In Edinburgh Miloš Karadaglić’s guitar gives the public what they want

Rossini, Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Falla, Bizet: Miloš Karadaglić (guitar), Flanders Symphony Orchestra / Jose Luis Gomez (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 27.10.2019. (SRT)

Miloš Karadaglić

RossiniBarber of Seville Overture
RodrigoConcierto de Aranjuez
Villa Lobos – Preludes 1 & 4
De FallaEl Amor Brujo Ballet Suite
BizetCarmen Suite

Poor Miloš. On the one hand he is one of the few global musical megastars, alongside the likes of Kylie and Beyoncé, who is instantly recognisable by his first name alone – let us leave aside, for now, any marketing concerns that might arise from the pronounceability of his surname – but on the other hand the limitations of his chosen instrument, the classical guitar, mean that his repertoire is so restricted that he plays pretty much the same thing every concert! This is, I think, the fourth time I have seen him, and he has played the Concierto de Aranjuez every single time! If nothing else, you have to admire his commitment to his instrument, and his embracing of the repertoire: even including the occasional Fantasia para una gentilhombre, he knows what the public want and he knows how to give it to them.

He played it beautifully, of course, despite some rather muddy runs in the first movement, and he was at his finest during the long, thoughtful second movement cadenza, which by now I am sure he could play in his sleep. Strangely, however, throughout the concert he sounded most comfortable when he was on his own, particularly in the three solo numbers, the highlight of which was a particularly satisfying account of Villa Lobos’s beefy first prelude. In the Concierto, however, he seemed to all but ignore Jose Luis Gomez, which was a shame, because Gomez conjured up a very effective orchestral picture to match him.

With such a centrepiece, it was wise to programme some other Spanish inflected music for the rest of the programme, and the Barber of Seville overture impressed me not only because of the bounce to the orchestral mood, but because the orchestral sound was impressively big, particularly from the strings, which also helped to set up a sunlit performance of the Carmen suite that also featured some characterful wind solos.

The highlight, though, was a super performance of El Amor Brujo, which vibrated with atmosphere and effective scene painting, including a darkly atmospheric picture of the cave scene, shuddering with dark strings, and revolving around a high octane ‘Ritual Fire Dance’. The whole thing had an impressive sense of building momentum to it, controlled and released by Gomez as effectively as it was realised by the orchestra, but it also featured a lovely lilt in the ‘Dance of the Game of Love’, building to a blooming string swell in the finale. If you hadn’t known better you would have thought you were listening to Spanish orchestra, which is quite some achievement for musicians from the plains of Belgium!

Simon Thompson