Recent Releases Tuesday: Albums by Hamish Strathdee, Thanos Mitsalas Plays Assad Chamber Works, and Tony Romano
Most Tuesdays 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.
If you have a CD you’d like to submit to us, here’s our address:
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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.
Impressions of Spain Hamish Strathdee
The “Spanish album,” as one guitarist noted not too long ago, is something of a rite of passage in the classical guitar community; a usually predictable touchstone. But the young Australian Hamish Strathdee’s excellent debut, Impressions of Spain, is a thoroughly engaging album that steers clear of the usual Recuerdos, Asturias, Sevilla, etc., in favor of slightly less-traveled works, such as Joaquín Rodrigo’s Junto al Generalife, Granados’ complete Valses Poeticos, arranged by Minh Le Hoang (of the Australian quartet Guitar Trek, and also one of Strathdee’s teachers at Australian National University), and Antonio José’s wonderfully varied, four-part Sonata para guitarra. Strathdee plays the faster passages in all these pieces with a nimble assurance, and he really wrings both the lyricism and emotion from the quieter movements (such as “Melodioso” from the Granados, the “Passacaglia” from Rodrigo’s Tres piezas Españolas, and “Pavana Triste” from the Sonata. Strathdee’s Smallman guitar sounds gloriously warm and rich throughout the program. Aussie classical guitar titan Timothy Kain produced, and the recording by David Neil is full of depth and life—nicely ambient but not overly so. A nice find!
Junto al Generalife (Rodrigo); 8 Valses Poeticos (Granados); Tres piezas Españolas (Rodrigo); Sonata para Guitarra (José)
Sergio Assad: Chamber Works for Guitar and Strings Thanos Mitsalas (guitar) et al
Composer Assad gets top billing on this 52-minute program, which contains two long chamber works for guitar and four or five strings (two violins, viola, cello, double-bass). First up is “Mikis”: Concerto Fantasia for Guitar & Strings, a world premiere recording of a piece Assad wrote in 1999 in tribute to and based on the music of the great Greek composer Mikis Theordorakis, specifically on a collection of pieces Theodorakis wrote inspired by some poems by Federico Garcia Lorca. It’s a sumptuous work, filled with great, sweeping melodies, a few angular modern touches, and a number of lovely guitar passages, all of which are handled deftly by the superb Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas. The integration of the guitar and the strings is masterful. The second piece, a collection of five “world dances,” delivers what the subtitled sections promise and much more: “Middle Eastern” is appropriately charged and hypnotic, “Celtic” starts with a lilting Irish ballad feel and then jumps into a complex jig, etc. But leave it an imaginative composer like Assad to never fall into the cliches of the various genres, but instead use the rudiments of those musical languages as jumping-off points for his own extrapolations. Again, Mitsalas works well in every style and he and his bowed-strings compatriots are always right in the groove together. A truly wonderful album!
“Mikis” Concerto Fantasia for Guitar and Strings; World Dances for Guitar and String Quartet: Middle Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan, Latin American
Check out the third movement of the “Mikis” Concerto Fantasia (audio only):
Dance for One Tony Romano
Judging from his impressive music credentials, which span everything from jazz to Broadway to pop, New York-based guitarist Tony Romano is adept at many different styles. On this solo outing devoted entirely to his own compositions, however, Romano doesn’t lean too heavily in any one stylistic direction, though certainly there are nods to Brazilian, jazz, folk, Latin, and other genres drifting through these 13 pieces. It’s a lovely set, mostly in a restrained, mellow mood, with strong melodies taking precedence over instrumental flash (though he’s clearly a fine guitarist). I particularly like the opening Clouds, which has an almost Windham Hill-ish American-acoustic feel to it; the haunting Shipwrecked; the back-to-back ballads Now I Know and Little Things; and the Latin-vibed “Por Heitor” (which I like to think refers to Heitor Villa-Lobos, but could just be dedicated to a friend with that name). The most ambitious and outside-the-box tune is “Echoes,” a cool piece that makes use of repetition and slight variations in an interesting and compelling way. All in all it’s a thoughtful and well-performed excursion.
Clouds; Shipwrecked; Brick and Mortar; Dance for One; Awakening; Patterns; Echoes; Por Heitor; Distance; Conversations; Now I Know; Little Things; Tango