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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reviews: Gaëlle Solal—SoloDuo

Gaëlle Solal
4:30 pm—June 2, 2012
Mixon Hall, Cleveland Institute of Music

If you’re in a blue mood and need some cheering up, attending a Gaëlle Solal recital might be just the ticket. She’s a bundle of high spirits who seems unjaded about being a concert artist and can’t wait to get before an audience. If you’ve ever seen a musician who appears to need a gun in the back to go on stage, well that ain’t Solal. A couple of times she literally skipped on stage—incidentally, not an easy thing to do in the long and flowing dress she was wearing. And once there, she knows how to hold the stage.

Solal’s program was almost entirely Spanish and Latin American, with a side trip to Turkey. This isn’t a safe choice, as it might quickly prove monotonous. Fortunately Solal has the emotional and imaginative range to pull it off. Her playing is by turns passionate, driven, soulful, moody, or dark, depending on the needs of whatever she’s playing at the moment. Solal also eschews the traditional program notes, instead working written commentary into the program listing itself. We unfortunately missed the full effect of how Solal puts together her recital—she normally includes some creative lighting instructions for her performance. But Mixon Hall has a large glass window behind the stage, and since this was an afternoon recital we couldn’t provide the full darkness that Solal wants at a certain point in her performance. After hearing Solal without her preferred lighting changes, I’m intrigued by what must be the full effect when she plays in a hall that can accommodate her wishes for lighting.

I must confess that I inadvertently almost prevented Solal’s recital from happening. It was my responsibility to drive her from the inn she was staying at to the recital hall. The inn and hall are close by—only about a three minute walk—but I figured she’d be in full concert dress and would appreciate getting to the hall by car. I met with her beforehand to confirm what time she wanted me to pick her up. But we must have gotten our signals crossed, because we ended up with an understanding that was a half hour apart. So when I didn’t show at the time she expected, Solal nonchalantly picked up her guitar and, in full concert dress, hiked over to the hall. I’m relieved to report that she found the incident funny, and her recital went smoothly. Indeed, after the recital she seemed more concerned that I would be embarrassed by the mixup, and assured me that it was her fault. I replied that, no, I’m really trying to sabotage her career, and must try harder next time.

SoloDuo—Matteo Mela & Lorenzo Micheli
8:00 pm—June 2, 2012
Mixon Hall, Cleveland Institute of Music

SoloDuo is a sure bet—when you go to their recital, you’ll get the highest quality of ensemble playing. Indeed, they’re so reliable that it’s easy to forget just how hard this is to pull off with the guitar. Just keeping it in tune throughout a concert is a full time job. That two players can shape it to their musical will is a minor miracle.

Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli first played together a little over ten years ago. Though they’re both Italian, they met in, of all places, San Antonio, Texas. Right away, they hit it off musically. Of course, the notion that two Italians will inevitably be simpatico is a notion that even an Italian would find amusing. Indeed, Mela and Micheli are something of an odd couple, with differing techniques and personalities. But almost immediately they vaulted to the top of their field. And they’ve quickly built a discography noted for both its musical excellence and its exploration of little known repertoire.

The hallmark of SoloDuo is its tight ensemble. They favor quickish tempos, though never hectic. Their touch is light and rhythmically incisive. Most remarkable is their ability to maintain a fluid pulse in tandem. Talking to Micheli after the recital, he said that he and Mela are so attuned to each other that when one tries something new, the other seems to know before it happens.

Their program at this recital was a tip of the hat to Presti-Lagoya, the duo par excellence of an earlier generation. SoloDuo proved once again that they take a back seat to no one. It may well be that future guitar duos might find themselves paying tribute to SoloDuo. But for now, SoloDuo is building its legacy one great performance at a time. We’re the lucky ones who’ll someday say we knew them when.

—(Next up: Jason Vieaux & soprano Jung Eun Oh )—

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