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Andrew Keeping: guitar
Claudio Records - CC4628-2
 Amazon UK  

John W. Duarte (b.1919)
Partita II "Relazione",Op.104 (1987)*
Richard Rodney Bennett
Five Impromptus (1968)
Oliver Hunt
Leviathan, Sonata for guitar (1979)*
Timothy Bowers
Five Preludes (1986)
John Tavener
Chant (1984)
Sir William Walton
Five Bagatelles (1971)
* Premier Recordings.

With this 1996 collection of 20th century guitar works Andrew Keeping goes a long way to justify a position as Julian Bream's natural successor in this area of the repertoire. The fact that Andrew attended master classes with Bream is apparent; all the fingerprints are here, the full range of tonal pallet and a dynamic range to match, plus the high level of musical insight. Yet Andrew has still retained his own personality that comes through the music in a most engaging way.

The works presented here are selected from the familiar "Five Bagatelles" of William Walton and "Impromptus" of Richard Rodney Bennett, to two premiere offerings, these being John Duarte's "Partita II" subtitled "Relazione" and Oliver Hunts "Leviathan, Sonata for guitar". Compositions by Timothy Bowers, his "Five Preludes" and from John Tavener "Chant", which I believe, to date is his only piece for guitar in his distinguished output, complete the programme.

Julian Bream recorded both the Walton and Rodney Bennett during the 1970's and the Walton in particular became recital favourites with many concert guitarists. Andrew Keeping does not perhaps play either of these works with the intensity invested by Bream (Andrew is somewhat lighter in character) but never the less they still are more than adequate alternative readings.

The name of John Duarte is synonymous with the guitar as a composer and most knowledgeable scholar of the instrument. Unfortunately of late his inclusion in recordings is all but too rare, so it is good to see his name appear here. His most successful composition is probably the "English Suite" written for and recorded by Andre Segovia, made use of English folk songs, but now with "Partita II" Duarte shows us a completely different musical landscape, one that is for me, definitely a highlight of this disc.

I was impressed with John Tavener's "Chant" when I first heard Jonathan Richards recording some time ago (as reviewed in January 1999 ), but Keeping's interpretation, which predates Richards, I feel is finer with a more developed sense of the Byzantine influences and spaciousness that is central to the work.

At first I found Oliver Hunt's "Leviathan, Sonata for guitar" and Timothy Bowers "Five Preludes" not as accessible as the other items on this disc, however with repeated listening both of these works revealed themselves as pieces definitely worth a return.

For anyone interested in new and modern guitar music this disc is a must, not only for the compositions, but also for Andrew Keeping's playing, which is a joy throughout.

Andy Daly

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