From reams of anthemic rock to infectious pop and soulful jazz licks, the musical choices for the modern guitarist are virtually endless. But for Australian-born Craig Ogden, who has captivated global audiences with his tranquil, summery albums The Guitarist and Summertime, his route down the classical pathway was sealed early on.
“I fell in love with the sound [of the classical guitar],” says Ogden, who started playing the guitar aged seven, recalling his first encounter with the instrument. “I was seduced by the sound quality. Nothing was as evocative.”
Two decades on and still fascinated by ‘the whole complex technical aspect of the instrument’, Ogden has turned the tables to some extent, becoming the seducer. Now based in London, the Australian has enjoyed a growing reputation in the classical guitar tradition, collaborating with ensembles across the world, from the UK to his homeland, South Africa and Russia. He joins the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong later this month, demonstrating the enormous breadth in the guitar repertoire via compositions from relatively modern guitar-masters such as Englishman Sir Malcolm Arnold and Spaniard Joaquín Rodrigo to some of the earliest guitar music by Vivaldi.
Speaking about his programme for Hong Kong, Ogden seems excited about the Vivaldi. “[The Concerto for Guitar in D, RV 93] is a wonderfully bright and tuneful piece with an appealing and meditative slow movement,” he says. However, his greatest enthusiasm is reserved for his finale by Rodrigo.
“Even if you don’t remember the name, you will definitely remember the opening of the slow movement,” says Ogden, adding that, in his opinion, the Spanish composer’s Concierto de Aranjuez is ‘the ultimate guitar concerto’. Fiendishly difficult but incredibly evocative of Spain, the Rodrigo concerto begins with the cor anglais, the guitar and little ornaments – expressive, simple and appealing – before moving onto more furious heights. “The piece reaches a huge climax with loud, fast chords strumming violently at the very top of the guitar,” says Ogden. “The concert is varied, the music is entertaining and accessible; it’s the perfect concert for people to go to even if they aren’t regular concert goers. My aim is to be really musically dynamic so that every phrase says something.”
Craig Ogden plays City Hall on Fri Jun 29. Tickets: 2734 9009; www.urbtix.hk.