Here’s a freshly minted video that is delightful and exceptionally well-played (and sung!). England’s Aquarelle Guitar Quartet—Michael Baker, Vasilis Bessas, James Jervis, and Rory Russell—are coming up on their 20th anniversary, an impressive run marked by five albums on the Chandos label and many, many performances along the way. Their repertoire—much of it arranged by them—spans centuries, and they have long been dedicated to presenting new and modern works. They’re joined here by composer, pianist, and, on this performance, vocalist Clarice Assad—daughter of Sérgio Assad, who was among the AGQ’s teachers—for a version of a piece called A Mi Pueblo. We’ll let the AGQ fill you in on the details:
“A Mi Pueblo is a beautifully haunting piece of music written by the Paraguayan harpist Ismael Ledesma [b.1962]. This arrangement for guitar quartet and voice is by quartet member Mike Baker. We are delighted to promote this new collaborative project with one of Brazil’s most exciting young artists. We have known Clarice Assad for many years now, and we discovered a striking musical affinity very early on in our friendship. In 2009 we commissioned Clarice to write a piece for our debut recording with Chandos Records, Spirit of Brazil. The three-movement work that she wrote for us—Danças Nativas—earned her a well-deserved Latin Grammy nomination. Building on the success of that project, we have now realized our long-held ambition to collaborate as performers and have developed an eclectic program of genre-defying music full of rhythm, energy, humor and emotion.”
There actually is a precedent for the piece in the classical guitar world: In 2017, harpist Ledesma and and English guitarist Richard Durrant included a duo version of the work on their album Durrant y Ledesma.
CG published an illuminating interview with the AGQ in the Winter 2017 issue. And you can learn more about composer Ismael Ledesma here. —Blair Jackson
Equal time for the composer! Here’s Ledesma playing a solo harp version of his piece, which will give you a sense of which of the original elements made it through to the guitar arrangement: