From the moment you could hear Milos Karadaglić tuning his guitar backstage, excitement was generated. Once started, he immediately enchanted everyone with his instrument. Karadaglić commanded an uncanny intimacy with his audience in the sold-out recital hall. With an intense focus he wooed his guitar and produced his trademark excellence. He initiated his performance with Bach’s Partita in C minor BWV997 initially meant for the lute. It was in the Praeludio, with its composer’s fantasia notation, that Karadaglić created an unusually romantic mood from Bach’s music. Before the interval he continued with works emphasizing the virtuosic possibilities on the guitar, allowing for the musician to present his technical mastery of the instrument. Later, Karadaglić carried out a programme more in tune for a romantic summer night, including famous classical works arranged for the guitar, as well as the Latin American classics Garota de Ipanema, Bésame mucho, and Mas que nada, which were arranged by Sergio Assad specially for Karadaglić. Our host turned out to be the ideal ambassador for his instrument, alternating his music with historical and personal anecdotes about the pieces he performed. Especially notable was the change from Karadaglić’s utterly musical concentration to his witty banter, setting a pleasant pace for the entire evening.

As Karadaglić performed Bach’s Partita in utmost concentration, his facial musclestwitched and trembled like the snares of his instrument. The Fuga, Sarabande, and Gigue provided the necessary moments for precision and subtlety. During Bach’s final Double, Karadaglić played with increased energy without losing any of his precision. 

Bach’s piece was followed by the work Grand Solo by Fernando Sor. Also known as “the Beethoven of the guitar” (François-Joseph Fétis), the Spaniard was an important 19th century guitar virtuoso, teacher, and composer. Mozart and Italian opera influenced him, and echoes of operatic melodies can be heard in the opening of Grand Solo. Sor intended his piece as an exhibition of the virtuosic potential of the instrument, and Karadaglić presented himself as the perfect match for these challenges. Technically more demanding than the Bach, he exhibited his skills in Sor’s wickedly paced work; his enormous hands worked themselves around his instrument with furious dexterity. 

The highlight of the evening was Rodrigo’s Invocación y danza ‘Homenaje a Manuel de Falla’, an intelligent and haunting work that helped carry the guitar into the 20th century. As homage to de Falla, Rodrigo briefly quotes parts from his El Amor Brujo. The initial invocation is extremely haunting. Besides precise, technical punctuation, it requires musical finesse to evoke Rodrigo’s ghostliness. In his specially created intimacy, Karadaglić infused the unearthly notes with his unique musicality, demonstrating why he is one of the best guitarists currently performing.

After the break, Karadaglić informed his audience that the following pieces would be more suitable for a romantic summer night. In Gerhard’s Fantasia, he explored an experimental, whimsical application of the guitar. Then, Lewin’s transciptions of Granados' Andaluza and Orientale sounded properly Spanish and exotic. He then bookended his personal favorite – the atmospheric Homenaje ‘Pour Le tombeau de Debussy’ – with two of de Falla’s better known fiery dances from La vida breve and El sombrero de tres picos. Delighted by these classics, the audience was then treated to the three aforementioned Latin American songs. These arrangements elevated the usually lighthearted nature of the songs to dense and engaging, jazzy rhythms on the guitar. After a standing ovation, Karadaglić concluded the evening with an elegant arrangement of Thalia’s Lagrima. Indeed, one almost shed a tear when it was all over.