Great review – Chicago Concert

Hi, I just received from my agent Dan a great review for my Guitar Triptych Chicago concert I gave on Saturday 23rd of April 2016. This review was written by Susan Hohl, a Doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago.

“Guitar Triptych” a Mini-Masterclass

Review by Susan Hohl, University of Chicago

French guitarist and composer Benoît Albert performed a recital at Ascension Lutheran Church on Saturday evening, April 23, 2016.  This international artist brought together three instruments and three composers from three centuries to delight listeners with a creative program offering both virtuosic magic and a whirlwind introduction to the history of the modern classical guitar.

Albert is that rare breed whose knowledge of his instrument is multi-valent, expressed with equal force through his artistry and performance technique, his composer’s voice, and the depth and breadth of his understanding of the guitar’s evolution.  He is equally at home discussing repertoire from classical to folk to rock to avant garde, name-checking artists and composers from Beethoven and Schubert to Django Reinhardt and Hendrix This recital was virtually a mini-masterclass, featuring music from the birth of the modern guitar as we know it in the 19th century, through the 20th, when it became an important component of the new genre of jazz, to the 21st, where composers like Albert himself still find it endlessly inspiring.

“Elégie” by early-romantic Austrian composer Johann Kaspar Mertz opened the program.  Albert played this and further selections from the composer’s “Bardenklänge” on a refurbished Stauffer romantic guitar from 1827.  The program’s second section was devoted to well-loved works such as “Take the A Train” and “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, presented using an original 1905 Martin guitar.  This second historic instrument is fuller-sounding and more powerful than its sweeter, more lute-like romantic predecessor, and Albert is completely at home in both of these acoustic and stylistic worlds.  His warm and focused performance let the listener discover the guitar’s unique voice in each piece, while at the same time vividly demonstrating the subtle and unexpected connections between these vastly different repertoires and historical periods.

The recital concluded with Albert’s own Suite No. 1 – “Fingerstyle,” performed on a contemporary instrument.  Here the composer, performer, and scholar blended seamlessly.  The deft balance of color and line in Albert’s works controls their rangy scope while putting the player’s expert versatility on display.  Albert has a love for polyrhythmic textures and aerial lyricism that can pivot suddenly, revealing unexpected edges in a composition.  With the backdrop of the previous two “Triptych” sections, “Fingerstyle” also functioned as a kind of summa that allowed listeners brief catches of the style’s pedigree – troubadours to bluesmen, Atkins to Segovia – to sound through Albert’s innovative, modern voice.  A brief selection by Villa-Lobos was graciously offered as an encore.