It has been a few years since Naxos (Naxos 8.553630)
released their first volume of guitar works by Leo Brouwer. These were
played by Ricardo Cobo. That disc comprised many of Brouwer’s early
pieces, "Elogio de la danza", "Cancion de cuna"
and the "Estudios Sencillos" etc. The current disc (Volume
2) draws on Brouwer’s middle period of composition; pieces that are
more avant-garde and minimalist in nature and in some respects perhaps
gives an insight into this multifaceted composer's interests outside
music. Allegedly, the "La Espiral eternal" (1971) was influenced
by the double-helix strand of DNA, the building block of life, while
"Canticum"(1968) is representative of an insect emerging from
its pupa (this work incorporates the unusual detuning of the 6th
string down a semi-tone to E flat). The 1980s saw Brouwer on a new track,
described by him as "national Hyper-Romanticism", which produced
one of his most popular and frequently played works, the three movement
"El Decameron negro". Written for the American guitarist Sharon
Isbin and influenced by the writings of the anthropologist Leon Frobenius
the work explores the Cuban-Afro folk traditions of Brouwer’s native
Cuba. Completely new to me, and I must say very pleasurable are the
six "Preludios Epigramáticos" (1981), well done Naxos
for including them here. Also of interest is "Variations on a Theme
of Django Reinhardt" (1984), as it is the only work to date that
Brouwer uses the theme and variation form, the theme being the jazz
guitarist of the title’s most enduring composition "Nuages"
- an indication of Brouwer’s wide musical tastes.
This is guitarist Elena Papandreou’s second recording
for the Naxos label. Like this disc her first was of all 20th
century music but by a collection of various composers Stravinsky, Dyens,
Koshkin etc., What the two discs have in common is Papandreou’s totally
convincing performances. This selection of Leo Brouwer’s work puts many
unusual technical demands on the performer due to some of the unorthodox
sounds required but Papandreou’s strong use of tonal and dynamic variations
consistently provides authoritive and engaging performances.
While it is doubtful this music will have a wide appeal,
for enthusiasts of Leo Brouwer I would say this CD is invaluable.
See also Andy Daly Brouwer