LA Guitar Quartet.

We're all familiar with the string quartet and the classic four-piece rock band. But let's face it, your average concert-goer still looks on that strange beast, the classical guitar quartet, with bewilderment or, if they're feeling snobby, scorn.

Enter the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, which for more than 30 years has been dazzling audiences worldwide with technical chops that would have put Jimi Hendrix to shame, a repertoire that encompasses world, jazz, classical, blues and more and a Favourite Guitarist of All Time list that includes Frank Zappa, Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, Chet Atkins and, of course, Hendrix. Don't believe me? Check out the LAGQ's album Guitar Heroes which won the 2005 Grammy Award for best classical crossover album.

The LAGQ will be kicking off its first Australian tour in Perth. The day after they arrived, I caught up with members John Dearman, Matthew Greif, William Kanengiser and Scott Tennant in the lobby of their hotel to talk about the work they'll perform with the WA Symphony Orchestra and conductor Michael Stern: Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto Andaluz.

"Of course most people know Rodrigo's super-famous solo guitar concerto Concierto de Aranjuez," Dearman said.

"And you almost get the feeling Los Romeros (the legendary father-and-sons guitar quartet for whom the work was written in 1967) just said 'Please rewrite the Aranjuez for four guitars'."

Dearman went on to say that although it has that signature slow movement in the middle, the outer movements of the Concierto Andaluz are quite different. Kanengiser agreed.

"The Romeros grew up in Malaga and were well-versed in all the flamenco forms," he said. "So this is one of Rodrigo's most overtly flamenco-inspired pieces, an interesting combination of classical and flamenco."

Kanengiser added that the LAGQ members all studied with Pepe Romero and the Los Romeros are good friends of theirs. Which means any LAGQ performance of the Concierto Andaluz will have that extra layer of authenticity.

"A guitar quartet is just so flexible," Greif said. "You can play in any style - we even do an arrangement of Stravinsky's Pulcinella.

"Playing in a quartet just gives guitarists opportunities they don't normally get," added Tennant. "It fills a void. Historically, the whole plucked-string family has always got together to play with and for each other."

The WA Symphony Orchestra will also be performing Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, Osvaldo Golijov's Sidereus and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite in the same program.

The LA Guitar Quartet performs with WASO at the Perth Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday.

The West Australian

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