Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Afshar's classical guitar
casts a beautiful spell

Concert review

By John K. Toedtman
Enquirer contributor

Dr. Lily Afshar, head of the guitar program at the University of Memphis, presented an enchanting recital of predominantly 20th-century works for the classical guitar Sunday afternoon at Xavier University.

Playing a 1992 Millennium model guitar by the American craftsman Thomas Humphrey, Afshar evoked a multitude of tonal colors and shadings from her instrument. Her skillful use of tempo rubato, brilliant and effortless technique and sensuous tone kept the large audience spellbound.

For the opening piece, "Un Dia de Noviembre," by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer, Afshar produced a graceful, romantic melody that was enhanced by her use of flexible tempi and a large palette of tonal hues.

"Omar's Fancy," written for Afshar by Bosnian composer Dusan Bogdanovic and inspired by the poetry of Omar Khayyam, contained intricate rhythms and a wonderful use of percussive tapping on the guitar, while "Waltz, Op. 8, No. 3" by Agustin Barrios Mangore was performed like a Polish mazurka with a Latin flavor.

"Koyunbaba, Op. 15" by Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi has four movements and spins a tale about a Turkish sheepherder. In the last movement, a presto, Afshar's guitar sounded like a harpsichord, with an incessant repetition of the notes.

Two Beatles songs made for a delightful diversion from the more serious repertoire of the day. Like J.S. Bach's music, the Beatles' songs have been transferred to many mediums, but "Eleanor Rigby" and "Michelle" never sounded more charming and original than when played by Afshar.

A highlight was the noble "Tango and Sevilla" by Albeniz, who wrote the piece for piano, though Afshar made a convincing case for its performance on guitar. There is nobility about this music.

Afshar managed to transcend the technical difficulties and subordinate her control and virtuosity to the inner artistry of the music she loves. In doing so, she communicated the beauty of the classical guitar.

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