Purcell Room Concert Review - Classical Guitar Magazine May 2011

ELEFTHERIA KOTZIA in concert with:
Sonia Grané (voice), Sheida Davis (cello), Emma Murphy (recorder), and Gerard Rundell (vibraphone/bongos).

Purcell Room, London 29 March, 2011

This concert, with a near capacity audience, given in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, presented an exciting variety of styles, featuring both solo music and fourexcellent ensemble players.

The programme began with Three Preludes for guitar by Maximo Diego Pujol, evocative pieces acting as a light but effective hors d'oeuvres to the main dish. Eleftheria Kotzia, in a very eye-catching red dress, appeared confident and smiling. She introduced the pieces charmingly in a quiet voice, immediately establishing a genuine rapport with the public. With the benefits of her Greek cultural heritage, Kotzia is a very rhythmic player and this opening triptych set the feet tapping.

A most unusual Villa-Lobos selection followed. The centrepiece was the second movement of the Guitar Concerto (complete with cadenza), tastefully arranged for solo guitar. The intricacies of the work were well handled with clarity and intensity, though one longed at times for some magical orchestral timbres to accompany such fine playing. Next came two songs with guitar, Bachianas Brasileiras, No. 5, and Modinha (SerestaNo. 5), sung by Sonia Grané from Portugal, at present studying at the Royal Academy of Music. Sonia achieved a poignant sonority in both items, and clearly has a great future ahead of her. In particular it was splendid to hear songs in Portuguese sung with real authority by a musician for whom it is her first language.

The first half concluded with Ney Rosauro’s Toccata and Divertimento, Op. 32 for vibes and guitar, with vibraphone played by Gerard Rundell, a percussionist from the Royal College of Music. The composition, imitating a north-eastern Brazilian game called desafio where two people begin singing and making rhymes back and forth, is a subtle musical dialogue in which guitar and vibes blend in rich tonal colours. Divertimento was based on the baido, a popular dance, superbly played to the delight of the audience.

After the interval, a fascinating work by Ernesto Cordero was given its United Kingdom premiere, Cantata al Valle de Mexico for voice, guitar, cello and recorder. Inspired by poems from the Mexican writer Roberto Lépez Montero, the composition offered a vivid array of cultural elements (from Gregorian chant to Afro-Caribbean), and a dazzling kaleidoscope of colours and textures.

Eleftheria Kotzia then took the stage again by herself to play Isaias Savio’s Serôes and Batucada, both pieces full of authentic Brazilian atmosphere. A trio of Spanish works followed, Regino Sainz de la Maza's catchy Zapateado (its middle section reminiscent of Tulips from Amsterdam), Rodrigo’s Junto al Generalife, and finally Recuerdos de la Alhambra (by you know who). These three manifestations of the soul of Spain were beautifully articulated, and played with discretion and taste, eschewing any of those exaggerated gestures within the interpretation that negate the true spirit of Iberian music.

The solo work concluded with Fuoco by Roland Dyens, the final movement of his Libra Sonatine, a scintillating and moving piece representing the composer’s recovery from open heart surgery.

The finale was another composition by Cordero, Dinga y Mandinga for guitar, recorder, cello and bongos, a celebration of the ethnic diversity of Puerto Rico. Exquisitely played, the rainbow range of timbres tickled the ear most pleasantly, transporting us to the humid tropics melodically and rhythmically.

This proved to be a memorable and unusual evening of music. With the sound of the guitar at the heart of the occasion, the instrument's chamber music capabilities proved to be the most dramatic highlights, the solo aspects providing their own intimate contrasts.

Eleftheria Kotzia is to be congratulated on a uniquely imaginative concert in terms of content and structure. That this was staged at a major venue on behalf of one of the most important charities in the country was a triumphant achievement, both artistically and philtanthropically.

Graham. Wade
Classical Guitar Magazine