For the April meeting our usual venue, Shipston Methodist Church, was almost full for a recital by Claire Bradshaw (mezzo soprano) and her husband, the Australian born classical guitar player Craig Ogdon. Unfortunately Miss Bradshaw was indisposed but, undaunted, Craig Ogdon performed a complete programme of varied guitar music. He is one of the finest exponents of the instrument and has performed with all the major UK orchestras plus many abroad. He enjoys performing new works and his five Classical FM albums all shot straight to No. 1 in the classical chart. He is the youngest instrumentalist to have received a Fellowship Award from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Highlights of the evening included the “Pavanne and Fantasia” by John Dowland written towards the end of the 16th century for the lute. The lively “Grand Overture” by Mauro Giuliani provided an interesting contrast. Born in 1780, he was known as a genius on the guitar and the slow introduction followed by a fast and furious section soon illustrated his grasp of all the sounds and effects that were possible on the instrument. Later we heard two pieces by Mangore – “Julia Florida” with its beautiful lyrical melody and “Vals Op. 8” which was very rhythmic with intricate finger work. Two pieces by J.S.Bach, a “Suite for lute” and “Prelude, Gavotte, Gigue and Allemande” were followed by “Sevilla” by Albeniz. This displayed all the characteristics of traditional flamenco music; the strong powerful chords and lively melodic line played with a certain degree of rubato. One could almost hear the clicking of the castanets and the swishing of the dancers’ skirts! To complete the programme we heard two pieces by Gary Ryan, a friend of Craig Ogdon, who is another of the world’s leading exponents of the classical guitar. “Lough Garagh” with its wistful melody conjuring up scenes of peace and tranquillity and “Rondo Rodeo” a contrasting composition not for the faint-hearted performer with all the rapid finger work and different techniques required to produce the effects requested by the composer. In Craig Ogdon’s hands however, this was a memorable, virtuoso performance and was rewarded by rapturous applause from the delighted audience.
Throughout the evening Craig enlightened us with snippets of information with reference to performance (R.H. nails need to be longer and L,H. shorter), the need for regular tuning throughout the evening and the difference between the lute and the guitar. He also entertained us with some aspects of his career and details of his guitar, made by a famous Australian luthier, Brett Williams, which was subsequently stolen but was replaced by another “which is even better”!
We felt privileged to be able to enjoy an evening of music which displayed such outstanding skill and musicianship from a world class performer in this small town. This, together with his obvious pleasure in performing, had produced an evening of unforgettable joy and delight. After a short but dazzling encore we sent our best wishes to his wife for a speedy recovery and we very much hope that we will enjoy another evening in the future when they will perform together for us.