Classical music for four guitars

There's not a lot of classical music composed for a quartet of nylon-stringed guitars, says Bill Kanengiser of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. But after 30 years of performing together, Kanengiser, John Dearman, Matt Greif and Scott Tennant have created a large repertoire of arrangements from many different styles of music.

The guitar quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. The show is the first of Chamber Music Concerts' 27th season.

"The focus of our concert in Ashland will align with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival," Kanengiser says. "Half of the recital will be related to the cultures of the Renaissance. The big thing will be a set of music from the Spanish Renaissance."

The quartet premiered its Spanish arrangements with actor John Cleese in early 2009 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.

"He (Cleese) read adapted parts from the book 'Don Quixote' that I had written, while the quartet performed. We liked it so much that we're keeping it as a set in our shows, but without the reading. We call it 'Music From the Time of Cervantes.' "

Two other major works that are in some way related to the Renaissance will be presented, Kanengiser says.

" 'Capriol Suite' by Peter Warlock is based on French Renaissance dances," he says. "And we're playing the contemporary 'Antique Suite after Neusidler' by L.A.-based composer Ian Krouse. That piece is based on German Renaissance flute music."

The show will open with an arrangement of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," by Dearman. A piece from Bizet's "Carmen" also is on the program.

"We love to tackle these orchestral war horses and arrange them to fit four nylon-stringed guitars," Kanengiser says.

The guitar quartet was founded at the University of Southern California. The newest member, Greif, is a former student of Kanengiser's and Tennant's at USC who joined the quartet three years ago.

"We started out playing traditional guitar stuff," Kanengiser says. "We're most known for an album called 'Guitar Heroes' that earned a Grammy in 2004 for best classical crossover recording. We paid tribute to everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Chet Atkins. We did jazz, flamenco and country."

Over the years, LAGQ has delved into jazz, world and contemporary music, while limiting its arrangements to classical, nylon-stringed guitars.

With the release of its newest recording, "Brazil," on Telarc International in 2007, the group found itself writing a new chapter in its career.

"We included compositions by Jobim, who is probably the most famous Brazilian composer, and by Villa-Lobos," Kanengiser says.

"We are four equals as guitarists," he says. "John plays a seven-string so he can play the lower bass notes. But the idea is to pass around the roles of support, lead and bass. It keeps it more interesting that way."

Tickets cost $27 and $32, $5 for ages 22 and younger. The guitar quartet will offer a master class at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, and a lecture and performance at 1 p.m. Friday at the Music Recital Hall. Admission to the master class and lecture performance is free.

Season tickets are available for Chamber Music Concerts 2010-11 season. Season packages range from $104 to $377 and include shows featuring the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Trio con Brio Copenhagen, Kuss String Quartet, Janaki String Trio, Nordic Voices, Shanghai String Quartet, Pavel Haas Quartet and the Gould Piano Trio with Robert Plane. Concerts are held October through May. Student tickets are always $5.

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