To soon to say if this next big thing is the real deal
He’s been labelled classical guitar’s new hero, but while Milos Karadaglic is good, his elevation to the pantheon of greats is premature, writes MICHAEL DUNGAN
MY ATTENTION wandered briefly (justification to follow) during last week’s recital at the NCH by the next big thing in classical guitar, Milos Karadaglic. And I found myself pondering a great philosophical question. What is real?
I’m a school-teacher by day, and this is the same classic question my fifth and sixth years are chewing over at the moment. God love them – whether it’s Plato asking in his parable of the cave, or Laurence Fishburne (alias Morpheus) in the film The Matrix, “What is real?” is a question with only an indirect bearing on the appalling points-race that, by necessity, consumes them.
Indeed, God love me. I’m back in college doing a course in which I am asked the exact same question, but by terrifying critical theorists such as Jean Baudrillard (who constructed a credible challenge to the reality of the first Gulf War) and Theodor Adorno, who brought to a wide public a critique of mass culture, what he re-named the culture industry.
Adorno trained as a composer and was friends with Alban Berg. He was conscious of connections between music and our perception of reality, endorsing only the avant-garde and alienating even his closest colleagues with a vigorous condemnation of jazz. I shudder to think what he would have made of Milos Karadaglic.
He’s a very good guitarist, no question. Also young and good-looking – and tall, his long legs in black drain-pipes offering a whiff of rock’n’roll. He was articulate and charming in spoken introductions to his pieces, his flawless English tinged with exotic traces of an accent from his native Montenegro.
But the Daily Telegraph has dubbed him “classical guitar’s new hero” (based on his debut CD in 2011), and the music industry has been busily championing him with two major awards from Gramophone magazine last year and now a 2012 Classical Brit, all buttressed by the promotional heft of record label Deutsche Grammophon. Is it real or is it hype? In Dublin, the NCH has immediately placed him on a par with James Galway and Renée Fleming in the “Great Artists” strand of its current International Concert series.
Really? While he played a nice programme at the NCH with a sweet tone and notable technical assurance, you wouldn’t classify his performance as that of a “hero”, much less a “great artist”, if that expression has any meaning any more. His phrasing was quite ordinary, sometimes bordering on bland in Bach (the Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 997) and in a selection of oft-plucked etudes and other short pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Even pieces by composers from South America (Jorge Morel, Jorge Cardoso, Isaiah Savio and Agustín Barrios), whose main feature was colour, were often surprisingly rather blanched.
Milos (he’s being marketed with just his first name) may eventually ascend to the guitar pantheon alongside Segovia, Bream and Williams.
Right now, however, it’s hard not to declare that his elevation is premature, propelled by an incautious newspaper headline and a classical-music industry desperate for stars. The Daily Telegraph surely knows that few things in the music business are less real than studio recordings.