Most weeks we take a peak at recent albums or sheet music releases. Here are three of the CDs that have come into the Classical Guitar office recently.
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Richmond, CA 94804-3505
Some of the albums we talk about online will be reviewed in the magazine, some not. But we want to at least mention them here. You can listen to some of these on various of streaming services, but we always encourage you to support the artists by actually buying anything you like! Obviously we cannot research and report every outlet or online business where these albums are sold, so check your favorite places that sell CDs and downloads!
To see our previous listings, scroll to the bottom of the page.
While these days it’s certainly not unusual to hear pieces by Bach and Piazzolla played in the same concert program, what the brilliant Croatian guitarist Zoran Dukic presents here is a new, and to my my ears, very successfully realized concept: alternating Bach and Piazzolla pieces (six by Bach, five by Piazzolla) for an entire album. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. All the Bach pieces (from violin works, save for one from a Cello Suite) are slow movements (a largo, an andante, a Siciliana, and three sarabandes) that share a somewhat similar, deliberate and contemplative character—though there is still much emotional range within that set, from the somewhat dark sarabande from the fifth Cello Suite, to the brighter Siciliana from Violin Sonata No. 1. The Piazzolla works are more stylistically varied, sometimes moving within the same piece from solemn passages that almost feel like extensions of the Bach, to abrupt, spikey leaps, fast runs, and elements of tango that are clearly products of a modern composer. I can’t tell you why it works, but it does (for me, anyway). Hearing familiar Piazzolla pieces such as Invierno Porteño and Adios Nonino is this context really does make them feel a bit different (and the Bach is similarly “affected” by the Piazzolla, as well). My greatest personal discovery was the final Piazzolla track, Milonga del Ángel; such a gorgeous work!
Largo from Violin Sonata No. 3, BWV 1005 (Bach); Invierno Porteño (Piazzolla, arr. Assad); Andante from Violin Sonata No. 2, BWV 1003) (Bach); Adios Nonino (Piazzolla; arr. Tirao); Sarabande from Violin Partita No. 1, BWV 1002 (Bach); La muerte del Ángel (Piazzolla; arr. Brouwer); Sarabande from Cello Suite No. 5, BWV 1011 (Bach); Romántico from Cinco piezas para guitarra (Piazzolla); Siciliana from Violin Sonata No. 1, BWV 1001 (Bach); Milonga del Ángel (Piazzolla, arr. Benitez); Sarabande from Violin Partita No. 2, BWV 1004 (Bach)
Songs of Yesterday
Matt Withers, an excellent Australian guitarist I originally heard through the Guitar Trek quartet, is also a very active solo player Down Under (and also the sponsor of his own Australian composition competition). His latest album is a heartfelt, unabashedly commercial effort, loaded with melodic and appealing 20th century pop songs and standards (The Beatles’ Yesterday, Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night), Over the Rainbow, Blue Moon, Piaf’s L’Hymne a L’Amour); crowd-pleasing classical-guitar stalwarts (Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Roland Dyens’ Tango en skaï, Stanley Myers’ Cavatina); and then a whole bunch of pieces that are less well-known—a few Latin or South American, a trio of Irish folk songs arranged by guitarist/composer/long-time ‘CG’ writer Steve Marsh, and a concluding set of three gorgeous short pieces from Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, arranged by Noriyasu Takeuchi, and played by Withers with his Guitar Trek band mate Tim Kain. In fact, it could be said that the arrangers represented on the 19 tracks here deserve special mention for bringing so many of these songs to the classical guitar. Besides the aforementioned, Dyens has three arrangements, John Williams two, Laurindo Almeida two, Chet Atkins one, and Toru Takemitsu one.
There is barely a moment of musical discord on the entire album (though Dyens likes to at least toss a hint of unpredictability into everything, it seems); beautiful melodies rule the day! The playing is first-rate and full of life all the way through, and with the exception of Recuerdos, which feels, frankly, unnecessary here, all of Withers’ interpretations are spot-on. If you’re looking for an album brimming with and about love, this sensuous hour-long album is sure to appeal to you.
Vincent (Starry Starry Night) (McLean, arr. Atkins); Felicidade (Jobim, arr. Dyens); Yesterday (McCartney/Lennon; arr. Takemitsu); Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Tárrega); Blue Moon (Rodgers/Hart; arr. Almeida); Over the Rainbow (Harburg/Arlen; arr. Almeida); La chanson des vieux amants (Brel/Jouannest; arr. Dyens); L’hymne a L’amour (Piaf/Monnot, arr. Dyens); Tango en skaï (Dyens); Milongo (Cardoso); Cavatina (Myers, arr. Williams); The Harp That Once (Moore; arr. Marsh); From Clare to Here (McTell; arr. Marsh); Will Ye Go Lassie, Go (McPeake, arr. Marsh); Que no te quiera más (Sojo, arr. Williams); Preludio de adios (Montes); Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, Prima Gioventu, Tema d’amore (Morricone, arr. Takeuchi)
Here’s a YouTube (audio) version of Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), arranged by guitar great Chet Atkins:
Don’t let the funky, handmade look of the cover fool you. Queensland, Australia-based Paul Ballam-Cross has made a strong and serious solo guitar album that includes the full Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007, three etudes by Fernando Sor, nine preludes by Tárrega, a piece each by Romantic-era contemporaries Chopin and Schumann… and a substantial, modern, two-part work by Ballam-Cross himself to bring us into the current era. Perhaps because I’ve heard so many versions of the prelude to that Bach Cello Suite (on guitar and cello), at first, Ballam-Cross’s interpretation didn’t move me particularly, but I’ve gotten used to it now and quite enjoy it; the other movements always sounded OK to me. The three Sor etudes are completely different, one to the next, and I was most struck by No. 9, which is a very effective harmonics exercise. The same could be said for the short Tárrega Preludes, each in a different style, all lovely, but vanishing into the ether before you know it. (I particularly like the graceful and sonorous No. 5, which then gives way to the pizzicato workout of No. 6.) The Schumann and Chopin are sumptuous and highly melodic. Ballam-Cross’ Two Portraits of One Subject, which totals around nine minutes, has a pastoral, neo-Romantic vibe for most of the first part, before the rhythm picks up and it changes emotional tone until it’s conclusion; then part II almost immediately moves into a modern tremolo workout and some urgent chordal work, more tremolo, a decidedly jazzy section, but also some quieter passages more like the opening of Part 1. It’s an intriguing work.
Cello Suite in G major, BWV 1007 (J.S. Bach); Three Etudes by Fernando Sor from Op. 29: No. 1, No. 9, No. 5; Two Portraits of One Subject, Pt. I and II (Ballam-Cross); Mazurka No. 4, Op. 67 (Chopin, arr. Tárrega); 9 Preludes by Francisco Tárrega; Bunte blatter/ “Colorful leaves” (Schumann)
Ballam-Cross’ album does not seem to be widely available, but you can hear tracks and purchase it through Bandcamp.
Here’s Ballam-Cross playing Two Portraits of One Subject a few years ago. Video and audio quality are bit below standard, but it gives you a good sense of the piece. The music begins at 1:20 in:
October 4, 2016: Jacob Cordover, Oleg Timofeyev and John Schneiderman, Arkaïtz Chambonnet, Matthew Fish, Gidi Ifergan
October 18: Norbert Kraft and Jeffrey McFadden, Steve Cowan, Katrin Endrikat, Jason Vieaux and Julien Labro, Yenne Lee, Emanuele Segre
November 1: Virginia Luque and Bojidara Kouzmanova, Jon Gjylaci, Fabiano Borges, Alfonso Baschiera, Miscelanea Guitar Quartet, J.P. McShane
November 15: Antigoni Goni, Adam Levin, Radoŝ Malidžan, Black Cedar, Lou Marinoff, Antonio Malinconico
November 22: Marcelo de la Puebla, ChromaDuo, Carsten Pedersen, Thibaut Garcia, Yiannis Giagourtas
December 13: Zsófia Boros, Andrea Bissoli, Philippe Sly & John Charles Britton, Carlos Dorado, Steven Joseph
December 27: João Carlos Victor, Frank Wallace, Simon Thacker & Justyna Jablonska
January 10, 2017: Alberto La Rocca, Jeffrey McFadden & Michael Kolk, Stefan Koim
January 24: Fabio Zanon, Marcelo Kayath, David Norton & Cindy Spell, Jeff Gosselin
February 7: Canadian Guitar Quartet, Mats Bergström, John Sargent, Dimitris Kotronakis
February 21: James Akers & Gary Branch, Karol Samuelčík, Josef Mazan, John Lehman-Haupt
March 7: Meng Su, Raphaella Smits, Michaela Hrabankova & Gabriel Bianco, Mark Westling
March 21: Sabrina Vlaskalic, Ozan Saritepe, Simon Cheong
April 4: James Akers, Duo Amaral, Chris Fossek
April 18: Pepe Romero, Vicente Coves & Extremadura Orchestra; Carlos Walter; David Härenstam (et al.)
May 2: Kaiser Schmidt Guitar Duo, Montréal Guitare Trio, Nazrin Rashidova & Slanislav Hvartchilkov
May 16: Paul Galbraith, Marc Teicholz, Koen Claeys
May 3o: Michal Svoboda, Izhar Elias
June 13: Eliot Fisk, Duo Salmona-Valette, Evgeny Beleninov
July 11: Xavier Jara, Schneiderman-Yamaya Duo, Detlev Bork
July 25: Cristiano Poli Cappelli, Dúo Villa-Lobos, Giancarlo DiPierro
August 1: Sharon Isbin & Isabel Leonard, Boyd Meets Girl, Silvana Saldaña
August 8: Brasil Guitar Duo, Maria Camitz & Leif Hesselberg, Duo Bohemico
August 22: Kenneth Meyer, Flamenco Pacifico, Jonathan Richards
September 12: Hamish Strathdee, Thanos Mitsalas Plays Assad Chamber Works, Tony Romano
October 11: Quatuor Eclisses, Michael Kolk/Nick Peros, Yuri Liberzon
October 25: Lukasz Kuropaczewski, Paul Psarras, James Akers & Gabriella Di Laccio