Sold out! What else? The Kreuzkirche was full to capacity on Tuesday evening. As always when David Russell comes to the guitar festival. Miraculously, he has been doing this with great regularity for many years and every time the festival audience, most of whom are experts, goes into raptures. It was no different on Tuesday either. With his flawless and soulful playing, Russell literally ripped the audience off their seats. At the end there was a standing ovation for the likeable artist.

Every two years, the people of Nürtingen have the opportunity to hear this brilliant, exceptional musician live. And every time you are amazed at how wonderfully this man can play the guitar. In a playful, effortless manner, he lets his left hand fly completely silently over the six nylon strings and doesn't seem at all strained. The striking hand is in no way inferior. The tones bubble warm and full from the body of the Dammann guitar and nestle in the ear of the listener, who listens pensively to these almost magical sounds while at the same time raptly following the acrobatic activity on the fretboard.

The Scot, who lives in Spain, has recorded over 20 albums throughout his remarkable career. Most with classical guitar music from the Renaissance to today. For his CD “Aire Latino” Russell won the Grammy in 2005 in the category “Best Solo Instrument Performance without an Orchestra”. Not only the work of Francisco Tárrega and the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach arranged for guitar are known to be in the best hands with David Russell. He also comes up with surprises in each of his concerts.

He served the first right at the beginning of the program. He played five pieces by Silvius Leopold Weiss. The gifted lute player was a contemporary of Bach. His technically demanding compositions are not usually part of the standard repertoire of concert guitarists.


Russell played a “suite” composed by Weiss, whose dance movements he said he grouped around a particularly heartfelt Tombeau. The listeners enjoyed the baroque sound, which oscillated between minor and major and, typical of this era, did not skimp on musical flourishes and ornaments.

Another very pleasant surprise in Russell's concert program were six “lyrical pieces” by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, arranged for the guitar. The music from Scandinavia, especially that of Grieg, has a very special flair. The dances and folk tunes that Russell performed were characterized by attractive harmonic progressions. Images of dancing elves in the light-filled forest come to mind.

After the well-deserved break, Russell worked up a sweat in the heated Kreuzkirche, and he played “Three Symphonies” by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach wrote his inventions and symphonies for keyboard instruments such as the clavichord or harpsichord. When listening, it is all the more astonishing how perfect Bach's brilliant musical ideas also sound on the classical guitar. In general, the arrangements are characterized by the fact that they require a considerable amount of dexterity from the player. Of course, this isn't a problem for Bach expert Russell.

Before David Russell tackled the Celtic pieces announced in the programme, he played a musical portrait composed for him by Sergio Assad, which he said was completed in December. The gifted guitarist and composer Assad (who has also performed at the Nürtingen Guitar Festival together with his brother Odair) has characterized the people of the Russell family (father, mother, wife Maria and the artist himself) with short melodies. “David’s Portrait” is a very pleasing, playfully sophisticated work that shows the expressive possibilities of the guitar.

Subsequently, Russell played jigs and reels, fast dance tunes, from Scotland and Ireland at a breathtaking pace at times. He embedded “Farewell to Stromness” by Peter Maxwell Davies into these Celtic folk pieces. A small masterpiece full of melancholic harmony in a calmly moving tempo. A piece with catchy quality.

The sweat-soaked musician thanked the applause that erupted after the final chord of “The Bucks or Oranmore” with three extremely substantial encores. In the first, “Gran Jota”, by Tárrega, David Russell once again impressively showed why he is considered one of the best guitarists in the world. “Gran Jota” is a furious firework of classical Spanish guitar music, into which the composer has packed in almost every technical difficulty.

With the second encore, David Russell, who has been a regular guest at the guitar festival for 20 years, thanked the organizational team and the volunteers. He played “Ay, ondas que eu vin ver” by Stephen Goss for them, a little musical treasure that invites you to dream.

The concert ended with Agustín Barrios’ meltingly beautiful gem “Una Limosna por el amor de Dios”. The audience rose and gave the great artist a standing ovation.

Volker Haussmann

Nürtingen Zeitung






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