Concert review, June 21
Le Poisson Rouge, New York
Milos Karadaglic, a 27 year old musician from Montenegro, has recently taken quite an extraordinary path for a classical guitarist. Signed by Deutsche Grammophon, Milos has been traveling extensively promoting his newly released CD “Mediterraneo”. Additionally, Milos has been popping up in several mainstream publications such as The Economist, New York Times, The Guardian etc.. I have observed some curious reactions to Milos’ recent publicity and I will address that later in this article, but first I will tell you about the concert last night.
Having attended countless classical guitar concerts over the past couple of decades, I was really delighted to experience a concert that stood out from the rest. The Poisson Rouge is a trendy new venue on Bleeker Street in Manhattan that built its reputation by presenting contemporary classical music to the New York audience. The layout of the venue is more akin to what one might expect for a jazz club. Dim lighting, tables, and a bar with food and drink service throughout the evening. Even before the performance began, the surroundings had created a very different mood and ambiance compared to a more conventional classical concert. The staff and audience were very respectful with ambient noise throughout the performance, but with the powerful house amplification of the guitar, it was never an issue.
Milos performed a single set of works without intermission, in between pieces Milos shared some insights with the audience and in general exuded a very calm, collected charisma that added greatly to the overall effect of the performance. The repertoire selection was largely taken from his newly released album and consisted of: Villa Lobos Prelude no.1, Asturias and Granada by Albeniz, Spanish dance no.5 and Oriental by Granados, Prelude and Fugue from Bach BWV 997 and Koyunbaba by Carlo Domeniconi. While to fellow classical guitarists this repertoire selection has been well worn in both recital and recording, I can only imagine that to the full house that was attending, much or all of this music was brand new.
Throughout the entire performance Milos played with impeccable accuracy and command. The interpretation of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue stood out to me in particular but his excellent musical phrasing and clear melodic lines were consistently of a high standard. Milos plays a particularly beautiful Smallman guitar, and he managed to coax out some of the most beautiful high notes in Asturias, that I have ever heard.
Following the performance, the audience showed their appreciation by calling Milos back to the stage three times (without an encore – which may partly be because of the Koyunbaba tuning!) and then proceeded to form a large queue to have CD’s signed.
Milos is a world class performer, and he possesses a charisma and presence that will serve to further his already blossoming career. I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and I am very excited to watch the progression of his career.
Apart from the performance itself, there were many larger issues that were brought up by the concert last night and by the discussions that I have witnessed on the ever positive internet.
Many readers of this site are well aware of the increasing pool of phenomenal performers that are in the world today. One simply has to go to a big guitar festival to encounter not one but several guitarists that are really exceptional and gifted. Therefore, when reading article titles such as ‘The guitar has a new hero’ and comments that suggest that the guitar has been dead or dormant since the heyday of Segovia, Bream and Williams, I can understand that some people might find these ideas and statements grating, if not offensive. Similarly, the repertoire selection for the album may come across as redundant, given the ubiquitous recordings that already exist containing the same pieces.
A few months ago, when the promotional material started flowing, I was dismayed to read several vitriolic discussions on the internet regarding Milos. As we all know, the internet is particularly adept at fueling anonymous hatred, but I was saddened to see people lashing out at Milos for the amount of exposure he was receiving. In Australia this phenomenon is called ‘tall poppy syndrome’.
The fact of the matter is, a large part (a very large part) of the societies we live in have no familiarity with the classical guitar at all. I cannot tell you the amount of blank faces I have stared into when I tell people what I do. Then, suddenly their faces light up and say, “Oh! Like the Gypsy Kings!”
I think Milos is bringing the classical guitar and some of its most treasured repertoire to an audience that would otherwise be ignorant of our six stringed world. For that, I am grateful. If your particular taste in repertoire or performance is different, there are a multitude of performers out there that you can choose to support instead. In terms of the publicity that is being generated, I believe that in a media saturated world, publicity sometimes needs hyperbole. Just walk down broadway in New York city and count how many signs say “Best Coffee in the World!” (and I can tell you right now… the US does many things well, coffee is not one of them).
I have always been vexed by peoples tendency to bring down others that are in the same boat. I believe that if the guitar community shows support for others that do well, everyone will benefit. I can only imagine that our own guitar heroes in the past had their detractors, but I think we all know how much gratitude we owe them now.
In the end, the ultimate critic, time, will have the final say to Milos’ legacy, but it is my hope that the guitar community will encourage the success of anyone who is fortunate enough to have it.
To end, I will leave you with a joke:
How many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb?
100, 1 to change the bulb and 99 to say “I could have done it better”