A CD celebrating the music of unarguably one of the greatest guitarists of the last 50 years is indeed something to rejoice in. Roland Dyens (1955–2016) died tragically too young for someone so abundantly creative, and the glittering procession of staggeringly attractive compositions he left for us to enjoy will continue to delight and surprise. The majority of Dyens’ compositions can be found with the publisher Editions Henry Lemoine, although his works also grace the books of Les Productions d’Oz. Dyens’ music is difficult to pigeonhole but not hard to lavish upon it an endless supply of superlatives. His music scores are famously meticulous—the opposite of the unadorned scoring so popular with many of today’s composers, who perhaps don’t know the guitar as intimately as Dyens so obviously did.
The title Concerto Métis describes the “mixed” nature of the music in the disc’s main piece—as in racially mixed (its literal meaning), but also nothing written in stone and perhaps, non-pejoratively, mercurial. Subtitled “Hommage à Ida Presti,” the piece honors another brilliant flame of the guitar world who also departed far too soon. Presti also composed, and recent recordings (such as Tribute to Ida Presti by Cinzia Milani) show a fine talent in that regard, but this homage appears to be more of a fellow guitarist’s admiration of brilliance. And what a fantastic piece ConcertoMétis is! It was Dyens’ first concerto, written in 1990 and, as he stated, closest to his heart. If one were to search for hints of where to start understanding the sound-world created by Dyens, you would benefit by exploring the music of Villa-Lobos and of tributaries spreading across the vast territory of Brazilian music, of which Dyens had such a passionate liking—especially Egberto Gismonti (b. 1947) and the great composer of chôro music Pixinguinha (1897–1973).
The structure of the concerto is fairly symmetrical: three movements, with the outer movements each divided into three sections, and what a gorgeous central movement (a great place for real magic), sandwiched between music that bursts with both sensitivity and delightful mischief; the playful harmonic subtleties of Poulenc and Milhaud come to mind. The balance created between the strings and the guitar is perfect—almost a sensual overload at times, yet something you can never have too much of.
Enno Voorhorst, now teaching at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, is a formidable guitarist whose portrait reveals a soul of great strength and depth. He really “gets” Dyens. Other tracks on the CD include solo pieces Saudades 1, 2 and 3; Thème Felin; and the beautiful Lettre à la Siene and Lettre à Monsieur Messiaen (from 20 Lettres). The album ends with a delightful orchestrated version of Tango en Skaï. But the greatest treat for me is Sérénade (second movement from Concerto en Si, originally for solo guitar and guitar ensemble). Voorhorst arranged it for guitar and strings and it is truly exquisite.
This is a superb recording featuring playing of the highest order. Definitely in my Top Five for 2018!