There is a hidden delicacy to guitar music that can be unexpected; while the modern stereotype is that of a long-haired shredder wailing away on three-fingered power chords, the true value of the instrument lies in its vast classical tradition. Predominant in the music of Spain as well as several South American countries, the classical guitar literature is as varied as any other repertoire and the instrument allows for sophistication that rivals the compositional techniques of the classical masters. The bedrock of the music relies on intricate counterpoint contrasting with bold strokes to make up the canon.
As the final concert of the 2011-12 season for the Allegro Guitar Series, the Fort Worth Classic Guitar Society and the Allegro Guitar Society of Dallas presented Colombian guitarist Ricardo Cobo Thursday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The recital featured music from Central and South America, by composers Figuerado, Coste, Reis, Pujol, Martin, Brouwer and Piazzolla. The concert was originally meant to feature guitarist Luis Zea, but due to unforeseen issues, Cobo stepped in to perform a stunning display of music.
The theme of the concert eschewed flash, preferring substance over the more easily achieved style. Cobo has a flawless technique that moves beyond effortless motion; at times, it appeared as an organic extension of his instrument while detracting nothing from the music. His left hand technique was clear and focused, and he used a slight vibrato at times that heightened the musical line without sounding grotesque.
The first half of the concert featured several dance movements fused with a Latin flair, notably Napoleon Coste's (the only composer represented who did not hail from South America or the Caribbean) Duxieme Polonaise. The mix of the classical dance form with ethnic sound of the guitar was deftly navigated without becoming overpowering or redundant.
The highlight of the recital was hearing Cobo skillfully navigate through the counterpoint of Leo Brouwer's work El Decameron Negro, allowing the musical line to sing out while not subjugating the contrary motion to a secondary role. Consisting of three movements, the music is the composer's representation of oral story tradition of Africa—the third movement (Balada de La Doncella Enamorada) in particular was breathtaking in its presentation. The movement also made use of scordatura tuning (the de-tuning of a string from its normal pitch for effect or to gain higher or lower notes), which was handled quickly and efficiently, but also gave a greater depth to the music, both aurally and figuratively.
The recital was expertly prepared and passionately performed, and the material presented was some of the best chamber music in recent memory in Fort Worth. The program will be repeated on Saturday at Caruth Auditorium, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Here's a video of Cobo playing El Decameron Negro, from his website: