Reinbert Evers seems not the type of guitarist to spare himself or his audience any challenge. The German musician made his U.S. debut Saturday evening in Shatto Chapel of the First Congregational Church downtown with a demanding Bach/Henze program.
The fact that his appearance came courtesy of the Los Angeles Bach Festival, with an assist from the Goethe Institute, dictated the Bach half of the agenda. Evers is also a lutenist, but brought only a guitar on this tour, offering the Lute Suites in E major and A minor (transposed for guitar from C minor), BWV 1006a and 997, in fluent, idiomatic transcriptions Saturday.
Evers began cautiously, fighting tuning problems in a slow, often unbalanced account of the E-major Suite. He went from strength to strength in the much more difficult A-minor Suite, however, placing the emotional peak not in the Fugue but in a remarkably fluid, somberly sensuous Sarabande.
After intermission, Evers returned with the “Royal Winter Music” of Hans Werner Henze--two tough, potent Sonatas, with movements named for Shakespearean characters--making the transition to this fragmented, febrile, overtly demonstrative world more readily in technique than spirit.
There was much buzzing and raw sound in the protean First Sonata, as Evers tackled it with an emphasis on its bigger, more explosive gestures. His vigorous effort, however, proved technically imposing and interpretively big-boned, if not ultimately compelling.
In the more lyrical, linearly direct Second Sonata, Evers produced suave sounds, playing with controlled elegance. Here, too, he failed to communicate much of the satire, whimsy and otherworldiness of the music, settling for a sort of generic moodiness. Though repressive, the effect was not without power, particularly in the Mad Lady Macbeth finale.