by Jane Berkner
The Gruca White Ensemble must have a special connection to the number 100. Their formation as a flute and guitar duo dates back to 2013, when they played an hour-long concert on WCLV as a part of The Music Settlement’s Centennial Celebration. Then, at the duo’s concert on Saturday night, April 18, Bop Stop manager Gabe Pollack told the audience that we were attending the 100th performance hosted by The Music Settlement at the facility. Linda White and Robert Gruca became Artists in Residence at The Music Settlement in 2014, and their concert this weekend showcased their appealing collaboration.
The particular strength of the ensemble lies in their diverse programming. Saturday’s concert included standard classical repertoire for the two instruments, along with the duo’s own arrangements of jazz, rock and funk tunes. There were also three short improvisational works interjected at various places in the evening’s printed program. Referring to them as “impromptus,” the two players gave themselves up to whatever flights of fancy they felt in the moment, allowing the music to develop as they went. In the process, both of these fine musicians responded to and built on the motivic material being played by the other.
The concert began with a fiery performance of a Milonga by Fernando Carlos Tavolaro, followed by Maria Castlenuovo-Tedesco’s Sonatina. Though the Sonatina was well-played, the tempos often seemed overly animated, which left little room for musical shading and subtlety in this jewel of the flute-guitar repertoire.
The first movement of Sébastien Vachez’s La ballade d’Irina was a guitar solo. Gruca is a strong guitarist with ample technique, and it was nice to hear him reaching for more nuance, creating a varied sound palette in this opening solo. As if conjured by his lovely use of color, the pinks and reds of a beautiful sunset over Lake Erie came streaming through the windows of the Bop Stop while he played, creating a colorful visual atmosphere in the room. The duo exhibited strong ensemble playing in the last movement, “Danse du Retour.”
Read the rest of the review at ClevelandClassical.com.