I’ve seen a lot of guitar recitals in my time – some good, some not so good, some average, some spectacular. Well folks, let me tell you that the recital that I saw on a cold and foggy Tuesday evening here this week in Melbourne is one of those that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was exciting, enthralling and enchanting all at the same time.
Netherlands-based, Swedish guitarist and composer, Johannes Möller (who I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing a couple of weeks ago – check it out here if you missed it), held the audience captive with the weaving of a truly astounding display of guitar playing virtuosity, authentic and generous musicianship and some of the most imaginative (yet least contrived) use of the guitar as a musical medium I have witnessed. I know I’m prone to using superlatives rather freely on this blog, but please believe me when I say that this concert was simply breathtaking. Guitar playing of the highest order. Möller, dare I say it, could possibly be one of the best guitarists currently actively playing…..
And this wasn’t just my opinion either it seems. The reception from the audience all round was one of amazement and excitement. My friend sitting next to me turned to me on a couple of occasions and we just smiled and nodded at the simply fantastic playing and beautiful original music presented. No words necessary.
I was impressed by his super sensitive and well-thought out dynamics in the classic pieces presented (including Barrios’ Un Sueno en la Floresta and Albeniz’s Asturias (Leyenda)), his super soft (and masterfully controlled) pianissimo playing that drew you in and urged you to pay close attention and his vigorous and refreshing approach to these classic pieces.
I was even more impressed by his original material. The first of these was a piece called From Her Source To The Sea – an effective musical reflection on the journey of the River Ganges from it’s source in the Himalayas, picking up speed and size before flowing out gracefully to the Bay of Bengal. This piece is one of Johannes many pieces inspired by north Indian classical music, with re-tuning of various strings on the guitar, to create an impressive sitar-esque sound. At one point during the performance of this piece I had to do a double-check of his right hand fingers – I couldn’t quite believe the masterful strumming and simultaneous rapid arpeggios. Incredible. This piece was followed by the incredibly beautiful and moving Song To The Mother, a particular favourite of mine and no less spine-tingling in the flesh (I just love the harmonics in this piece).
We were treated to some new works too, including 8 beautiful little Preludes (which will eventually turn into 24 Preludes in each of the musical keys) and a gorgeous Nocturne, apparently completed just two weeks ago (can’t wait for that one to be published as I’d love to play it myself). And we were also treated to a lovely, little-heard Regondi Nocturne and an inspiring original piece A Star in the Sky, a Universe Within…an exquisitely elegant philosophical reflection and musical exploration of the night sky – and an impressive exploration of the capabilities of the instrument including the highest pitches I think I’ve ever heard play on a standard classical guitar.
The standout piece in the concert for me was The Night Flame – a piece based on an Indian night raga (a raga is an Indian classical scale or mode). This was not only a fantastic display of Johannes’ outstanding capability as a composer, but also as a true virtuoso of the guitar. The passion and 100% commitment to the music and its delivery was awe-inspiring stuff. An intensely, energetic musical performance that is very hard to put into words. You have to see, hear and experience for yourself.
Overall I was really impressed with the incredible creativity and imagination that Johannes infuses into his pieces – use of harmonics, alternate tunings and non-Western classical influences, use of capo across half the fretboard, a number of different left and right hand techniques, tone colours, rhythmic interest and beautiful melodies.
What I was most impressed with was the authenticity, dedication, passion and love for the guitar that was evident in this concert. This is 5 star stuff. It doesn’t come much better.
If you’re in Australia, Johannes’ remaining tour dates are: the Araluen Arts Centre today (24th July), Sydney (25th July), Canberra (26th July) and Perth (23rd August). He has a number of tour dates lined up this year in the USA and Europe and I strongly encourage you to head along to your nearest show. Check out Johannes website for more details: http://johannesmoller.com/tour/
In summary, Johannes presented the audience with some stunning, mind (and technique) expanding playing that can only inspire players and guitar aficiondos of all types. The future of the guitar and its repertoire is very safe in the hands of this maestro. Bravo Johannes! 10 out of 10!