The soloist of the evening was the guitarist James Grace, who teaches this instrument at the University of Cape Town. He played the Guitar Concerto, written in 1951, by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. It is an interesting 20-minute work, in the modern idiom but not aggressively so, with roots in the indigenous music of Brazil.
The guitar is a small-toned, intimate instrument and Villa-Lobos sanctioned the use of a microphone in performing this work. Without the loudspeakers on either side of the platform the sound of the guitar would have been lost in the City Hall, even though the orchestra’s role is small and discreet.
James Grace, a tall young man with a mildly bohemian air, dark open-neck shirt, short haircut, played with great intensity and accuracy and extracted full value from this exotic score. The audience, who appeared to include a number of guitar-lovers, gave him an enthusiastic reception.