This Week’s Sheet Music Pick: Celebrating John W. Duarte’s Guitar Music

REVIEW BY CHRIS DUMIGAN

John W. Duarte : A Celebration of His Music for Guitar
Compositions by Duarte, S.L. Weiss, Antony Holborne, Reginald Smith Brindle, Domenico Scarlatti, Rodrigo Riera, Gaspar Sanz, Alonso Mudarra, Vincenzo Capirola, John Dowland, and M.D. Pujol
(Universal Edition, 37 pages)

Reflecting John Duarte’s career as both a composer and an arranger, this 20-piece set has only three original works, which is perhaps the only negative aspect of this book (as prospective purchasers might have expected more). The three are Spring Dance from Tout En Ronde, a bouncy quirkily harmonized little gem; Broadway, from Americana, which has some delightful  moments  that constantly keep you guessing as to where it might go next, and finally Waltz II from the Homage to Antonio Lauro: Three Waltzes, a set that was written after the two composers met, and agreed to write homages to each other. All three of the Duarte compositions are superbly written for the guitar and are never boring or hackneyed in their approach.

The other pieces in the book reflect Duarte’s love of arranging, and present a sizable number of Renaissance and Baroque works, some of which—such as the the two S.L. Weiss pieces—needed considerable work to make them playable on the guitar, as they were originally written for the 13-course Baroque lute, which required the elimination or moving of some lower-end notes. Others, like the Dowland , the Holborne  and the Capirola (all also originally for Renaissance lute) required fewer adjustments. The three Domenico Scarlatti keyboard works—Sonatas K481, K83, and K208—are lovely arrangements and feel as if they were originally guitar works. The modern works are represented by three composers, the Smith Brindle’s Corsa, from Ten Simple Preludes, an unusual work, very much in that composer’s modern style; the two Riera works, Nostalgia, and Monotonia , from Vier Venezuelanishe Stucke , a warmly harmonized Latin set; and finally Maximo Diego Pujol’s Preludio Triston, from the Cinco Preludios, a milonga that is immediate appealing.

There is plenty here of interest for the moderately advanced  player, and I imagine that many who are new to some of these pieces, will want to look up the rest of the movements, having had their appetite whetted by this fine publication.

The book is available from Amazon, among other places.

Celebrating the Centenary of Jack Duarte: An Appreciation of the Composer and Classical-Guitar Champion