Highlights from the 2019 GFA (Miami, FL)

BY BLAIR JACKSON, Classical Guitar Magazine 

The Zoran Dukic concert Friday afternoon (June 21), was a complete and utter triumph in my view. I was pretty sure going into it that I would enjoy it—after all, I loved his most recent album, Bach-Piazzolla, which artfully alternates compositions by each of those composers, and the bulk of his one-hour program was to feature seven of the 11 works from the album (though in a different order). Still, I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing it would be to hear him performing them in person, as essentially one continuous work (i.e. no breaks for applause): four movements of Bach and three by Piazzolla, all played with such power and subtlety; the deeply spiritual Bach ascending to the heavens each time, while the Piazzolla brought us back to a more visceral, human dimension. It really takes a virtuoso of the highest order to pull off a high-concept program like this, and Dukic was brilliant at every turn. Then the rest of his program was a bold left-turn from the Bach-Piazzolla: Stephen Goss’ six-part Cinema Paradiso suite, in which the British composer (who was on hand for the concert; he’s a fixture at GFA) dips into the world of film (the title comes from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s Oscar-winning 1990 film, curiously not represented in the suite), conveying some of the mood/vibe of such diverse cinematic works as Paris, Texas (inspired by Ry Cooder’s haunting slide guitar soundtrack) and Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (a great excuse for Goss to try his hand at mechanized industrial sound), and, more generally, the film noirgenre and director Quentin Tarantino. Zoran preceded the work with a helpful, detailed, often humorous explanation of the six movements that was nearly as long as the piece itself! Stylistically it was all over the map, but definitely entertaining and invigorating. Goss took a well-deserved bow at the end.

The icing on this particularly delectable cake (to use a tortured metaphor) was an encore selection for which Dukic brought out guitarist Helen Sanderson (whom he described as “my better half”). Together, they performed Ida Presti’s marvelously evocative duo piece Berceuse à ma mère, written in 1957 shortly after the death of her mother, but never recorded by the Presti-Lagoya Duo. (It does appear on Olivier Chassain and Stein-Erik Olsen’s essential 2009 album The Works of Ida Presti for Two Guitars.) A great way to end a magnificent concert!

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