Milos Karadaglic, guitar
Perth Concert Hall
REVIEW WILLIAM YEOMAN
I’m not really sure what happened on Monday night. There was a recital — that much is certain. But what followed was one of the most beautiful, intimate and unusual musical experiences you could hope for.
It started with a request to gather in the Perth Concert Hall foyer, near the door that leads backstage. Before we knew it, we were seated on the stage itself, looking out into an empty concert hall, our fellow audience members ensconced in the choir stalls above and behind us.
At first I thought it was some kind of cruel reversal, an audience comprising musicians about to file in and take their seats with us as the main attraction. Then I noticed the solitary chair.
A few minutes later the lights went down and a young man carrying a classical guitar with the reverence normally accorded a religious artefact stepped before us to acknowledge our applause.
The facts are easy to relate. This was the final recital in acclaimed Montenegro-born guitarist Milos Karadaglic’s first Australian tour. The winner of a Classical Brit Award and two Gramophone awards, Karadaglic, as charming as he is handsome, earlier this year sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall — unprecedented for a solo classical guitarist.
I don’t know what he played on that occasion. But here Karadaglic’s program included an attractive mix of Spanish and Latin American music — Albeniz, Villa-Lobos, Brouwer, Morel, Cardoso, Savio — bookended by J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue from the C minor lute suite, and Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi’s exciting, toccata-like, Koyunbaba.
What’s not easy to describe is the effect.
Here was one of the world’s greatest classical guitarists performing, without amplification, a few metres away from us, as though we were sitting not in the Perth Concert Hall but in a commodious Parisian salon.
Clarity, precision and freedom escaped through Bach’s complex, baroque sieve. Albeniz’ sun-kissed Granada shimmered in the dim lighting. Villa-Lobos’ bold, technicolour exercises in nylon-string orchestration — especially in the last of his 12 Etudes — exhibited a virile finesse. Morel’s lively Danza Brasilera cheekily taunted Cardoso’s gorgeous, slow Milonga. Koyunbaba soothed and electrified in equal measure.
And all this from a wooden box with six strings. How was it possible? Even in the single, simple encore, Tarrega’s Lagrima (Teardrop), Karadaglic exhibited the same emotional maturity, mellifluous tone and prodigious technique that characterised the rest of the recital.
As he played, Karadaglic’s Narcissus-like gaze rarely strayed from his own delicate left-hand fingers as they danced across the fretboard of his superb Greg Smallman guitar (incidentally, Smallman himself was in the audience).
But as he spoke, sharing his insights into the music and scenes from his own life, his gaze did stray — from the eyes of one audience member to another. Here was a gifted communicator, whatever the mode.
I know it’s a hackneyed phrase, but this was truly a night to remember. And I do hope the Perth Concert Hall considers accommodating smaller recitals and chamber concerts in like fashion in the future.