FORT WORTH -- In this concert, exactitude mattered more than excitement.
The seventh annual Fort Guitar Guild Festival presented a performance at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on Tuesday night that was the first of three concerts of classical guitar music to be offered during the five-day event.
Two of the teaching professionals taking part in the festival, which includes master classes for aspiring guitarists as well as performances, were featured Tuesday.
Fernand Vera, a University of North Texas product who now teaches in Plano, began with works by 16th century Spanish composer Luis Milan, Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos and a traditional Catalan folk song. All were carefully and artfully rendered, with exceptional control of color and dynamics.
And all were crushingly dull.
The tedium of the repertoire was broken only by the Grand Solo by Spaniard Fernando Sor, which closed the first half. Unlike the previous works, the two-part, Mozart-like piece had vitality and personality.
So there was nothing wrong with Vera's playing. It was just that the notes always seemed to matter more than the tune. And it did not help that he offered very few explanatory remarks about the pieces he selected.
Robert Guthrie, a well-traveled teacher and performer who heads the guitar program at SMU, offered works with slightly more appeal in the concert's second half. He opened with a set of dances by Gaspar Sanz, a composer of the early Baroque era that had some charm. But the works by 20th century composer Federico Torroba that followed were harder to warm up to.
He then broke from the printed program and offered a set of short pieces by composers from Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Argentina. It was an interesting grouping, but it resulted in few memorable moments.
He closed with Rumores de la Caleta, a brief (but refreshing) work by Isaac Albeniz, and an encore of one of his own preludes, which was warm and sweet but may not have been the best choice to bring down the curtain.
Again, Guthrie's playing was wonderful. But his program was more interesting for its structure than its sound. Also, his performance was marred by a persistent extraneous noise that Guthrie was not making. His guitar might have picked up some sympathetic resonance from somewhere (his music stand?), but the slight rasp behind his figures didn't have an obvious source. It made for an annoying mystery.
The festival continues on Thursday at the Modern Art Museum with a concert focusing on contemporary composers. So, like Tuesday's concert, it is likely to appeal especially to players and experienced listeners.
But Saturday's concluding concert promises to be much more user-friendly. The program includes three Vivaldi guitar concertos, which are pure fun, and various works spanning five centuries.