A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Scott Tennant

The Pasadena Conservatory of Music (PCM) consistently organizes the finest of intimate chamber concerts to be found anywhere in Los Angeles.  Its March 6 concert at the historic Hale Solar Observatory Library was brilliant in so many ways.  I mean, where else would Guitarra del Sol be staged, but in a room that was so vigorously focused on the sun, unlocking its secrets for many years.

PCM faculty guitarist Felix Bullock, USC Thornton School alumnus and former student of Tennant, introduced the program.  His remark that the “poetry of the guitar speaks well in this room” was absolutely true.  The acoustics, ambiance, history, and music all came together for an exquisite experience.  The library, now private, sported a ceiling of perhaps 18 feet that was composed of small wooden panels.  The stage was slightly elevated, and the walls had shelved books on one side and a large hearth on the other.  There was seating for about 50 patrons, who were treated to the finest of the guitarist’s art in a most intimate and inspiring setting.

The room was dimly lit, save the backlighting from a large north-facing window in a carved frame that illuminated Tennant through a wooden blind.  Tennant was extraordinary from the start, but the highpoint of the performance was Cuban composer Leo Brouer’s compositions.  “Danza del Altiplano” was especially fine.  I enjoyed the interesting playfulness with the closing notes of each piece.

Tennant and Bullock joined in duo for “The Lass of Patie’s Mill,” a traditional tune from the British Isles arranged by Ed Flower.  Tennant’s skill with melody is unsurpassed; he commands a lyricism that tugs at the heart.  Each note was shaped and colored to produce fine gradients in timbre and attack, and he imbued the melody with distinct characters when in different ranges.  Tennant was a master of the instrument leading our spirits with the evocative connotations of this beautiful music.  Bullock’s accompaniment was even-handed and solid; his solo passages were warm and his sound was unique.  The two of them blended seamlessly, and they connected with each other and the audience.

The closing solo work, “Cancion y Danza No. 1,” written by his teacher Antonio Ruiz Pipo, was affective in its presentation, and Tennant’s comments throughout the afternoon underscored the importance of the relationships among performers, composers, and their teachers.

The evening closed with two selections by the young players of the Conservatory’s student guitar quartet.  They were individually and collectively precocious, and the music allowed their youthful exuberance to shine.  The quartet shared aspects of their teacher’s style, with meticulous attention to technical detail and a genuine connection to the soul of their music.

PCM has a flair for pairing the finest of sophisticated music and ambiance, and this event was another example of their expertise.  A wine and tapas reception provided by The Raymond Restaurant and 1886 Bar made for an evening to remember.  The philanthropic aspect of the event really demonstrated the commitment of PCM and Tennant to the next generation of musicians in Los Angeles, as proceeds benefitted  PCM’s Guitar for All scholarship that provides instruments and individual guitar instruction to underserved students in our community.

Bravi to Scott Tennant for a magical performance and to the PCM board and staff for their exemplary vision and mission in support of the arts in Los Angeles!

~Theodore Bell/Culture Spot LA

Paganini’s Caprice, a Mansions and Music Concert, will be presented on Sunday, March 20, at 4 p.m. at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy.