If there's any place one could picture hearing a tango or a pair of castanets, it certainly wouldn't be in a wooden-pewed, stained-glassed Presbyterian church. In fact, during the Michael Lucarelli and Friends Sunday night concert, the contrast between high church and low-life seemed almost humorous. But it worked.
Violinist Kelly Parkinson and local guitarist Lucarelli transformed the church into an Argentine cafe with incredible acoustics. Their interpretation of Piazzolla's "Histoire du Tango" was brilliant, beginning with Parkinson's deft bowing in the first movement (which happened to be reverently titled, "Bordel 1900").For the second movement, Parkinson slid into her notes producing a sultry sound. Mid-movement Piazzolla calmed the violin and gave the guitar a quiet harmonic interlude, which changed the mood completely. The violin accelerated after the interlude, exchanging sexiness for speed, but settled back into the same lonely sounding sultriness. Lucarelli really developed the character of those interludes, enabling the mood to change without seeming forced.
In his Quintet in D Major, composer Boccherini demonstrated that a guitar can work as a chamber instrument. The first movements sounded like Water Music, and then he threw in a fandango after a Grave assai, complete with tambourine and castanets. According to program notes, when Boc-cherini's quintets for guitar and string quartet were published in Paris, a second viola substituted for the guitar part.
The viola would work up to the fandango but not beyond. No instrument can replace the distinctive, frenzied sound the guitar makes in the fandango. And any group of musicians would be hard pressed to come up with the same performance the violinists, the violist and cellist Bridger rendered.
Lucarelli opened the concert with flutist Laurel Ann Maurer in Giuliani's Grosse Sonata, op. 85. Lucarelli crisply articulated the runs in the closing measures of the first movement, particularly in the upper registers, so clearly at times his instrument sounded like a harpsichord. Maurer showed expert phrasing in the second movement, while Lucarelli provided the perfect busy undercurrent right up to the last note of the flute: The guitar stopped, and the flute sustained its final note, which hung clear and beautiful in the church's vaulted ceiling.
This piece allowed Lucarelli the attention he deserves. He expertly handled the rapid arpeggios in the final movement demonstrating his technical expertise on the instrument.
Soprano Elizabeth Paniagua deserves note for her interpretation of Granados's "El Tralala y El Punteado." With her hands set defiantly on her hips, she made the opening and closing refrain of Bachianas brasileiras no. 5 haunting and showed fine-tuned diction.