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Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

Carulli & Company

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"Back by popular demand!" is so often misused that people tend to tune it out, but it perfectly fits two upcoming concerts. First there's the pairing of Ensemble Musical Offering (EMO) Artistic Director Joan Parsley with Cuban-born classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo (their joint venture last season was by all accounts a great success).

The concert, titled "Baroque Beauty and Classical Gas," takes listeners to EMO's Baroque heart and soul and also through the classical guitar repertoire. Izquierdo performs the Preludio from Partita for Solo Violin No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) in a transcription for guitar similar to that which Bach wrote himself for lute (a guitar ancestor). Partita No. 3 (1720) is the most exuberant and cheerful of the three in Bach's Libro primo, the Preludio of which was adapted by Bach for use in two of his cantatas.

Parsley performs the Sonata in G Major, K. 14 by Naples-born composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). Though at first attempting to follow in his famous father's operatic footsteps, Domenico found his true calling in the sonata genre (he composed some 555 between 1719 and 1757). Scarlatti spent the last decades of his life mostly in Portugal and Spain in the service of royalty, writing nearly all of his sonatas for Maria Barbara, daughter of King João V of Portugal. Though virtually all of his sonatas were written for the harpsichord, some of the dissonances and figurations are very guitar-like, and it's certainly no surprise that traces of Iberian folk music can be found throughout the oeuvre.

Parsley and Izquierdo join forces for two works by Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841), the most gifted guitarist of the first half of the 19th century and composer of more than 400 guitar works. Carulli also wrote numerous duos for guitar and other instruments, two of which are on the program: Grand Duos in D Major, Op. 70 and E Minor, Op. 86 for guitar and fortepiano. "Opus 86 is probably Carulli's most adventurous, virtuosic work," Parsley says. "There are solo sections for the fortepiano, sections where the theme is shared by both instruments, the guitar paralleling the right hand of the keyboard-just about every trick in the book. There are elegant, walk-like features which I love."

Izquierdo also performs Andante et Polonaise (titled Souvenirs du Jura), Op. 44 by French guitarist and composer Napoléon Coste (1805-1883). Coste studied under guitar legend Fernando Sor and was one of the leading virtuosos of the instrument in Paris. He's also known for transcribing 17th-century guitar music into modern musical notation.

Nov. 22 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and Nov. 23 at the Wauwatosa Historical Society.

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Present Music, which has assembled a veritable multitude in the true holiday spirit of togetherness: Milwaukee Choral Artists, Milwaukee Children's Choir, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra's Chamber Flute Ensemble, UWM's Flute Ensemble, Bucks Native American Singing & Drumming Group, organist Karen Beaumont and baritone Kurt Ollmann. The concert, featuring music of Henry Brant, takes place Nov. 23 at St. John's Cathedral.

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