Fort Worth — The audience at the Kimbell Art Museum on Thursday night heard not only a great guitarist, but a great musician of the first rank, as the Fort Worth Classic Guitar Society/Allegro Guitar Series presented Spanish guitarist Virginia Luque in a wide-ranging performance. (The program was repeated on Friday in Dallas.)
Luque, who studied with Andres Segovia, the guitarist who guided the revival and rise of the guitar into the classical mainstream in the 20th century, dedicated the program as a tribute to Segovia, focusing, though not exclusively, on works he had performed frequently during his career. Twentieth-century Mexican composer Manuel Ponce’s gently cheerful Gigue—almost like Bach with a Mexican accent—opened the program promisingly; however, it was in Spanish romantic composer Enrique Granados’ Spanish Dance No. 5 (a work originally for piano but more frequently heard on guitar) that Luque’s unique gifts emerged.
Her ability to make the guitar “sing,” combined with the beautiful and solid tone of the guitar she played—a German instrument from the 1930s--made this mainstay of the guitar recital repertoire a captivating experience. Luque also displayed here a wonderfully assertive but always convincing flexibility of tempo, giving a powerful emotional quality and a sense of suspense to the performance; the always breathtaking shift from minor to major here became heart-breakingly compelling.
The Chôro No. 1 of Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos provided a contrast in a different direction with its heady combination of Brazilian street music and classical form, enlivened again by Luque’s brilliant instinct for suspenseful tempo; after this, in a complete departure from standard guitar repertoire, Luque presented her own transcription of Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor (opus 64, no. 2), gliding elegantly through the passage-work and convincingly applying an aggressive tempo rubato of the sort that pianists who play this piece could learn from.
The steady stream of contrasts continued with a guitar transcription of the great Argentine tango innovator Astor Piazzolla’s “Verano Porteño” (“Summer in Buenos Aires”), rich with an aura of urban savoir faire, followed by Argentine guitarist Jorge Morel’s cheerful, rhythmic arrangement of the popular Taquito militar.
More of the quintessential classical guitar repertoire (once again, borrowed from the piano) opened the second half, with Albeniz’s “Rumores de la Caleta” (“Rumors of the Cove”) and the evergreen “Granada”; Luque enlivened Albeniz’s sweeping emotionalism with incredibly sharp passage-work and, again, her aggressive but always on-target give-and-take of tempo.
Luque switched out one guitar for another for a group of flamenco pieces of her own composition, highlighted by the passionate personal meditation of her “Nostalgias de mi tierra” (“Memories of My Homeland”). The return of her “classical” guitar signaled the final work on the official program list, Spanish romantic composer Francisco Tárrega’s Gran Jota, with its scintillating and breathtaking virtuosity. A guitar transcription of Argentine composer Fernando Bustamente’s popular song “Misionera” provided the encore, packed with intriguing, often unexpected, always beautiful sounds.