Halifax Debut Recital

Guitarist demonstrates light, precise touch.

Classical guitarist Dale Kavanagh has been teaching in the city since September, but few in the musical community knew about it. As a native Nova Scotian, recognition in her home province is slow to come.

But none can shrug off her talent and musicianship after her professional Halifax debut recital in the Dunn last night on the Chamber Music at Dalhousie series. She is a first class performer at the world level. One has the feeling that everyone in Canada is going to know about her in the not too distant future.

Next week, after eight months of teaching Carol van Feggelen’s classes at Dalhousie during his sabbatical year, Kavanagh returns to Germany, her home for the last five years, and the base from which she began to develop her considerable European reputation.

Kavanagh is quiet on stage, not given to grandstanding. She bends her head to her work and develops such intense concentration that the audience hardly seems to breathe while she plays.

Her style is clean and delicate with a great range of dynamic expression, though no one could describe her playing as loud. Her technique is light and precise in both hands, the fingers of the right rolling out roulades of tone, those of the left swiftly and surely tacking down the pitches.

She was comfortable in a program that ranged from Renaissance to 20th century, and displayed a comprehensive variety of technique, style, and musicality.

And it is her musicality that impresses the most. Her Praetorius Dances from Terpsichore had the lilt and thrust on the first beats that makes early dance style come off the page. In the symphonic style of Guiliani’s Grande Overture, it was her mood changes that transfigured the musical design.

Kavanagh also showed us a more intensely meditative side of Joaquin Rodrigo whose Concierto de Aranjuez is the best-known and most overplayed guitar work of our day. His Tres Piezas Espanolas and Invocation et Danse are just as inventive and musically haunting, but fresh in their introspection.

Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal, the 20th century’s most original and musically substantial guitar composition, and the centerpiece of her program, suited Kavanaugh’s intensity and musical penetration as though it has been written for her.

The fact that Kavanagh has a record soon to be released, and another in the works, is good news for her Nova Scotia fans because, for a while at least, it is probably the only way they will get to hear her.

By Stephen Pederson