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April 27: Review of Cristóbal Selamé’s concert

You infer from a live performance by young guitarist Cristóbal Selamé some of the spirit of one of his mentors, David Russell, who once told me,

“I aim to help my listener really enjoy and see the same things that I see in the music. Then I’m happy.”

At the comfortably welcoming Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, on a spring evening, Selamé intoned the start of his concert with the resonant chimes of An Malvina, by short-lived 19th Century composer Johann Kaspar Mertz, and in the guitarist’s hands, this piece was rendered timeless and borderless, somehow evoking the loveliness of folk music from Selamé’s native Chile. In similar fashion, the guitarist followed the five sections of Bach’s French Suite no. 2 as if he were dancing his fingers through them, getting each dance over the centuries to us and inviting us to join in. And he brought us prettily back to the sacred setting of his concert with fellow Latin American Agustín Barrios Mangoré’s Le Catedral, adroitly letting the bright notes ring along the dulcet melodies, then charmingly leading us through the dreamy avian landscape of that Paraguayan composer’s Un Sureño en la Foresta.

After intermission, Selamé reawakened his fans and demonstrated the assured strength of his attack, with the heady rhythms and tangy modes of the Suite Española of Francisco Tárrega. The Iberian journey, with the guitarist as an informed, evocative guide, led on to the blithe Serenata Española, by Joaquin Malats, Tárrega’s contemporary. Then an alluring return to the Southern Hemisphere and the Retrato Brasiliero, by Brazilian guitar icon Baden Powell. Selamé then showcased his own, delightfully accessible arrangement of Gente humilde by Augusto Sardinha Garoto, which had been previously recorded in different voicings by fellow Brazilian Powell. The concert came to an unforgettable close, again appropriate to its performance beneath a bell tower, with Selamé’s clear, tender reading of Joao Pernambuco’s Sons de Carrilhoes.

Author: Jeff Kaliss

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