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Allen Krantz at Laurel HillBY: Tom Purdom 08.14.2012
Accidentally forced to give a rare solo program, the guitarist-composer Allen Krantz demonstrated his skills as a teacher and speaker.
Concerts by Candlelight: Sor, Andante; Milano, Four Fantasies; Matiegka, Sonata in B minor; Granados, Two Spanish Dances; Albeniz, Rumores de la Caleta, Leyenda. Allen Krantz, guitar. August 5, 2012 at Laurel Hill Mansion, Fairmount Park. (215) 643-7923 or mysite.verizon.net.
A lucky accidentTOM PURDOM
When he isn’t performing and composing, the guitarist Allen Krantz teaches music history at Temple University’s Center City campus and often presents pre-concert talks for the Philadelphia Orchestra. For his annual appearance in the “Concerts by Candlelight” series at Laurel Hill Mansion, Krantz provided a demonstration of his skills as a teacher and speaker along with the expected program of old and new music.
Krantz’s regular partner for the Laurel Hill series, violinist Shannon Lee, couldn’t make it, so Krantz talked more than he usually does and turned the program into a relaxed de facto teaching concert.
In his comments before the first item on the program, Krantz performed an especially useful service when he directed the audience’s attention to the multi-voice character of Fernando Sor’s Andante.
Sor flourished in early 19th Century, when the string quartet became the dominant form of chamber music. Krantz noted that Sor incorporated the interplay of a string quartet into a work for a single instrument with six strings, and demonstrated how the distinctive voices of the violin, viola and cello could be heard on his guitar.
Guitar’s many voices
The guitar is such a pleasant instrument that it’s easy to listen to it as a succession of sounds, without noting the structure of a piece. When your attention is directed toward the interaction of the voices, the music takes on a whole new quality. At times in the Sor you could hear the top voice playing a lovely, poignant melody, while a second guitar seemed to be strumming in the background.
The program also reminded me just how good a guitarist Krantz is. Ordinarily he appears with a partner, or he guests with a local chamber group. That is, he spends most of his time accompanying or blending with other performers in a group.
This month’s solo program may have been accidentally forced on him by circumstance, but it demonstrated that Krantz’s elegant, nuanced style can sustain a full evening, unrelieved by the sound of other instruments.
Gone but rediscovered
The first half reached its climax with Krantz’s first performance of a sonata by Wencelas Matiegka, a contemporary of Beethoven whom Krantz introduced at his Laurel Hill program last year.
Matiegka wrote ten sonatas that Krantz considers comparable to the great violin and piano sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert. In Krantz’s opinion, they’re the only sonatas of that depth and breadth ever written for guitar. These works have been neglected since Matiegka’s death in 1830, but lately they’ve been rediscovered by guitarists exploring the digitalized scores libraries are posting on the Internet.
When Krantz played Matiegka’s G Major sonata last year, I felt the sonata combined the complexity and virtuoso demands of the sonata with the basic charm of the guitar. This time, I felt he overemphasized the work’s assertive Beethoven-like qualities. The performance could have used less force and more nuance.
Echoes of El Cid
For his second half, Krantz finished the evening with his arrangements of two pieces from the core of the guitar repertoire: a pair of Spanish dances by Enrique Granados and a work listed as Rumores de la Caleta, Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz.
Krantz prefaced the Albeniz with an entertaining summary of its history of misleading titles appended by music publishers. It’s best known as Asturias, even though it has nothing in common with the music of that region of Spain. The subtitle Leyenda (Legend) may or may not be an appropriate expression of the composer’s intention. But for me, the piece evokes some of the spirit of the saga of El Cid— or Zorro, depending on which cultural level I happen to inhabit at the moment.♦
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