Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Paul Galbraith Recital

Sunday, March 30 at 2:00 pm in the Florence Gould Theater
Chamber Music San Francisco

W.A. Mozart Andante cantabile
Lennox Berkeley Theme and Variations for Guitar, opus 77
J.S. Bach Cello Suite No.4
Franz Schubert Piano Sonata in A-flat major, D. 557
W.A. Mozart Piano Sonata in F major, K. 280

Guitar recitals must be among the most rarefied of chamber music experiences. The strongest impression I came away with was the quietness of it. There aren't that many shared quiet experiences in modern life. The classical guitar is not a loud instrument, & Paul Galbraith is not a demonstrative player. The audience has to be very still in order for this to work at all, & this audience was admirably quiet. In fact it was so quiet that I could hear sounds of the restaurant next door, the tapping of someone's foot nearby, even a door opening backstage. When someone started clapping after the 1st movement of the Bach, she was quickly shushed.

The auditorium was almost completely dark. The stage was dark too, except for a spot light on Galbraith. He was dressed mostly in black, so the stage picture gave the impression of 2 disembodied hands flitting around the guitar.

Galbraith plays a custom guitar with 8 strings. The most obvious difference in range is the low notes it can play. He sits on a kind of throne a foot & a half high & plays the guitar like a cello. The instrument sits upright between his knees, supported by an end-pin. Instead of bowing, he plucks it, but his left hand is positioned just like a cellists. Some of the left hand stretches look very wide.

He gave a brief, knowledgeable introduction to each piece. His interpretations were contemplative, deliberate & without showiness. The slow movement of the Mozart was particularly exquisite. I got the feeling that he had spent a lot of time working out how everything was going to go, so that a piece sounded pretty much the same each time he played it.

The Legion of Honor was a happening place that afternoon. There were a lot of people of at the museum, no doubt for the Annie Leibovitz exhibit. The start of the recital had to be held for 10 minutes due to the crunched parking situation. While I was in the museum I also saw a jazz singer in the restaurant & an organ recital in the atrium.

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