Chris Dumigan reviews Jean-Marie Raymond’s “Anthologie”, “Ballad for a Friend”, and Evocation Nostalgique.
Over the years, many pieces by this fine composer have come my way, always distinguished by a fine melodic line, appealing harmony work, and very guitaristic in every way. Now here comes a huge compendium of no fewer than 50 contemporary pieces composed or arranged by French guitarist and composer Jean-Marie Raymond (b. 1949), compiled into one vast book, including most, if not all, of the d’Oz publications of his work. Included, too, are a number of his arrangements of pieces such as “Voi Che Sapete” from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; his singular take on the Japanese folk song “Sakura,” “Les Moulins de mon Coeur” (“Windmills of My Heart,”) from Michel Legrand’s pen, and Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” to name a few. His original works are every bit as good—consistently entertaining throughout and varied in style—suitable for any lover of intermediate guitar pieces with flair and a certain style.
Case in point: the 2014 composition “Ballad for a Friend (hommage à Akira Asada),” his ode to the Japanese postmodern critic and curator. Con malonconia is the instruction at the top of the music, and the best way to describe the opening is a sad tango. It is set in A minor, with nice chord structure and some interesting little deviations from the norm, so your interest never wanes. The relative major key brings in a momentary brightness to the gloom of the opening, but is colored by a bittersweet element that never really lets the music actually be happy. The return of the opening sets the tone for the remainder of the piece, and it all ends on an altered chord of A minor.
This little piece has a nice feel, some interesting part-writing, a pleasant melody and harmonies, making it every bit as good as Raymond’s many other works. It’s not difficult to play, and I can see it going down well in many musical camps.
“Evocation Nostalgique,” another recent piece by Raymond begins with a solemn prelude, before entering into a gavotta maestosa in E minor in three voices, with alternating bass and chords topped by an attractive melody that after a lengthy period turns into a second section in G minor subtitled romanza. This in turn moves into its relative major key before changing back to E minor and a varied repetition of the opening of the gavotta. A new section in E major marked danza elegiaca provides a momentary diversion at a slightly relaxed speed before the E minor opening gavotta melody returns once more and the piece closes.
This extended piece has plenty of variety, with many interesting and melodic ideas, making it a welcome inclusion to Raymond’s ever-growing list of attractive guitar works.
Les Productions d’Oz 127 pp.
BALLAD FOR A FRIEND
Les Productions d’Oz DZ2232. 7 pp.
Les Productions d’Oz DZ2223. 6 pp.
Here’s a nice recording of Bernard Cyrloud performing “Evocation Nostalgique.”