A packed Royal Albert Hall would normally signify an orchestral or chamber music concert but on this occasion the audience had, rather surprisingly, come to hear a solo guitarist. Miloš Karadaglić has been catapulted to stardom and is now enjoying a career that most guitarists can only dream about. Born in Montenegro, he began playing the guitar at the age of 8 winning a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London when he was just 16. Karadaglić’s meteoric rise began with a chart topping debut album in 2011, The Guitar, and since then he has been crowned Young Artist of the Year by Classic FM and the Gramophone Magazine which has initiated a renaissance in classical guitar playing. At 28 he already has an impressive resume and superb management so the expectation heaped upon him for this performance was extremely high.
Miloš did not disappoint. He chose an eclectic programme for this Royal Albert Hall debut, chatting informally about his selected repertoire before launching into each work. Communicating with the assemblage is to be applauded; so many artists ignore their audience. Miloš was positioned in the centre of the RAH surrounded by somewhat distracting microphones and amplification which was really to be expected due to the nature of such a restrained instrument. Equally annoying was the perpetual ‘smoke’ and constantly changing lighting. However, as soon as the concert began it was clear that Miloš is a very talented player indeed.
The programme commenced with Albéniz’s Asturias and Granada from the Suite española; popular choices which were bound to make an impact on the audience. Both works were played with real panache and flair particularly the Asturias which can often feel disjointed and repetitive. In Miloš’ hands the melodic material was beautifully phrased and articulated; he gave the work a sense of structure.
Prelude and Fugue from Partita in C minor BWV 977 by J.S. Bach followed and was again, well presented. The Prelude meandered colourfully through countless florid passages but there was a little too much rubato on occasions for my taste. The part playing in the Fugue was effective yet simplistic. Four Villa-Lobos works concluded the first half and they were not only the most exciting pieces in the whole programme but they also demonstrated Karadaglić’s musicianship most effectively especially the final Etude No.12 which bubbled and fizzed effervescently.
The second half contained more contemporary repertoire opening with three descriptive works; Danza brasilera by Morel, Milonga by Cardoso and Batucuda by Sávio. These exuberant South American pieces added real colour to the programme illustrating the guitar’s percussive and poetic possibilities to the full. I particularly enjoyed Un Sueño en la floresta by Barrios. A wealth of sound and tonal shading was created throughout. The last work, Koyunbaba by Domeniconi wasn’t the most inspiring of compositions but Miloš gave a totally convincing account for which the audience gave him a standing ovation. The encore, an Argentinian Tango, rounded off an enjoyable evening proving that a solo guitar recital can deliver a varied interesting programme as well as attract large audiences.