The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet (MGQ) didn’t disappoint in putting on an interesting and enjoyable show as it showcased some of its favorite pieces in Saturday night’s concert.
The concert was the third in this school year’s Rhea Miller Concert Series, an annual series that brings highly-acclaimed musicians to the University at no cost to audiences.
The quartet played pieces by well-known composers such as Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky, as well as lesser-known composers such as Maria Kalaniemi and Astor Piazzolla, in an enjoyable two hour concert.
The MGQ, whose members include Ben Getaño, Joe Hagedon, Steve Newbrough and Wade Oden, has received recognition for its sound and has been featured on NPR’s “Performance Today.”
From Saturday’s concert, it was easy to hear why they’ve received so much recognition. Not only is the quartet an excellent group of musicians, but it is an excellent group of performers.
The MGQ opened with Piazzolla’s “Windy,” a quick staccato piece that set the mood for the evening with its rich sound and expressive melody.
Members of the quartet were eager to speak with the audience between pieces, which made for a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.
Hagedon and Getaño offered quick history lessons behind most of the pieces on the program. They also pointed out parts of pieces the audience should listen for, including what they called “texture,” unique sounds that came from key changes, tempo and rhythm.
My favorite pieces of the evening were Debussy’s “Petite Suite” and Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Cuatro Piezas.”
Originally a piano piece, the guitar arrangement of “Petite Suite” stayed true to Debussy but still managed to breathe new life into his music.
Hints of Debussy’s signature style, including his love of parallel chords and his experimentation with tonality, weren’t lost in this arrangement. The quartet embodied each movement with such expression that it was easy to get lost in the beauty of Debussy’s music.
The first movement, “En Bateau,” was a slower, legato piece reminiscent of one of Debussy’s most well-known compositions, “Clair de Lune.” The second and third movements, “Cortege” and “Menuet,” were lively, light and airy.
The fourth movement, “Ballet,” had a quick melody, beautiful harmonies and rich sound. The sound reminded me of a piano with its range and fullness that took over the room, which is no easy task for four musicians.
My other favorite piece of the evening was “Cuatro Piezas,” which Getaño said was composed in the late 1920s during Rodrigo’s stranding in Paris and was meant to capture vignettes of Spanish scenery.
The movements, depicting horse-drawn carriages, dances and a prayer of a princess, offered rolling rhythms, changing tempos and keys and expressive passages that portrayed the emotions of a man longing for his home country.
The only downside of attending the concert was the interruption of cell phones, which happened twice. Thankfully the interruptions occurred after a piece and after a movement was complete. But, it was still maddening and embarrassing to have the quartet look toward the audience and wait to speak or play until the phones were silenced.
If anything, these incidents are an indication of the growing carelessness of audiences when it comes to manners during live music. Not only does this interrupt the music, but it interrupts an audience’s concentration and its connection to the music.
Despite these interruptions, having such an accomplished quartet come to the University was a pleasure.
The MGQ showcased its musicianship and its love of music in an enjoyable program. Its creativity in its arrangements and a diverse program proved just why it is one of the most highly regarded guitar quartets in the country.