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Accomplished Spanish classical guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas brought a substantial solo guitar program to The Conrad Saturday, December 7, for the La Jolla Music Society. Unlike some performers who appear on the organization’s various series and then disappear from local stages, Sáinz Villegas performed for the LJMS in 2016 and is slated to return for two additional performances this season—March 6 and May 9, 2020. He will soon also commence his role as the organization’s first Education Ambassador in Residence.

In Saturday’s opening “Sevilla” by Isaac Albéniz and the finale, Francisco Tárrega’s “Gran Jota,” Sáinz Villegas established his virtuoso technique, confidently articulating their vibrant dance rhythms and brilliant flourishes, adroitly adding bright harmonics and scintillating glissandos. He brought out the flamenco verve of Albéniz’s “Asturias,” another exotic musical postcard from the composer’s Suite espagnole, Op. 47. In Jerónimo Giménez’s Intermezzo from his zarzuela—a unique Spanish-language variation of musical theater—La Boda de Luis Alonso, Sáinz Villegas impressively expanded the sonic range of his instrument interpreting this colorful orchestral arrangement

The closest Sáinz Villegas came to pushing his audience’s comfort level in his recital devoted exclusively to Spanish guitar music was his selection of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Incovación y Danza,” subtitled “Homage to M. De Falla.” Although no one would call Rodrigo’s style avant-garde, the composer did engage in harmonic excursions that nudged the boundaries of traditional tonality.

Less compelling were an anonymous “Spanish Romance,” a folk song presented in a simple, prosaic arrangement, and Enrique Granados’ “Valses poéticos,” a string of eight waltzes that ran out of inventive possibilities half-way through the piece.

Some 20 years ago, the celebrated Spanish Romero family of virtuoso guitarists settled in San Diego’s north county, and I recall attending frequent solo recitals by both Pepe Romero and Angel Romero, as well as concerts by the well-traveled quartet of Romero family guitarists. In Sáinz Villegas’ performance at The Conrad, I missed the warmth and welcoming character displayed by the Romero guitarists.

This recital was presented on Saturday, December 7, 2019, at The Conrad’s Baker-Baum Concert Hall in downtown La Jolla.

Ken Herman

Ken Herman

Ken Herman, a classically trained pianist and organist, has covered music for the San Diego Union, the Los Angeles Times' San Diego Edition, and for sandiego.com. He has won numerous awards, including first place for Live Performance and Opera Reviews in the 2017, the 2018, and the 2019 Excellence in Journalism Awards competition held by the San Diego Press Club. A Chicago native, he came to San Diego to pursue a graduate degree and stayed.Read more…

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