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Volume 19 Issue 9 - June/July/August 2014

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  • Jazz
  • Toronto
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BY TERRY ROBBINSIn

BY TERRY ROBBINSIn mid-February, David Perlman and I, along with a few dozen others, braved a bitterly cold Toronto winter evening to attend the HeliconianHall launch of Mosaic, the second solo CD by the outstanding Toronto-based classical guitarist Michael Kolk.An hour or two later, having just witnessed as fine a display of classical guitar playing as either of us had ever seen, we found ourselveswondering: If an artist of Kolk’s world-class quality was launching a solo CD in such a small, intimate venue with 30 people attending,was the classical guitar, if not exactly on the solo concert instrument critically endangered or endangered lists, at least on the vulnerable list?Furthermore, in this age of downloading and ubiquitous social media, was the whole concept of venue even relevant any more?For many years, through the 19th and early 20th centuries, musicmakingat home usually involved a piano; no self-respecting homewould have been without one. Times and tastes change, however, andif there’s one single instrument more closely associated with amateurmusic-making than any other these days, it’s the guitar.The instrument has been around forhundreds of years, of course, mainly insome form of what we think of as theclassical or Spanish guitar, but it wasn’tuntil Segovia almost single-handedlyestablished it as a bona fide solo recitalinstrument in the early 20th centurythat it really began to catch the generalpublic’s attention. Electrical amplificationof steel-string guitars in the 1930sand 1940s led to its increasing use in jazzand blues ensembles, but the real explosionin its popularity came in the late1950s and early 1960s with its role in thefolk-music revival and the pop-musicrevolution.Suddenly, it seemed, every teenagerwanted to play guitar, and itwasn’t too difficult to reach abasic level of chord and strummingproficiency that enabledyou to enjoy yourself. “That’s aC-major chord. That’s a big one,”Mickey Shaughnessy tells aneagerly receptive Elvis Presley in1957’s Jailhouse Rock; “Now trythe G.”What immediately set theguitar apart from other instruments,though, was its widerange of designs and sounds,and the variety of playing stylesit offered. This variety and flexibilityhas always been part of theinstrument’s wide appeal, and hashelped to power it to its position asClassical ComebackKolk and Karadaglić on the Concert TrailTop: Michael KolkBelow: Miloš Karadaglićone of the most popular instruments in the world, particularly froman amateur participation viewpoint. Consider the numerous differenttypes of guitar, and the playing possibilities they offer: classical; jazz;folk; rock; flamenco; pop; blues; country; heavy metal; bluegrass –just take your pick (no pun intended), and follow your fancy.This variety has also made the issue of crossover performances –the current bane or lifesaver of classical music, depending on who’sdoing it, how it’s done or how you happen to feel about it – essentiallyredundant for guitarists, who can at least to some extent movebetween genres quite freely. There are obviously technical as well asstylistic limitations here – I’ve played numerous theatrical runs of Manof La Mancha, for instance, but would never even consider trying toplay Rent – but the blurring of boundaries between styles hardly raiseseyebrows any more.The Montenegrin guitarist Miloš Karadaglić certainly has noproblems blurring the boundaries, not only between styles but alsobetween venues. Now based in London in the UK after studying at theRoyal Academy of Music, he exploded onto the international scenein 2011 with his debut Deutsche Grammophon CD Mediterráneo,which enjoyed worldwide success and earned him the GramophoneYoung Artist of the Year award. Hissecond CD, Latino, was releasedthe following year, which alsosaw Miloš (no surname needed,apparently) touring Europe,North America, the Far Eastand Australia.Canción, his third CD, andhis latest release, Aranjuez, areboth currently featured on ourown Classical 96.3FM’s classicalalbum charts, as indeed was Kolk’sMosaic CD in the weeks followingits release.Karadaglić is clearly at homein any type of setting, from largeconcert halls to small nightclubsand non-traditional venues, yetapparently manages to keep theintimate nature of the instrumentfront and centre, albeitwith the aid of some technicalsupport. His debut in front of 3,000 people inLondon’s massive Royal Albert Hall promptedThe Guardian to marvel at “the way a singleguitarist, playing an intimate and understatedset and equipped with a single microphone andsome clever lighting, could shrink the Hall’scavernous space into something so close.”Part of this retention of a sense of intimacyis clearly Karadaglić’s strong reliance on theclassical guitar repertoire (or at least its morepopular works) which he combines withcontemporary popular music – what one Australian newspaperdescribed as “his ability to straddle both hardcore classical and popclassical camps.” His huge popularity may well also be helped by thefact that he’s not simply following the dumbed-down approach ofsome crossover artists but is maintaining an extremely high technicaland musical standard.We do perhaps tend to think of classical guitarists – or any soloconcert artists, for that matter – as staying within their chosen fieldand playing nothing else, but in fact guitarists are frequently adeptin several, and quite different, styles. Moreover, those who start withclassical study would appear to have an advantage when it comes tomoving to other styles of playing: not only is there the increased leftand right hand finger dexterity compared to basic chord and strummingpatterns, but there is also the undoubted benefit of beingcomfortable reading music. Not that that necessarily affects yourplaying ability – the list of guitarists who couldn’t read music includesWes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, DjangoReinhardt and Les Paul. You could be in worse company.Continued on page 868 | June 4, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014 thewholenote.comLARS BORGES/MERCURY CLASSICS

MONDAY2014 TD National TourJULY28National Tour andAudition Sponsor20147:30 P MKoerner HallTicket information: nyoc.org416.532.4470inspiredMaestroEmmanuel VillaumefeaturingMahler – Symphony No. 1Strauss – Till EulenspiegelGripp - Passacagliaall repertoire subect to changeOfficial AirlineMedia Sponsoran Ontario government agencyun organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontariothewholenote.com June 4, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014 | 9

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