenza XI" by Luciano Berio, were models of surprise and control. Flamenco percussive touches, chords of every stripe, and suspenseful mood swings kept the audience guessing all the way through the Berio, which ended on a quizzical, inconclusive B-flat.
Fernandez looked south for Leo Brouwer's "Cuban Landscape With Carillons," a beautiful setting of bell tones, mysterious muted passages and lightly hammered left-hand ostinatos that had a picture-postcard clarity. He commissioned the young Colombian composer Ana Torres to write "One Thousand and One Faces," a richly arpeggiated, constantly (though slowly) evolving invention in which dynamics play a critical role. Fernandez handled all facets superbly, just as he did in his encore, Tarrega's well-traveled "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" -- an unpredictable choice, given what had preceded.