A major new talent impresses with precise yet tender skills
Gohar Vardanyan is perky and petite in an unfussy dress of imperial purple, her face framed by a nimbus of dark hair held with a simple band.
Her face sparkles with humour when she relaxes and then becomes all concentration when she plays. She opened Friday evening's performance with Fernando Sor's Grand Solo Op 14.
Sor was a near-contemporary of Schubert, and one of the first composers for the guitar. The effect is Viennese serious with added Spanish idiom, full of exuberant and playful ornament, played at the technical limit of the instrument, rounded with a march-like finale. Vardanyan's playing is precise yet tender, giving full rein to the languid riches of the guitar's tenor and bass sounds and tempering these with dazzling technique.
Next came Enrique Granados's Valses Poéticos, the first time I have heard these eight piano pieces performed at one sitting on the guitar. Playful, moody and full of musical surprises, the pieces have been adapted so well as to sound completely guitarlike.
Vardanyan finished the first half with a superb rendering of Paraguayan Agustín Barrios's Un Sueño en la Floresta (Dream in the Forest), an emotive evocation of primordial landscape through extended tremolo.
After the interval, Vardanyan was puzzled by a persistent squeaking sound that she thought had come from a bird on the door. The audience delightedly pointed out the culprit: a tree frog in the vestry.
After three beautifully realised pieces by Isaac Albéniz, including the rarely heard Sevilla, Vardanyan played Rodrigo's Invocacion y Danza, a piece dedicated to and inspired by Manuel de Falla's 1915 composition El Amor Brujo (Love the Magician) in which a girl's dead lover is conjured back to life to dance with her. It's a sinister, eerie incantatory harmonic-filled piece reminiscent of Britten, ending in a jiglike dance.
The concert ended with De Falla's own lively Dance No 1 from his opera La Vida Breve, which brought us all on our feet applauding. Vardanyan obliged with a tango, Milogueo del Ayer (Old Time Milongo Dancing), by Argentinian Abel Fleury. Our thanks to Steve Crawford and his team from the Bermuda School of Music for introducing us to a major new talent.