Swedish guitarist strums with style
Johannes Möller, the Swedish guitarist and composer, as a part of Artspree, performed in the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall on Jan. 30.
At 7:30 p.m., when Möller began to play, the concert hall was filled to the brim with awestruck audience members. The audience sat motionless and soundless, completely captivated by Möller’s flawless and breathtaking performance.
He sat on a black padded bench in the center of the stage with his left foot propped on a stand. Möller’s first piece, entitled “Song to the Mother” was an original composition from 2009. The tune was shorter than most of the others and very lovely.
The second piece he played came from an opera entitled “Der Freischütz.” It was composed by K. A. Craeyvanger in the mid-19th century. Möller is both the first to have recorded this piece and also the first to perform it outside the Netherlands.
The piece contained three very different variations on a theme from the opera. It was long and dreamy, but a little hard to follow. Möller referred to the composer as “imaginative” and said that it was okay if we could not understand the connection between the variations because he could not either.
Möller then performed “Austurias (Leyenda)” from Suite Española. This was a piece written by Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz. This one told a much more explicit story than the Craeyvanger piece. It started out very exciting, quieted down in the middle, and built back to a higher intensity than ever before. Möller, with his energetic playing, took the listener on a journey. The story seemed to speak of love and perhaps seduction.
Möller played one more original composition before the intermission. This tune, “A Star in the Sky, a Universe Within” was perhaps my favorite of the night. The famed guitarist introduced this piece and described some of his inspiration behind writing it. Möller said that he was “inspired by the feeling that he gets looking up into a clear starry night.” He said that he feels small and insignificant compared to the vastness, but also “very happy to be a part of something great.”
After the short intermission, Möller returned to play four more songs. He began with an eerie composition by French Canadian composer Denis Gougeon. This piece was a bit frightening and seemed to foreshadow some sort of imminent danger.
The next was gentler. The piece entitled “Un Sueño en la Floresta” was composed by Augustín Barrios Mangoré. Möller’s playing during this song was breezy and flawless.
The last two songs were both original compositions. Möller claimed the first, “Poem to a Distant Fire,” to be “as mysterious as its name.” This one was certainly the most unique of the bunch.
The last, “Ananda” was inspired by Möller’s adoration of India. It is named after a beautiful sounding word in India describing a kind of love.
Möller played with strong conviction and seemed to put his whole self into his performance. The audience really had a chance to connect with Möller and the music on a deeply personal and emotional level.
Artspree has more events this semester. A list can be found at ualr.edu/artspree. Admission is free for all UALR students.