Darlington and Stockton Times – October 2006

Morgan Szymanski
St. John’s, Sharow
Ripon International Festival
Darlington and Stockton Times
Dave Robson

DESPITE what his name suggests, guitarist Morgan Szymanski is neither Polish nor Russian, but a Mexican, whose studies brought him to the City of Edinburgh Music School and then the Royal College of Music in London.

His concert before a large audience in St. John’s, Sharow, comprised works by 20th and 21st century composers, including Alec Roth, a Durham University graduate who now directs the Royal Festival Hall Gamelan programme. His Unicorn in the Garden and Cancion de la Luna paid lip service to both gamelan music and the elegance of the 18th century in Szymanski’s playing.

Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce’s 3rd Sonata, in an agreeable unique style –“Mexican impressionism?, the programme note told us – was matched by his Theme, Variations and Finale, written for Segovia, who would play only six of its nine variations in his many performances. Szymanski performed all nine – the missing three being probably a world premiere performance.

The colourful and percussive nature of Brazil was beautifully caught in the exciting virtuoso style and use of the woodwork of the instrument in Paulo Bellinati’s Jongo, while La Catedral, by Agustin Barrios, from neighbouring Paraguay, evoked the nature of a cathedral, with gentle sounds evoking the calmness of a church interior in Preludio, a central allegro solemn with the steady tramp of a procession, and the final allegro, with it’s evocations of bells heard from the outside.

The almost mandatory Spanish influence was provided by four highly evocative pieces from Isaac Albeniz’s Suite Espanola. Though the work is better known in its original piano version, this guitar arrangement did not lose anything of its balmy excitements.

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