Review: Classical guitarist Charles Mokotoff in Montgomery

MONTGOMERY — Charles Mokotoff offered a classical guitar concert Sunday afternoon at the Montgomery Senior Center as the season's final program (the 105th) in the Grand Montgomery Chamber Music and Theater Series. The accomplished guitarist played a spectrum of splendid instrumental pieces from different parts of the world and periods of history.

A Middletown native, he is the son of the former mayor Gertrude Mokotoff and now resides in Washington, D.C. Although he has been hearing-impaired for a good deal of his life, his sense of timing, introductory comments and playing were always right on target.

Mokotoff quoted Segovia's definition: "A guitar is an orchestra viewed from the other end of a telescope." Each selection demonstrated the range these six strings can reach, from the first Variations on "Sakura" by Yocoh, where the complex harmonics create an oriental world of Japanese folk songs and tea gardens, to the larghetto and allegro movements of a Mozart divertimento that echo an oboe, clarinet and bassoon for which the piece was originally scored. For four sonatas by Scarlatti, the soloist, using his left hand to subtly fret the changes from allegro to adagio movements, employed his right to strum myriad chords to display the baroque love of counterpoint and ornamentation. The Scarlatti transcriptions by Barrueco and Segovia caught the intricate texture of the original harpsichord arpeggios, which Mokotoff executed with technical skill and personal warmth.

Karen Vandenbergh accompanied Charles Mokotoff

for the three movements,

and they made a perfect match as they exchanged gambits of solo passages and unison duets.

Handel's Concerto in A major for harp and strings has been transcribed by Barbosa-Lima for piano and guitar. Karen Vandenbergh accompanied Mokotoff for the three movements, and they made a perfect match as they exchanged gambits of solo passages and unison duets. The opening andante allegro begins with a piano cadenza repeated by the guitar and then reversed in order, followed by a lyric larghetto and closing with a final allegro of lively legatos.

Two sonatas by Paganini, originally written for the violin and guitar, were redone for the guitar alone because the violin stole all the main themes. The first starts off with a fast tempo, and the second develops a delicate singing melody that flowed from the soloist's fingertips with mellow sonority.

Of course, it's the Spanish tradition that gives the guitar its life support. South American Augustin Barrios wrote a waltz that, as Mokotoff interpreted it, owed more to Venezuela than Vienna, with its gypsy beat in three-quarter time. His "Choro de Sauade" was rhythmic and lyrical in rapid tempo and deep tonality.

Three Spanish pieces completed the program. Albeniz's "Asturias (Leyenda)" has a justly familiar Andalusian melody with rapid chords and dramatic pauses. Granados' "Dedicatoria" features stately and pointedly brief measures. Finally, Albeniz's "Sevilla" evokes the excitement of flamenco dancing and folk songs.

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