Gitarrissima, Songs for Valentine, South Holland Concerts, South Holland Centre, Spalding
The 34th season of South Holland Concerts on a post-Valentine’s Day weekend with a suitably romantic programme of music played by a quintet from one of the most idyllic cities in which to fall in love.
Gitarrissima, of Vienna, paid a return visit to Spalding’s South Holland Centre exactly ten years and four months after their previous trip to the community arts venue.
Two of the all-guitar playing group, Bulgarian octave guitarist Olga Dimitrova and Austrian Maria Benischek, were survivors from November 2007 when they were described by the programme notes at the time as “a wealth of musical colour which combines cleverly balanced voicings with an airy transparency and ingenious use of the entire range of playing techniques”.
Before the concert, Olga said: “The group was formed in 2001 for an occasion in Vienna which a teacher at the University of Music and Performing Arts wanted some of his students to play at.
“The teacher composed some arrangements and the girls liked them so much that they decided to carry on as a group.
I’ve discovered that the guitar is an instrument you can play a variety of music with and so the idea behind the group is to experiment with the music we likeBulgarian octave guitarist Olga Dimitrova, Gitarrissima
“A year after forming Gitarrissima, the group took part in an international guitar competition in Germany called ‘Open Strings’ and it won a prize.
“I’ve been playing with Gitarrissima since 2006 and I’ve discovered that the guitar is an instrument you can play a variety of music with and so the idea behind the group is to experiment with the music we like, with the instruments we’ve been taught how to play.
“This went further and further until all the members of the group were asked ‘Do you like the music?’ and we all found it easier to bring new members into the group to fit in.”
More than ten years on, Gitarrissima lost none of its powers of musical seduction with a programme that included works by Shostakovich, Bizet, Elgar, Gershwin, Copland and Prokoviev.
But not only did the women play their chosen programme, they also presented it in cut-glass English that demonstrated the continuing influence of South Holland Concerts’ late and much-missed secretary and programme notes author, Peter Case.
Particular highlights on a special Sunday afternoon included the Japanese folk song “Furusato”, from Rhapsody Japan by Shingo Fujii, and Leo Weiner’s Fuchstanz (Gypsy Song) from Divertimento No 1, op. 20.
Olga said: “The theme for our programme was ‘Songs for Valentine’ so all of the pieces were from love songs composed as part of classical works.
“They all hung together but we didn’t put forward our programme with any thought of mixing well-known pieces in with less well-known ones on purpose.
“All of the pieces are very popular, including Fujii’s ‘Furusato’ which is the most famous song in Japan.
“Our idea was to make the most of touring different countries by playing songs that audiences would recognise.”
Antonina added: “I like our programme of music and what we do because we use a lot of special effects and the pitches of our guitars are different, from the higher octave one through to the deeper bass guitar.”
There was even time for Gitarrissima to reunite their audience, or refresh their memory as the case may be, of two elements from their 2007 programme, three movements from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite and two works by Shostakovich, “Tahiti Trot” and Waltz No. 2.
Added to that were second outings, ten years and four months on, for Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets”, from Romeo and Juliet, and three movements from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet, Gayaneh.
From the same Austrian capital that gave the world Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Haydn, Mahler and Johann Strauss II, Gitarrissima are now keeping the Vienna light burning brightly.
Olga said: “Living in Vienna is interesting because I learned about the culture of Austrians and then met people from other countries.
“We have a mix of different languages but when I first came to Austria, I couldn’t speak a word of German so for two or three years, I was learning both music and the German language.
Review and interview by Winston Brown