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The hundreds of students who packed Holmes living room last night to listen to the classic guitar of Alirio Diaz had the privilege of attending perhaps the year's best and most exciting concert. Mr. Diaz, who finished formal study with Andres Segovia in Italy just a few years ago, proved last night that he is already one of the world's finest guitarists, possibly second to none but the Master himself.
Mr. Diaz began his program brilliantly with a series of 16th century lute transcriptions and played even more superbly with each succeeding selection. The effect of the 16th and 17th century music was enhanced by the drawing room atmosphere of Holmes' living room, the fine nuances of the guitar's tone are usually lost in large concert halls.
Although Mr. Diaz's flawless and effortless technique awed the audience, it was his incredible tone control that left the most lasting impression. His range of tone qualities is so great and varied that one is often tempted to look and make sure he is using only one instrument. In Diaz's hands, the guitar becomes an organ with a hundred stops--but infinitely more expressive. At one point it sounds like a harpsichord; at another, like a carillon, or like a piano. In melodic passages Diaz's shifts were so smooth and his vibrato so intense that the tone was violin-like. During a Villa-Lobos dance his forceful, resonant bass had a brass quality. Such versatility would in itself distinguish his playing; the remarkable thing is that Mr. Diaz is able to shift moods instantaneously, and sustain two different timbres simultaneously.
Unlike other young guitarists with great technical facility, Diaz does not let the special effects confuse or hinder his expression. His phrasing is carefully planned, his rhythm strict but not pedantic, and his dynamics carefully tempered. Mr. Diaz interprets his music intellectually rather than emotionally, maintaining warmth with his tone quality and haunting sonorities.
Last night's program gave Mr. Diaz a chance to display the scope of guitar literature and his own technical and musical excellence. In the Sor Variations on a Theme by Mozart, admittedly a showcase piece, Diaz dazzled his listeners with speed and bell-like clarity. In the Bach Fugue, Diaz heightened the counterpoint by playing each voice with a different tone quality.
Two of the more interesting, less well-known selections Diaz presented were Sainz's Campanas del Alba and Lauro's Two Venezuelan Dances. The Sainz is a tremulo peice very reminiscent of Tarrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra, but far more haunting and piercing. A technically demanding work, Diaz gave it a powerful presentation. Even more impressive was his performance of the Lauro Dances, which romp all over the fretboard.
While Diaz was not perfect, any attempt to pick out faults would be quibbling. My only complaint might be that there was too much richness and intensity for one evening. There seemed to be no end to the beauty in Diaz's Hauser guitar.
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