Guitar quartets just aren’t what they used to be.
For one thing, there are fewer of them.
“Guitar quartets are scarce,” said Joseph Hagedorn of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.
But in a good way, concerts by guitar quartets these days are full of surprises. Sure, there’s the usual lineup of Spanish and Latin American selections. But, at least at a Minneapolis Guitar Quartet concert, you’ll hear newly commissioned works, songs from various folk traditions and pop hits arranged for four acoustic guitars.
“Generally, we present a varied program that has something any kind of audience member will enjoy,” Hagedorn said.
If the thought of four classical guitarists playing sounds somewhat staid, be prepared for something totally unexpected. The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will bring along flamenco dancer Sachiko Nishiuchi to perform on a couple of numbers. And, don’t let the cat out of the bag, but there’s a good chance to group will play Prince’s “Purple Rain.” “We like to sneak that on the audience,” Hagedorn said.
The concert will also include some Bach, two pieces by Finnish accordion legend Maria Kalaniemi, a suite of Balkan folk tunes, and a selection by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla.
Trying out pop tunes, like “Purple Rain,” is a new challenge for the quartet, Hagedorn said.
“We have to be convinced it will sound at least as good as the original when played on guitars,” he said. “We’re real careful about choosing pieces we know are going to work well in a guitar quartet.”
Not everything will work, obviously, but the new energy is important for keeping the ensemble and the music vital. “The last thing we want to do is play elevator music,” Hagedorn said.
Hagedorn is the only remaining original member of the quartet, which was formed in 1986. Other members are Wade Oden, Maja Radovanlija and the newest, Benjamin Kunkel, a Mankato native. All have extensive experience as solo artists and with ensembles. Plus, all four teach at area colleges.
Selecting new members, Hagedorn said, has been based on an audition. “To see if they can cut it, we give them the hardest parts they’re going to have to play and say, ‘Come back when you’re ready for your audition.'”
The eventual results of those auditions will be heard on stage Friday in Rochester.
If you go:
What: Minneapolis Guitar Quartert in a Riverside Live! concert
When: 7:30 p.m Friday
Where: Mayo Civic Center Presentation Hall, 30 Civic Center Drive SE, Rochester
Tickets: $26, at the civic center box office, at the Riverside Concerts office in City Hall, and through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000