From the November, 2016 issue
There exist magnificent concertos for classical guitar and full orchestra, and players who are up to the task of projecting--without amplification--to the back of Hill Auditorium. (I still vividly recall the stunning Julian Bream/John Williams concert I attended there nearly forty years ago.) But perhaps the best way to hear classical guitar is in solo recital or in a compact ensemble in a small hall. And, it's also the guitar's softer sonic stance that, among its many other qualities, makes it the perfect partner for other relatively quiet instruments such as the flute.
The Cavatina Duo of guitarist Denis Azabagic and flutist Eugenia Moliner is possibly the finest guitar/flute duo now performing. They are also widely traveled solo artists and have appeared alone and as a duo with numerous ensembles and orchestras internationally. Their recorded music encompasses styles and periods as diverse as the flute sonatas of Bach, the Argentinean tangos of Astor Piazzolla, and modern arrangements of the Balkan folk music of Azabagic's native Bosnia. Their recording Cavatina at the Opera includes transcriptions of music from operas by Mozart, Bizet, Verdi, and others that soundly contradict any stereotypical notions about the capabilities of these instruments. With their relatively slim musical resources, they still manage to convey the commanding grandeur that opera achieves with massive forces.
But perhaps the most powerful testament to Azabagic and Moliner's artistry is the great number of compositions dedicated to or written especially for them. Their most recent CD, Sephardic Journey, features five such pieces. Released earlier this year, the CD has in a sense been twenty years in the making. In 1996, on their first visit back to Bosnia as a couple, after the end of the brutal war there, they learned that they both may have had Jewish ancestry, Azabagic in Bosnia and Moliner in her native Spain. Those discoveries led to their explorations of the music of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 and to the commissioning of the
works on this CD. The resulting music, inspired by and sometimes employing centuries-old songs and melodies, also uses the complex rhythms and harmonies of modern classical music vocabulary. Though entirely instrumental, the music, and Cavatina's performance of it, communicate both the sadness and the vibrancy of that tradition. On stage Azabagic, who plays with impeccable, impressive technique, sits rock solid, only his fingers and arms moving on his guitar. Moliner meanwhile literally dances with her flute, her body bending, swaying, her flute weaving graceful shapes in the air, all the while singing wordlessly.
The Cavatina Duo appears for the first time in Ann Arbor at the Kerrytown Concert House on November 12.
[Originally published in November, 2016.]
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