Guitarist to conclude Candlelight's season

Young Italian virtuoso a graduate of Peabody

Howard Live

April 24, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Candlelight Concert Society of Howard County has provided world-class string quartet playing this season - the legendary Guarneri Quartet - as well as piano trios, cello sonatas, chamber music with a Latin flair, an up-and-coming pianist and a super-charged baroque ensemble inspired by the music of Antonio Vivaldi.

We've not had the opportunity, however, to enjoy an international prize-winning classical guitarist.

To that end, Candlelight will conclude its 2002-2003 subscription season May 3 with a recital by Franco Platino, a young Italian guitarist from Baltimore's Peabody Institute who has won a Golden Guitar award for his prodigious, sumptuously recorded debut recital on the enterprising Naxos Records label.

That award for the best Italian classical guitar recording of the year was presented to Platino at the 5th Italian Guitar Congress in September 2000. Judging by his virtuosic handling of works by Domenico Scarlatti, J.S. Bach, Augustin Barrios Mangore, Johann Kaspar Mertz, Joaquin Rodrigo and Manuel Maria Ponce on Naxos (554344), that award won't be his last.

What quickly becomes evident on that recital disc is that Platino is a musician first and a guitarist second. While there is knuckle-busting virtuosity in every bar, what sticks with the listener is the intensity of the artist's musical vision.

His Scarlatti, while bright and evocative of the dance in the authentically baroque manner, is aristocratic, even the most demanding passages expressed subtly, with an almost ego-defying sense of reserve.

Platino's arrangement of J.S. Bach's Chaconne - the Mount Everest of the unaccompanied violin repertoire - is arresting in its fealty to the harmonic complexities of the original. When he begins churning up Bach's storms of arpeggio just after the four-minute mark, the effect is electrifying.

Most affecting on the recording is La Catedral, a three-movement suite by the Paraguayan guitarist-composer Mangore (1895-1968).

The solemn opening "Prelude" of this work, which Platino will play in its entirety at his Candlelight concert, is riveting in its intensity. It is followed by a grave, declamatory "Andante religioso" and a concluding "Allegro solemne," in which the haunting arpeggios conjure up the spirit of the Bach Chaconne with Latin flair added.

Also scheduled to be performed May 3 is more of Platino's Scarlatti and several preludes by Heitor Villa-Lobos, the 20th-century Brazilian master who composed so brilliantly for the guitar.

After intermission, Platino's Columbia audience will hear music inspired by the great Italian violinist-composer Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840), whose charismatic brand of fiddling made him the 19th century's closest equivalent to a modern rock star.

Platino will play his arrangement of Paganini's Gran Sonata, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Capriccio Diabolico, a musical tribute to the devilishly difficult violin works served up so regularly by the Italian maestro, and Francesco Tarrega's variations on Paganini's Il Carnevale di Venezia.

Candlelight Concerts will present guitarist Franco Platino in concert at 8 p.m. May 3 in Smith Theatre at Howard Community College in Columbia. Information and tickets: 410-480-9950 or 301-595-6203.

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