Recent Releases Tuesday: Albums from Eliot Fisk (Beaser’s ‘Guitar Concerto’), Duo Salmona-Valette, and Evgeny Beleninov

Eliot Fisk

Here’s our bi-weekly listing of some 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:

Classical Guitar
501 Canal Blvd. suite J
Richmond, CA 94804-3505

Some of these 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!

To see our previous listings, scroll to the bottom of the page.

                                                                                 —Blair Jackson

Robert Beaser: Guitar Concerto
Eliot Fisk, Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Linn Records

This fascinating disc of works by American composer Robert Beaser (b.1954) is dominated by album premieres of two works for guitar (one a concerto, the other solo), both written for Beaser’s former Yale classmate (and friend of more than 40 years), Eliot Fisk. On the 28-minute Guitar Concerto (written in 2010) Fisk fronts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by the prolific and much-honored (45 Grammy nominations!) José Serebrier. This multi-textured three-movement work is full of bold, exciting, even jarring turns, as well as many quieter passages, and some extraordinarily difficult guitar runs, which Fisk somehow manages to handle with apparent ease. As the noted composer John Corigliano writes in the lead essay in the CD’s informative booklet,  Beaser’s concerto “is symphonic in scale with virtuoso passages that only a master could write”; adding, “Beaser is one of the only composers I know that really understands how to use harmony in unique and unpredictably beautiful ways.” Fisk himself says the concerto “demands of the soloist a demonic intensity, a polished elegance, and dramatic sweep that push the capacities of the guitar into a new dimension.” It will be interesting to see if this concerto starts to pop up in more symphony programs (though there better be a great guitarist available to play it!). The other piece featuring Fisk is a 1980 solo guitar work called “Notes on a Southern Sky,” which Beaser says was influenced by Latin American (particularly Venezuelan) folk music; it offers an amazing range of tempi and tonal colors over the course of around 12 minutes. Again, Fisk is right on it every second.

The remaining two pieces are orchestral works sans guitar with the finale particularly moving: Ground O (that’s “O” not “zero,” for some reason) was inspired by and written very shortly after the 9/11 tragedy in New York. (It would make an emotional companion piece to John Adams’ brilliant meditation on that event, On the Transmigration of Souls.)

Guitar Concerto: Chains and Hammers, Tombeau, Phrygian Pick; Notes on a Southern Sky; Evening Prayer; Ground O

To hear samples of all the pieces on the CD and to purchase through Linn Records click here; it can also be bought through Amazon. Below is a short video in which Beaser and Fisk talk about their collaboration on this project and Fisk plays a bit, solo:

Benjamin Valette (guitar) Juliette Salmona (cello)
Ad Vitam

I hadn’t really thought much about the combination of guitar and cello until I was knocked out by David Leisner and Zuill Bailey’s wonderful Arpeggione CD last year. That disc primarily consisted of works by European composers (Schubert, Saint-Saëns, Paganini, Gluck, de Falla), whereas this fine disc by a pair of excellent French musicians is devoted entirely to repertoire by Brazilians active in the late 19th and/or the first half of the 20th century: Radamés Gnatalli (whose Sonate pour Guitare et Violoncelle was the jumping-off point for this musical partnership); Ernesto Nazareth, Francisco Mignone (actually Italian, but he grew up in Brazil), Alberto Nepomuceno, and, of course, the omnipresent Heitor Villa-Lobos. (Arpeggione does share one piece with this disc—Villa-Lobos’ much-performed Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5; always a good choice.) Guitarist Valette wrote the transcriptions for the pieces other than the Gnatalli Sonate, and did a superb job of sharing the instrumental load between the two instruments, though as often seems to be the case with this combination, the cello, with its singing, sonorous voice, takes on the main melodies more than the guitar does. These two are marvellously sympathetic players and the choice of so  many attractive and tuneful pieces is certain to appeal to many listeners.

Suite Retratos: Chiquinha Gonzaga, Anacleto de Medeiros (Gnatalli); Odeon (Nazareth); Chanson de Cristal (Villa-Lobos); Valse de Esquina No. 4 (Mignone); Carioca (Nazareth); Valse de Esquina No. 5 (Mignone); Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (Villa-Lobos); Fon-Fon (Nazareth); Sonate pour Guitare et Violincelle (Gnatalli); Noturno, Op. 33 (Nepomuceno); Melodia Sentimental (Villa-Lobos)

For samples or to purchase the disc, go the Ad Vitam Records site. It is also available as an MP3 download from Amazon. The entire album can also be heard piecemeal on YouTube.


Paris Buenos Aires
Evgeny Beleninov

This Russian-born guitarist living in Germany isn’t exactly breaking new ground by performing Villa-Lobos’ 12 Etudes and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons: I’ve heard four different CDs of the former in the past year alone, and several featuring one or more movements of the latter. Still, Beleninov is clearly a highly skilled guitarist and he brings spirit and sensitivity to his interpretations of these mostly well-traveled numbers. I was particularly struck by the juxtaposition of the delicately beautiful Invierno Porteño (the final Piazzolla) with Villa-Lobos’ flowing and mellifluous first Etude in e minor. The playing is crisp and confident throughout (check out the très animé Etude VII!), so even if you’ve heard all this before, you might still be impressed by a young player who clearly feels this music deep inside and is able to communicate both its complexities and its nuances.

Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Piazzolla); Douzes Ètudes de Concert (Villa-Lobos)

The album can be ordered through the guitarist’s website, or through German Amazon. Alas, so far I do not see a American distributor, though the German company JPC will ship to the U.S.

Here’s a video teaser for the album in which the guitarist talks about the project and also plays parts of a couple of pieces:

Previous New CD Listings:

October 4: 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: 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