Cobo’s Remarkable Show Played Tribute to Seattle’s Own Morrant

» 01 April 1996 » In Reviews »

By RM. CAMPBELL P.I MUSIC CRITIC Guitarist Ricardo Cobo’s concert at Seattle Pacific University’s Bach Theatre Friday night was remarkable for its impeccable taste, fluid technique and clarity of design.

As such, the recital by this hugely talented Colombian-born musician was a fitting tribute to Wynn Morrant- The longtime president of the Seattle Classic Guitar Society who died last year.

A well-known teacher of guitar who taught at SPU and Seattle University, Morrant was one of the city’s most important exponents of classical guitar. Her activities were wide-ranging, not only in Seattle, and always aimed at achieving a wide audience for the singular beauties of the guitar.

As president of the 38-year-old society for more than two decades, Morrant was responsible for bringing to Seattle a number of notable guitarists, including Julian Bream, Benjamin Verdery, Paco Pena, David Russell, Oscar Gighlia and William Kanengeiser.

Cobo is the sort of artist she would have booked, for he demonstrates the quality of his breeding at every turn. Invariably he delivered the goods with textural clarity, control and passionate musicianship.

His program was almost entirely derived from this century: A polonaise of the 19Ih-century French composer and guitarist Napoleon Coste was the only exception.

The rest of the evening included works ranging from those of the Cuban-born composer Leo Brouwer to a couple of tangos by Astor Piazzolla of Argentina and a waltz by Nikita Koshkin of Russia, as well as works by Eduardo Sainz de la Maza, Antonio Lauro, and Roland Dyens.

Cobo has high regard for Brouwer and calls him “one of the great 2Oth-century figures in the history of the guitar.” As such, Cobo is recording a great deal of his music. Thus, be said at Friday night’s performance, the generous inclusion of Brouwer’s music: a fugue to open the concert, followed by the suite, “El Decameron Negro,” which takes its programmatic inspiration from Boccaccio’s 14th-Century “Decameron,” and a Sonata composed in 1990.

The concert probably would have been better off with less Brouwer. While each work has its merits, they blend together when heard in rapid succession.

Nevertheless, “EI Decameron” has plenty of individual color and charm, which Cobo elucidated with his suave manner.

The Sonata was equally diversified: especially the imagined conversation between Antonio Soler of 18th-century Spain and Beethoven of 19th-century Germany in “Fandangos y Boleros,” and the scattered hints of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin in “Sarabanda de Scriabin.” Cobo’s response was one of soft warmth and power.

Interwoven with his Brouwer mix was a handful of engaging works by Piazzolla and Koshkin. The two Piazzolla tangos, “La Muerte del Angel” and “Primavera PorteƱa,” possess the composer’s characteristic combination of beguiling melodies and piquant rhythms. Cobo has obvious sympathy for Piazzolla’s unique style which he delivered with his uncommon sense of lucidity and graciousness without robbing the music of its robust flavor.

To Koshkin’s “Usher Waltz,” based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Cobo brought intensity coupled with lightness of touch.

Proceeds from the concert will help the McKenna-Morrant Scholarship Fund at the Seattle Classic Guitar Society.

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