THE JOHN E. MARLOW GUITAR SERIES
He had me at, “my wife and I have walked the Camino many times.” This is how David Russell, classical guitarist who plays in the stratosphere high above the ordinary crowd, began his introduction to the second work on Saturday’s program, Cantigas de Santiago by Stephen Goss. He also had me before that in his opening Suite Compostelana by Federico Mompou, equally inspired by the famous pilgrimage. David admittedly hasn’t made the 500 mile trek all at once but he lives within a 200 mile shot of the city and has done it enough to have logged in some impressive mileage. His own experience as a pilgrim set the tone for the Cantigas drawn from the earliest of Iberian secular songs and twelfth and thirteenth century collections. In the Goss work, one at times skips along the route and, at others, sits down to give the sandals a rest and reflect on the road behind and ahead. There was even a hint of Moorish influence in one of the movements which added to the complex dimensions of these historically set pieces. Sitting comfortably in the 21st century with lightweight backpacks and gear, it’s hard to imagine how the journey, all those centuries ago, would have been for whole families making their way to the relics of St. James, but this music makes it sound like a breeze, so if you’re planning the adventure, download the Cantigas — they’re sure to please and take the edge off those aching limbs. The Suite Compostelana, Mompou’s only work for the guitar, gave us some impressive, utterly exquisite and impeccably executed passages which left the audience a bit hushed after its hearing. It was the kind of interpretation that lends itself to accolades of “otherworldliness” and “if he’d lived in ancient Rome he’d be a god.” But Spain has already named at least one street after David Russell so it’s easy to understand the esteem in which he’s held there.