Schubert sonatas

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Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)

Zeitgenössische Gitarren-Duos
Swiss Contemporary Guitar Duets
Helmut LACHENMANN (b. 1936)

1. Salut für Caudwell für 2 Gitartristen (1977) [2455"]
Heinz HOLLIGER (b. 1939)

2-4 Präludium, Arioso und Passacaglia (1985) [12.57]
Walter FELDMANN (b. 1965)

5. Nr 2 < the other> für 2 Gitarren und Electronik (2002) [1257"
Adriana HOLSZKY (b. 1953)

6. Sonnet (William Shakespeare) fur Stimme und 2 Gitarren (1963) [1237]
Soprano: Katrin Frauchiger
Mats Scheidegger; Stephen Schmidt, guitars
Rec. Studio Varga, Sion 1 10-11 July 2002; 3-4 30 May 2003; 5 31 May 2003; 6 1 June 2003. DDD


This new recording is another contribution to the rather limited extant classical guitar repertory. This is a subject about which some associated with the guitar appear to have a complex, the author of the accompanying notes to this disc being a prime example. He goes to some lengths to rationalise why contemporary composers have rarely initiated composition for the guitar, but when invited and provoked often become enthusiastically involved. Stravinsky, who never responded to requests by Julian Bream, is an important exception.

The four programme items presented were written post-1996, three for guitar and one for harp. The latter is offered on this recording as a transcription for two guitars. The composition by Helmut Lachenmann, Salut für Caudwell für 2 Gitarristen (19770) is rather a marathon event lasting 2455". In this instance Caudwell refers to the English, Marxist poet who in 1937, at the age of thirty, died in the Spanish Civil War, in the fight against fascism. As the first item on the programme it would have been a little daunting for all but hardened aficionados of contemporary classical guitar music were it not for the soothing effect of the duet guitar players who sing/recite along with the music. The remaining three items are almost exactly the same length: around 1250".

In addition to two guitars, the item by Walter Feldman (1965) includes electronics- echo and ring modulation. We are assured in the accompanying notes that this is not "to build up weak sonorities".

The Präludium [2] by Heinz Holliger is an excellent composition and very well played on this occasion. This is one of three pieces presented that were originally written by Holliger for his wife, the harpist Ursula Holliger. In the Präludium, dynamic contrasts and bass sonorities - drawn from a ten string guitar with extra bass strings - are some of the very best I have heard on record.

During the latter part of the video "Concert in Seville", featuring the great guitarist John Williams [Sony SJHV 53475], as a point of illustration Williams makes the following observation: "Learning comes from inspiration and I am easily inspired". The great masters including Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin, and Sor exploited this principle when writing studies for their respective instruments. Didactic challenges in the guise of magnificent melodies inspire the uninitiated and create lifelong bonds of emotional attachment.

The contemporary music presented on this disc may engender positive reaction, but it does not inspire this writer. In contrast, elements of the contemporary music presented on the recent release, British Guitar Music [Naxos 8.557040] by Graham Anthony Devine, are quite inspiring and beautifully played.

In general one must wonder how contemporary guitar music, devoid of melody, harmony or rhythm will be viewed in the next century. Will it become accepted along with established repertory or will it be seen as an unfortunate aberration in the evolution of music for the guitar? The guitar is not alone in this.

Zane Turner

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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