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Leo BROUWER (1939-)
Guitar music Volume 3

Sonata (1990) (15.32)
Latin American Pieces (3) (11.44)
Hika (7.24)
Suite #2 (6.14)
An Idea ‘Passacaglia for Eli’ (2.52)
Paisaje Cubano con campañas (6.25)
Rito de los Orishas (15.56)
Un dia de Noviembre (4.27)
Graham Anthony Devine (guitar)
Notes in English, Deutsch, and Français.
Recorded St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 24 June 2000
Volume 1:Naxos 8.553630. Volume 2: Naxos 8.554553
NAXOS 8.554195 [70.34]

 

There are those who approach the more contemporary guitar repertoire with some trepidation. No need for such reservations with this new release from the Naxos label. This is their third volume of music for guitar by the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer.

This disc finds a friendly mix of Brouwer’s later inventive (but still highly accessible) compositions and some of his more lyrical works. These are all played to a remarkably high standard by Graham Anthony Devine. His interpretations catch exactly the right atmosphere, which is so important especially with a composer such as Brouwer.

The more contemporary opening piece, the "Sonata", was written for Julian Bream in 1990. Within its three movements are incorporated themes from some of Brouwer’s many musical influences, such as, a motif from the first (sonata form) movement of Beethoven’s "Pastoral Symphony". This is akin to the way that Brouwer has juxtapositioned the Fandango and the Bolero dance forms in the first movement of his own Sonata. The second movement stimulates an air of mystery produced from the Scriabin Piano Sonata No.9 to whom it is dedicated. The last movement quotes from Bernardo Pasquini the 17th century harpsichordist, the piece being "Scherzo del cucco"; the cuckoo of the title making an appearance.

Staying on the idea of "themes", with his "Three Latin American Pieces", Brouwer uses material from works by two 20th century Argentinian composers, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) and Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000). He also draws on the very evocative "Danza del Altiplano" a traditional folk tune from Peru. The Piazzolla piece in question is "La Muerte del Angel" (The Death of the Angel). Whilst the essence of the reworking is wholly recognisable Brouwer has still imparted his own very distinguishable character to the original. Although Graham Anthony Devine’s reading of "Danza del Altiplano" is more than adequate it still does not catch the flavour as Leo Brouwer’s own playing of this piece, of which I have three different versions from radio broadcasts. However, this is not a criticism, more of a personal preference.

Leo Brouwer was a great admirer of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu whose death in 1996 prompted the writing of the piece "Hika". This is a tribute to the loss of his fellow composer and friend. Not surprisingly the work has a feel of the orient about it and the use of the Lydian mode abounds giving it that slight displacement of tonalities.

If "Hika" favours modal changes then "Paisaje Cubano con campanas" (Cuban Landscape with Carillons) is Brouwer’s vehicle for some unusual guitar effects. Most apparent is the use of tapping, a technique more commonly used by some of the more progressive rock guitarists where the player taps the fingerboard of the instrument, often with both hands. The technique is difficult but when employed correctly can produce a quite outstanding result as Graham Anthony Devine achieves here. The piece itself is one of a series incorporating various viewpoints of Cuban landscape by Brouwer. Others are "Cuban Landscape with Rain" and "Cuban Landscape with Rumba".

Brouwer’s interests in the African traditions of Cuba are realised in the two movement "Rito de los Orishas", a celebration of the early religious (Yoruba) rituals of the African slave population in the casting out of evil spirits.

The remaining selection, "Suite No.2", "An idea" and "Un dia de Noviembre" find Brouwer in a more lyrical mood. The "Sonata No.2" is an early work thoughtfully realised and holding themes that the composer would use and develop in the future.

"An idea" is a beautiful tribute to the Canadian guitar teacher Eli Kassner on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. I am sure the recipient was highly delighted by such a gesture, but from what I have heard of Leo Brouwer this is fairly typical of the man. The last piece on this disc is "Un dia de Noviembre" and shows Brouwer at his most plaintive. This is another jewelled creation with that air of melancholy about it that stops you in your tracks. A fine conclusion to a fine disc with masterly playing.

Andy Daly

see also review by Paul Shoemaker

For a biography, list of compositions and discography, you might want to go to:

www.musicweb-international.com/brouwer/brouwer.htm

For a review of Volume 2, go to:

www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Feb02/Brouwer.htm

 

 

 



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