Austrian and Australian classical guitarists have more in common than the spelling of their homelands.
Adelaide Guitar Festival Director Slava Grigoryan’s name has become synonymous with classical guitar in the same way that James Morrison is inextricably linked to the trumpet in the minds of many Australian music lovers.
Through the very prestige of his reputation, Slava's stewardship of the festival acts as a magnet, attracting the finest guitar virtuosos from far and wide; from the southern US swamps to the snow-capped Austrian alps.
The climax for this year’s festivities (14 August) was headlined by one such virtuoso: Wolfgang Muthspiel. The finale also served as a reminder of the abundance of talent nurtured within our own shores, as the programme included the renowned German-born Queenslander Karin Schaupp and a burgeoning 80-member ensemble of plucky future maestros.
Together with the Australian String Quartet, the cast of 87 performers delivered a repertoire ranging from the popular to the abstract; from the hummable to the discordant and from the modern to the classical.
Watching the sea of young guitarists that comprised the Adelaide Guitar Festival Orchestra as they bustled onto the stage was a joy to behold; each young instrumentalist clutched a guitar that was peculiar to their size and age requirements. Throughout their six-song set, their precious visages were marked by studious concentration, briefly switching to an appreciative glow as they received the warm response from the capacity audience.
They were conducted by Richard Charlton and Dr Paul Svoboda, with the latter enthusiastically wiggling his buttocks while drumming along to his own composition, a Spanish inspired finale. While the AGFO was of immense value from an entertainment perspective, the educational value of such an experience for those young artists will ultimately be immeasurable.
In the second act, the number of stage performers shrunk twentyfold, but the complexity of the work covered increased by at least that much. Schaupp began with the work of Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, playing the part of the first violin on guitar on ‘Quartet in D major, Op 2, No 2’. Grigoryan then played ‘Migration’ by Ralph Towner; a piece with a frantic and desperate conclusion reflective of the experiences faced by those who undergo the upheaval of immigration.
Muthspiel drew the curtain on the festival by performing his own composition, ‘Flexible Sky’. It must be said that the final two pieces were quite challenging in their complexity. The original programme scheduled Schaupp to be the traditional meat in the abstract sandwich, but this was altered on the day.
Within the two-hour performance, such an array of genres was offered, though, that concert goers of every hue were catered for.
After four days of blistering fretwork, the last chord has now been strummed until the 2018 Adelaide Guitar Festival.