Review: Matthew McAllister Makes Bold Repertoire Choices on ‘American Collection’


Scottish guitarist Matthew McAllister presents his third in a series of albums of music from different countries or regions with American Collection. It comprises mostly miniatures (12 of the album’s 17 tracks clock in at two minutes or under) from an eclectic group of American composers: Chick Corea, Ralph Towner, Lou Harrison, Frank Zappa, Philip Glass, and Philip Rosheger.

Opening the album are four of Corea’s Children’s Songs, musical cousins to Bartok’s Mikrokosmos. McAllister maintains rhythmic momentum and keeps each voice clear in these brief, sparse-textured works, which feature simple, sometimes angular melodies underpinned by ostinato bass figures. The rich harmonies of Ralph Towner’s Toledo contrast with the dark, rippling arpeggios of Oleander Etude and the romantic melody of Always By Your Side. McAllister offers thoughtful renditions of Lou Harrison’s Serenade, with its modal, almost Celtic melody, and Sonata in Ishartum. The disc’s centerpiece, though, is Philip Glass’ Mishima String Quartet No. 3, six cues from his score for the 1985 Paul Schrader film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. In these moody, mostly minor-key minimalist settings for guitar quartet, McAllister is ably assisted by Allan Neave, Uros Baric, and Sasha Savaloni.


McAllister’s burnished tone shines in his sweet and haunting handling of the album’s dreamy closer, Rosheger’s Lullaby to Wake Up With. With this record, McAllister makes a solid case that great music by these prominent composers has been waiting patiently for an advocate in the classical guitar world. —Mark Small


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Classical Guitar