News Column

Guitarist excels in concert's debut; Chamber Music Society's first- ever concert a success.

November 23, 2013


There's some new art in town.

The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach's inaugural season had anauspicious beginning Thursday with Montenegro guitarist MilosKaradaglic.

The society, with Michael Finn serving as executive and artisticdirector, has assembled an impressive set of performers for theseason. Performances are in The Mar-a-Lago Club, with awine-and- appetizer reception before each concert.

Milos (he goes by his first name, to the relief of Americanaudiences) has produced a pair of award-winning recordings forDeutsche Gramophone, and he was named Gramophone Magazine's YoungArtist of the Year. He just finished recording Joaquin Rodrigo'sConcierto de Aranjuez and his Fantasia para un gentilhombre -- amilestone for any guitarist.

Milos performs without a set program, deciding in the moment whatto play next. His manner is relaxed, witty and charming, and theaudience enjoyed his presence as much as his playing.

He straddles the line between classical and popular music -- something that's not hard to do, given the vernacular influence onthe guitar repertory (especially in the Latin American music thatdominated the program).

Straddling that line is, however, easy to do badly -- a challengethat Milos realizes and, for the most part, avoids. His playing isabsolutely secure technically; it's expressive without lapsing intoparody. And his guitar, a Greg Smallman borrowed from its owners,is simply the strongest instrument this reviewer has everencountered.

He opened with Jorge Morel's Danza Brasileira, crackling withenergy (though why he lost the pulse by racing through the closingof the first section is a mystery). Then he played Alfonso Montes'Milonga, with just enough freedom that the piece remained amilonga.

The only disappointment of the performance was Leo Brouwer's Un Diadi Noviembre. The beautiful simplicity of the piece was marred bytoo much rubato, or rhythmic flexibility -- like putting too muchmakeup on a naturally beautiful girl.

Moving into more conventionally popular works, Milos has avaluable ally in Sergio Assad. He is a remarkably talentedguitarist who, as a composer and arranger, continually amazes.Assad provided arrangements of Antonio Carlos Jobim's The Girl FromIpanema and Consuelo Velazquez's Besame Mucho.

The Jobim was a solid, effective setting. And Besame Mucho, withits bass counter lines, was positively inspired. Milos said hewanted to avoid "sounding like cheesecake," and he did so,admirably.

The one really substantial work in this rather short recital wasCarlo Domeniconi's Koyunbaba. The exotic title, which means"shepherd" in Turkish, also refers to a bay in southwestern Turkey."Koyunbaba" is also the name of a 15th-century hermit-saint whohailed from that area.

Koyunbaba is dauntingly virtuosic and requires a total retuning ofthe instrument. It has been the "it" piece for classical guitaristsfor the past several years, and it has had several greatperformances and recordings.

Fortunately, Milos ' rendition can stand with any of those. It wasa fine ending to a deliciously enjoyable evening.

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