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Edino KRIEGER (b.1928)

Ritmata (1974)
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930 – 1996)

All in Twilight (1987)
Armand COECK (b.1941)

Constellations (1986)
Nuccio D’ANGELO (b.1955)

Due canzoni lidie (1984)
Leo BROUWER (b.1939)

Paisaje cubana con campanas (1986)
Tristan MURAIL (b.1947)

Tellur (1977)
Hughes Kolp (guitar)
Recorded: Eglise Notre Dame du Sacré-Coeur, Bois-des-Nauwes, Belgium, no date
GHA 126.049 [57:51]


Yet another guitar recital! I hear someone say. I may tell you straightaway that this is not the traditional guitar recital one might expect. This one is entirely devoted to guitar works by 20th Century composers of different generations and horizons, among whom Takemitsu and Brouwer are likely to be most familiar. The other composers may be less familiar (they were to me anyway) although Krieger, Coeck and d’Angelo seem to have made some reputation with works for guitar. Tristan Murail, however, may be a name one would not readily associate with this instrument. He is rather better-known as a composer of the so-called spectral school and as an Ondes Martenot player.

Brazilian-born Edino Krieger is the oldest composer featured here. After early musical studies in Rio de Janeiro, he travelled to the States and studied with Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Centre and with Peter Mennin at the Juilliard School of Music. Later, another scholarship allowed him to study with Sir Lennox Berkeley. Ritmata, that gives this recital its collective title, is a brilliant Toccata in all but the name (although its original title was Toccata and admittedly inspired by Prokofiev’s piano toccatas). It is a virtuoso piece and a splendid recital opener (or an audience-raising encore) by any account.

Takemitsu’s All in Twilight, written for and first performed by Julian Bream, is a suite of four short sketches, mostly slow-moving and meditative, which will surprise no-one familiar with his music. Interestingly enough, however, they are not played as a suite here but rather as interludes between some of the other pieces.

The Belgian composer Armand Coeck has several works for guitar to his credit, including a Guitar Concerto composed in 1996 and first performed by Carlos Bonell. Constellations is a substantial work alternating meditative and livelier episodes reflecting the feelings and emotions one may experience when looking at a beautiful starry sky at night.

D’Angelo’s Due canzoni lidie, both appropriately exploiting the Lydian mode, are somewhat simpler and lighter, but nonetheless very fine. I imagine that this lovely diptych could (and should) become quite popular with guitarist and audiences alike, were they heard more often. A delightful miniature anyway.

A guitarist himself, Leo Brouwer is particularly well-known and appreciated as a resourceful composer of many works for guitar favoured by guitarists. Many of them have been regularly recorded, e.g. by Naxos who have already released three discs entirely devoted to his guitar music. Paisaje cubana con campanas is a favourite among guitarists and one of his most popular works with El decamerón negro or Elogio de la danza, to mention but two of them. (Incidentally, my favourite piece is the ravishing Retrats Catalans for guitar and small orchestra recorded several years ago by Eduardo Fernandez on Decca 430 233-2.) The music is entirely based on F and keeps moving from and returning to it throughout the whole piece which is a minor masterpiece of invention and imagination.

Tristan Murail is a foremost exponent of the so-called French spectral school. His Tellur is, no doubt, the most substantial and the most demanding piece here. I hasten to say that it challenges the player to some extremities, but the listener is in no way assaulted or aggressed. Quite the contrary. This impressive piece is, to my ears, most idiomatically written for the instrument, beautifully inventive and quite appealing and accessible, for all its technical complexity. This is, to my mind, a major addition to the repertoire and the real gem in this collection.

In the early 1960s, when I was still a budding music-loving teenager, I read an interview of a celebrated guitarist of the day (pardon me, but I cannot now remember his name) who was asked if he played any contemporary music at all. He turned his guitar upside down and started strumming on it, and replied Yes, I do! Well, nothing of that kind here, but a well-planned and immaculately played collection of some very fine, too little heard recent works for guitar that are all well worth a hearing, all fully idiomatic and quite rewarding, musically speaking. Hughes Kolp’s carefully prepared and subtly varied readings serve the music in the best possible way and are given one of the finest recorded sounds I have recently heard.

So, in short, guitar buffs or not, I urge you to look out for this magnificent release.

Hubert Culot


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