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CD: Buywell

Asturias - The Spirit of Spain
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Dance from La vida breve (1904-13) (arr. Daniel McKay and Timothy Kain) [3:16]
Pantomime from El amor brujo (1915) (arr. McKay/Kain) [4:11]
Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo (1915) (arr. McKay/Kain) [3:59]
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
Danzas fantásticas, Op. 22 (1919) (arr. Kain) [15:23]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Verano porteño (1964) (arr. Kain/Minh Le Hoang) [6:13]
Oblivion (1982) (arr. Minh Le Hoang) [3:26]
La muerte del angel (1962) (arr. Minh Le Hoang) [3:18]
Paulo BELLINATI (b.1950)
Baião de Gude (1977) (arr. McKay/Kain) [4:16]
Celso MACHADO (b.1953)
Danças populares Brasileiras (arr. McKay/Kain) [9:58]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Asturias (Leyenda) from Suite española No. 1 (1892) (arr. McKay/Kain) [6:15]
Guitar Trek (Timothy Kain, Minh Le Hoang, Daniel McKay and Stephen Poskitt (guitars))
rec. February 2004, Band Room, Australian National University School of Music, Canberra
ABC CLASSICS 476 3389 [60:15]
Experience Classicsonline

Guitar Trek is the interestingly named and long-lived ensemble that normally delves into the outback of contemporary Australian eclecticism and returns with platefuls of inventive material with which to regale its audience. Here the guitar foursome has instead turned to the sultry imprecations and haunting evocations of España and Latin America and their strumming has been at the service of such luminaries as de Falla and Turina and Albéniz and - yes, it’s that man again - Piazzolla. There are also a couple of contemporary composers to keep the pot boiling.

The arrangements are by members of the quartet, principally Timothy Kain either alone or in collaboration with colleagues. The results are piquant, spicy, saucy, swaying. You can hardly go wrong with de Falla but these things still need to be sensitively arranged, for the melodic lines to be appositely distributed and for the transcription to avoid a sense of congestion or rhythmic overkill. You can’t afford to do a Spinal Tap on the Pantomime from El amor brujo and I’m glad, but not surprised, that this trap is avoided. Instead it’s florid and arresting and the limpid Habanera is duly brandished with care. The Turina pieces, the Danzas fantásticas, are just as good. They are potent and poetic, with the elation of the downward ‘piano’ run in Exaltación a particular highlight. Don’t pass by the softly textured mysterioso of Ensueño nor its rippling, pulsing rhythmic textures, fluid as a Flamenco girl’s pleated skirt twirls. And naturally Guitar Trek doesn’t let us down with the multi-voiced burgeoning of Orgía which is a riotous conflation in their hands. It becomes more Spanish than Spanish.

Let me confront my Nemesis for a brief moment. I repeat my wish that, like whale hunting or seal clubbing, we can have a moratorium when it comes to the works of the immortal Piazzolla. Is he sexy? Is he moody? Is he heck. Still, Oblivion must be raking in the post mortem royalties. I just don’t buy the quicksilver mood changes of La muerte del angel.

Celso Machado turns in a respectable suite of popular dances - all light and airy, these Brazilian songs pass rapidly and are full of good things. Paulo Bellinati contributes Baião de Gude, an energetic dance with a complicated back story as it was originally written for soprano saxophone and an instrumental ensemble. The four guitar version, by the composer, came in 1994, five years after he’d produced a three guitar version. Well, why not?

An enjoyable programme then, particularly for admirers of the group, its intrepid arrangers and the promise of some Iberian-Latino sun and frolics. Well recorded it makes for diverting listening.

Jonathan Woolf



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