Bermuda Review

Guitarist Szymanski charms the audience at sell-out show

Review by Stephen Crawford

Morgan Szymanksi put on an impressive show as part of the Bermuda Festival at City Hall

There was a full house at City Hall on a stormy Saturday night eager to hear guitarist Morgan Szymanski’s programme. Born in Mexico City, Morgan studied at the Royal College of Music and the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam where he was prize winner in many major competitions. He is now making a name for himself as an international solo ensemble/chamber artist.

The first half of the evening was devoted mainly to music written in the romantic style; the second, music by modern composers.
The first offering was Giuliani’s ‘Grand Overture’, one of those pieces that has all the grace, elegance and charm of the period. From the start Szymanski’s interpretation was played with control, shaping the phrasing clearly, using a wide dynamic contrast and also giving the work plenty of tonal colour. Following this Four Venezuelan valses by Lauro, were all named after various family members. Szymanski gave a stylish playing of these works, always bringing out the changes in the rhythm with its hemiola patterns which are ubiquitous in Lauro’s compositions.

Next we heard three pieces by the famous Paraguayan, Agustin Barrios Mangore a wonderful romantic composer whose works span the first half of the 20th century. Waltz in D major paying hommage to Chopin. This is a lyrical piece with its dark brooding middle section followed by a beautifully extended campanella (bell like arpeggio section) before taking us back to the recapitulation. Una Limosna por el Amor De Dios (An Alm for the Love of God) is a striking tremolo work in the dark key of E minor modulating to the bright parallel key of E major. Throughout this work there was a clear seamless tapestry of sound coming from Mr. Szymanski’s guitar. The Maxixie is a South American dance similar to the Tango. This had a whimsical dance like character which I really enjoyed, as was evident seeing some of the audience moving to the pulse of the music.

The first half ended with Szymanski’s wonderful transcription of the highly evocative Preludio (Asturias) from Albeniz’ Suite Espanola. The whirling outer Toccata Sections began very quiet, giving out great power of sound in the crescendos which complemented the lovely piano Arabesque like middle section and coda.

The second half of the concert was dedicated to music by living composers. Alex Roth’s Unicorn in the Garden was especially written for Szymanski. This music had a hypnotic feel to it, tremolo passages mixed with quasi harps, languid octave harmonics and arpeggios all used to good effect. Some of the passages in this piece reminding me of Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal. For me Szymanski’s tone was warm and radiant throughout.

Simone Iannarelli’s pieces inspired by coffee were very enjoyable and I would love to hear them again soon, as they were new to me. Next up was Brower’s Cuban landscapes with bells, again this piece using all the colours and effects the guitar has to offer, even though it’s not one of my favorites. Brower is highly regarded as one of greatest modern guitar composers.

Bringing the evening to a conclusion was the ever popular Jongo by Brazilian composer Paulo Bellinati. Jongo is based on the Afro-Brazilian style, which opens with a strong melodic bass line over some very interesting chord changes until the guitar picks up as a solo percussion instrument.
Szymanski using every part of the guitar’s body and neck brought the evening to its climax. After rapturous applause we were treated to one encore Tarrega’s evocative Recuerdos de la Alhambra. Thank you Bermuda Festival for bringing such a wonderful artist to the shores of Bermuda.

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