Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 9, 2017

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Close Encounters with Music 
Mahaiwe Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
May 7, 2017
by Rebecca Phelps

This year Close Encounters With Music celebrates its 25th season presenting creative programming for smaller venues in and around Great Barrington. The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet was their penultimate concert of the 2016-17 season and was a huge hit with the audience.

Beginning with music from the time of Cervantes, arranged and narrated by LAGQ member William Kanengiser, the concert was off to an engaging start. William Kanengiser is not only a talented guitarist and arranger, but indeed a gifted actor, who told the story of Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza, interspersed with short, delightful Spanish renaissance dances. Kanengiser included castanet, tambourine, and drum-like effects on the guitars.

Bach’s 6th Brandenburg Concerto was arranged for the quartet by their former college professor, James Smith, to whom the LAGQ remains deeply indebted. It was in his studio where they originally met and became an ensemble; three of the four members have remained together for 37 years!

The Three Brazilian Pieces, which came next, represented a small sample of a project the LAGQ undertook in 2007 in which they studied, performed and recorded several Brazilian works. Each piece which they performed represented a different aspect of Brazilian music; the first by contemporary jazz composer Hermeto Pascoal, the second (originally for piano) O Lenda da Caboclo, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, and lastly a traditional samba - Samba Nuovo; highly energized and lots of fun.

La soiree dans Granade from “Estampes” by Claude Debussy was another of James Smith’s arrangements; a perfect choice as the original piece depicts a scene of the Alhambra in Granada and is, in its original form, a piano imitating guitars! Stunningly beautiful in either form.

The final set of was another of William Kanengiser’s arrangements, this time  a suite of movements from Bizet’s famous opera Carmen; another selection featuring guitaristic sounds depicting the much loved dances and melodies made famous by the bewitching Spanish Carmen.

The LAGQ brought the audience to its feet with their creative programming, their virtuosity that never gets in the way of music making, and their obvious enjoyment of performing together. Bravo!