BGS Concert: Nora Buschmann

I suppose people will remember the weekend of April 17th for many reasons. Most likely it will be for the disruptions caused by the volcano with the unpronounceable name in Iceland. For us, lucky lot at the Bromley Guitar Society, it will be the memory of the wonderful UK debut for guitarist artiste Nora Buschmann.

And the God who smiles upon all classical guitar lovers was hard at work beforehand! The Icelandic volcano held its fury back long enough for Nora and her husband Fernando to arrive safely at Gatwick from Berlin thereby ensuring the success of the BGS concert!! (Hopefully they won’t have too much trouble returning!!)

The program was an eclectic mixture of pieces reflecting Nora’s passion for the musical influences associated with the Middle East along side the haunting vibrant themes associated with South America. Her guitar was especially crafted for her by the late Alejander Van Der Horst and, in Nora’s hands, it sang sweetly. There is an absolute truth and beauty in her performance. Some guitarists ‘scratch’ or claw at the strings. (I know because I tend to do it). Nora cajoles and insinuates. She gently draws out the melody in a way that catches your breath. She set the opening mood with a two lovely pieces -Fantasia in A minor by Kellner followed by a beautiful rendition of Elegie by Mertz.

Then, under Nora’s spell, we were transported to a variety of landscapes beginning with a musical homage to South America with Villa Lobos Suite Populaire Bresielenne.

The titles of these pieces, each of which combines a European form with a Brazilian dance, the chôro, reflect a mix of popular and classical styles and forms that were part of the tapestry of the music of the cinemas, nightclubs and cafes of the early part of the century that played such a strong influence on the composer . (Such hybrids were characteristic of Brazilian popular dance music at the time.) Nora captured these impressions with the opening Mazurka-Chôros, with its somewhat nostalgic tone, followed by a Schottisch-Chôros (the schottisch was a kind of polka-like dance popular in the nineteenth century), a bittersweet Valsa-Chôros, and a lovely, almost classically styled Gavota-Chôros. The concluding Chôrinho, a miniature chôros, is a bit darker-hued and dramatic than the previous four pieces.

As a student of Domeniconi, it was to be expected that Nora would include one or two of his compositions. We were treated to a technically flawless performance of Toccata in Blue a piece that was influenced by the style of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Toccata in Blue with its opening of high drama, eases into a more lyrical vein but towards the end there is a flurry of arpeggios and pedal point. It is a fiendishly difficult piece requiring firm mastery which Nora displayed easily.

After interval we returned back to the musical landscape of the South American tundra with a spell binding performance of three pieces by Augustin Barrios Mangore, Gran Tremelo, Maxixe and Vals No4 Optus 8 followed by Paolo Bellenati’s Un amor de Vals and the percussive fiery little piece Jongo (As I write this I am reliving the experience listening to the pieces on Nora’s CD Appassionata Latina. )

However, for me personally, the biggest treat of the evening was the performance of Koyunbaba, Domeniconi’s homage to his love of Turkish culture. The name is actually Turkish and literally translates as "sheep-father" (koyun-baba), or "shepherd", some sources also translate it to "the spirit of the sheep", but also refers to many other things, including a 13th century mystical saint-like figure.

And, like most of Domeniconi’s compositions, this is not one for the faint hearted. It requires firm but gentle mastery of the instrument.

Nora captured the intense moodiness and drama of the piece with its contrasting tempos and dynamics. Not a cough nor splutter from the audience during this performance!! Even the catankerous boiler at St Marks managed to remain silent!!

Because Koyunbaba requires the guitar strings to be tuned unconventionally to a C#minor chord, our Treasurer, Steve Pearson very generously and graciously loaned Nora his Rolf Eichinger guitar for the performance of Koyunbaba. And because of the amazing quality of the performance I will be surprised if he returns the guitar back to its traditional tuning.

All in all it was a fantastic evening and was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. It was her UK debut and we are extremely proud that we can say that Bromley Guitar Society provided the platform for her introduction to the UK Classical Guitar Scene.

As with all BGS concerts, they don’t just happen by magic. Usually you don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes by the BGS Executive whose only reward is the audience’s enjoyment and excitement of the performance itself. It is time to mention those people and thank them for their hard work.

I’ll leave this part up to our chairman Denis Stockton whose kind email I have included below

“I would like to express my thanks to all of you for the tremendous amount of hard work that went into last Saturday's recital.

I am sorry that Shirley missed out, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. However, both Shirley and Vince did a superb job regarding the ticketing, particularly with Vince "saving the day" at the last minute.

Steve Pearson handled the funding perfectly and the programme that he produced, together with his very talented daughter, is worth a special mention. Also, thank you for providing accommodation for Nora and Fernando. Please pass these thanks on to your parents.

Andrew Ferrier set the whole thing up and dealt with every detail from day one. Co-coordinating that enterprise must have been a nightmare so, well done Andrew. Also, thank you and Fran for wining and dining Nora and Fernando, and for showing them around Kent and Sussex.

Thanks to Trevor, as always, and to Steve Dowdell and Dave Hampton for their transporting of the stage.

All that I had to do was to make the closing address. It's good to know that, as I get older and less able to do the physical and organisational things so much, I can rely on such a dedicated team.”
For those of you who missed the concert, Nora is playing Bellenati's Un Amor de Vals, which was included on the concert program.

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