Trio Bolero at Westmoreland
Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 10:40AM
Stephen Brookes

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • January 31, 2011

The classical repertoire isn't exactly overflowing with music for two guitars and cello, which presented a problem for guitarist Miroslav Loncar back in the early 1990s. Wanting to play chamber music with his guitarist wife, Natasa Klasinc, and their friend Rebekah Stark Johnson, a cellist, Loncar began transcribing music far from the beaten guitar path. The result was both new music and a unique ensemble - known as Trio Bolero - and on Saturday night at Westmoreland Congregational Church, the group pushed the guitar repertoire into intriguing new realms.

Sergei RachmaninoffTranscriptions can be controversial; some say they distort a composer's vision, others say they open windows into familiar works. Loncar's transcriptions should persuade the doubters. They were skillfully done and most successful when he combined long, sweeping lines in the cello with delicate accompaniment from the guitars. Johnson has a fine romantic imagination and a rich, singing tone on the cello, and she used both to great effect in Rachmaninoff's soaring "Vocalise" and the elegant "Pavane" by Gabriel Faure.

Not everything came off quite as well, alas. The Bolero played cautiously for much of the evening, and works that should have been electrifying - such as Luigi Boccherini's Spanish-flavored "Introduction and Fandango" - came off as merely pleasant. A little more brio would have brought Bela Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" to life, and the group's polite reading of a suite drawn from "Carmen" did little justice to Bizet's passion. But there was much to love - a two-guitar account of George Gershwin's Three Piano Preludes was just gorgeous - and the concert (part of the John E. Marlow Guitar Series) brought some refreshing new material to the familiar guitar fare.

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