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The Art of Gareth Koch: A Guitar Anthology
ABC 476 7497 "She Moved through the Fair"
Dances from Spain

Gareth KOCH (b. 1962): Lavender and Gossip (Rumba Flamenca) – Bargaining with the Goatherd – The Ferry’s Wake
Celtic Ballads: Traditional Celtic, arr. Gareth Koch: The Curragh of Kildare – Johnny Comes Marching Home – She Moved through the Fair
Australian Ballads: Traditional Australian, arr. Gareth Koch: The Overlander – Farewell and Adieu (Brisbane Ladies) – On the Springtime it Brings on the Shearing – Van Diemen’s Land
Gareth KOCH: Van Diemen Suite: I. The Butcher of Winnaleah – II. Devil’s Kitchen – III. Walls of Jerusalem – IV. Cathedral Rock
Gareth KOCH: Dances from Spain: Sweet Pine and Cypress – Pain and Revelation – The Moon’s Reply – Darkness and Love
Manuel de FALLA (1877 – 1946)(arr. Gareth Koch): Dance of the Miller
Celtic Ballads: Traditional Celtic, arr. Gareth Koch: Salley Gardens – Ballad – Skye-Boat Song
Gareth Koch (guitar), recorded in February 1997 at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, Australia, with the kind permission of Dean Graeme Lawrence
ABC 476 7498

Carl ORFF (1895 – 1982): Carmina Burana (arr. Gareth Koch): Fortune, Empress of the World: O Fortuna – Fortune plango vulnera; Spring: Veris leta facies – Omnia Sol temeprat;
On the Green: Tanz – Floret silva – Chramer, gip die varwe mir – Swaz hiengat umbe – Chume, chum geselle min! – Swaz hie gat umbe; In the Tavern: In taberna quando sumus;
The Court of Love: Amor volat undique – Dies, nox et omnia – Tempus est iocundum – Dulcissime; Fortune, Empress of the World: O Fortuna
Songs of the Trouvères: Anonymous (13th century)(arr. Gareth Koch): Eve’s Garden; ADAM de la HALLE (1237 – 1288): Robin Loves Me
Gareth Koch (guitar), recorded in June 1997 at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, Australia, with the kind permission of Dean Graeme Lawrence
ABC 476 7499 "The Fragrance of Paradise"

Gareth KOCH: The Lustful Abbot – Taste of the Fountain – Saladin’s Dream – The Unveiled Queen – The Hags of Gloucester – The Fragrance of Paradise – The Joust – Song of Devotion to the Virgin – Journey to the Otherworld (a. Voyage – b. In the Crypt) – The Knight of the Swan – The Wild Hunt – The Lost Grail – Simon, the Gregarious Hermit – Come with Me, My Giselle – Merlin’s Prophecy – Sigh of the Moor – Crusade Song
Gareth Koch (guitar),´recorded in March 1999 at St. Scholastica’s Chapel, Glebe, Sydney, Australia
ABC 476 7500 "España!" – Spanish and classical guitar favourites

Isaac ALBENIZ (1860 – 1909): Sevilla ‘Sevillanas’ (from Suite Española) – Asturias ‘Leyenda’ (from Suite Española); Richard CHARLTON (b. 1955): Afterthoughts: Cantilena (after Torroba) – Reverie (after Debussy) – Sarabande (after Falla) – Rondeau (after Ponce); Enrique GRANADOS (1867 – 1916): Spanish Dance No. 4 ‘Villanesca’ (from Danzas Españolas); Manuel de FALLA (1877 – 1946): Dance of the Miller ‘Farruca’ (from The Three Cornered Hat) – Spanish Dance No. 1 (from La Vida Breve); Isaac ALBENIZ: Córdoba (from Songs of Spain); Enrique GRANADOS: Spanish Dance No. 5 (from Danzas Españolas); Joaquín NIN (1883 – 1949): Seguida Española: The Old Castle – Murciana – Catalana – Andaluza; Gaspar SANZ (1640 – 1710): Suite Español: Pasacalle – Paradetas – Canarios; Joaquín RODRIGO (1901 – 1999)(arr. Gareth Koch): Adagio (from Concierto de Aranjuez); Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887 – 1959): Prelude No. 4
Gareth Koch (guitar), Herwig Tachezi (cello)(tracks 9 – 15)
Recorded in July 2000 at St. Scholastica’s Chapel, Glebe, Sydney, Australia (tracks 1 – 7); in May 1993 at Bernardi-Saal, Wr. Neustadt, Austria (tracks 8 – 18); in August 1992 at Church of the Holy Cross, Klingfurth, Austria (tracks 19 – 20)
ABC CLASSICS 476 7496 [56:41 + 42:42 + 60:19 + 69:07]

Gareth Koch, now is in mid-forties, is one of Australia’s foremost guitarists, not only in the classical field but also, among other things, a brilliant flamenco player. He is also a founding member of the highly successful group Saffire: The Australian Guitar Quartet, to which whose second CD I gave a very enthusiastic review less than a year ago. This is however my first encounter with Mr Koch as a solo guitarist, and very positive it is. This box, selling at little more than a full-price CD, contains four discs, all of them previously released and the programming is genuinely interesting, to say the least. The main reason for wanting to review this set, apart from a general liking for guitar music, was the inclusion of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, arranged for solo guitar, which seemed thought-provoking but weird. It turned out, though, to be not as weird as I had expected and I shall try to be more explicit on this within a few paragraphs.
Browsing through the heading of this review one easily notices two main preferences with Gareth Koch: medieval music and music from Spain. There are also a number of traditional Celtic and Australian songs and ballads, but they are just the exception to prove the rule.
"She Moved through the Fair" contains Celtic and Australian ballads plus Dances from Spain, which Gareth Koch in his notes states are original compositions written in the flamenco genre, but at least the very first piece, Lavender and Gossip, has a main theme that can be tracked down to at least 1840 but probably is older than that. A musical dentist in Barcelona seems to be the oldest known originator. In 1941 guitarist Vincente Gomèz played this music in the Tyrone Power movie Blood and Sand and had the year before published the piece in the US as Gipsy Theme Music. The French director René Clément made Jeux interdit in 1951 and then asked Narciso Yepes to compile the music, where this tune again appeared – composed by Yepes - and was later recorded by Miriam Makeba as Forbidden Games. In Sweden guitarist Roland Bengtsson recorded it in 1961, entitled Romance d’amour and according to the record label composed by Gomèz. In 1966 the melody become a hit in Sweden with a text by "poet laureate" Bo Setterlind and sung by Lill Lindfors, Du är den ende (You are the only one). There are recordings by both Yepes and Göran Söllscher. I have had the opportunity to listen to several of these versions and there are small rhythmical differences but in the main it’s the same tune and that Gareth Koch treats it as a Rumba flamenca only shows that the possibilities for variation are inexhaustible. Generally he catches the Spanish atmosphere admirably and often uses the body of the instument for percussive effects. There are other influences as well, as in Bargaining with the Goathead (track 2), which is a Moorish dance with Arabic flavour, dating back to the 15th century. Among the Celtic and Australian ballads there are several that are catchily beautiful in all their simplicity, try the short O the Springtime it Brings on the Shearing (track 9) or tracks 20 and 21, Sally Gardens and Ballad, pensively and utterly beautifully played and coming as calm relaxation after some of the foregoing rhythmic activity, but far from being wall-paper music they are so exquisitely performed, and arranged, that they make you sit up and prick your ears out of sheer delight. Among the gems the often symcopated Van Diemen Suite (tracks 11 – 14) should also be mentioned. Over all clever programming makes it easy to play the the disc straight through without any feeling of monotony, since the groups of pieces – and the individual pieces within the groups – are so nicely contrasted. At the same time the fact that everything is composed and/or arranged by Gareth Koch creates a strong sense of unity.
When it comes to the second disc, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, I was initially sceptical, to say the least, about "translating" this music from the large choral and orchestral forces that it was conceived for into one of the most intimate of musical media: the guitar. The strange thing is that it works more often than not. The dynamic contrasts are of course reduced, compared to Orff’s original intensions, but Gareth Koch has a wide dynamic range for a guitarist, and if we move the whole dynamic spectrum a bit downwards, so to speak, he covers very much of the terrace dynamics that Orff very clearly builds the music around. It goes without saying that the overwhelming, almost physically tangible impression a large chorus and a full-size orchestra can make are nowhere within reach of a solo-guitar, but he manages very well to "orchestrate" the guitar and finds lots of appropriate colours. Track 6, Floret silva, is a good example, where he also uses tremolo and drum effects. As a whole the orchestral colours are not crucial in this work, which also exists in an "original" version for soloists, chorus, two pianos and four percussionists. I have heard that version and the difference between this one and the full orchestra version is marginal when it comes to colours. For readers who are interested there is a BIS recording of that "chamber" version, and very good it is too.
Gareth Koch has a rhythmic drive that makes this rather simple and four-square music live and O Fortuna, the beginning and the end of the whole work, is really powerful, more so at the end when one has got used to the concept.

It has to be mentioned that there are several omissions from the complete score; around 1/3 is actually missing and I think Koch is right about cutting for instance the lament of the roasted swan, which probably wouldn’t make much of an impression on the guitar. In the Spring section Ecce gratum is missing and In the Tavern is represented solely by the last piece: In taberna quando sumus. Of the nine pieces in The Court of Love only four are played and Blansiflor et Helena is also missing. As some kind of compensation he plays two Trouvère-songs from the 13th century, one of them being from Adam de la Halle’s Jeu de Robin et de Marion.

Even though I was just as sceptical as Gareth Koch presumes in his booklet essay – before I started listening – in the end I was deeply impressed: by the playing first and foremost, but also by the arrangements and the fact that it works so well on the guitar. It takes some time getting used to and it can never express the full scope of a "standard" performance, but it is a fascinating alternative that I will certainly return to.

"The Fragrance of Paradise" takes as its starting point some myths and legends of the Middle Ages. Gareth Koch has also had a browse through some of the around 1400 trouvère melodies that have survived to the present day and the documentation lists these sources: "Based on ...". But he is also careful to point out that he has no intention to recreate the actual sound of the 12th and 13th centuries: "Only the ingredients are medieval – the recipes and method are original." He tries to – and manages very well – to create a medieval athmosphere and he often tunes his instrument unconventionally to give an impression of ancient times. He also frequently uses percussive sounds but, as he also points out, they are actually always played on the guitar with different techniques. As before he is good at building a programme that is always full of variety: there are lively pieces, even wildly dissonant ones, but also hushed and meditative melodies. Another fascinating issue!

The "España!" disc takes us back to Spain, although his compatriot Richard Charlton’s Afterthoughts (tracks 3 – 6) is only "second-hand Spanish", where he has "attempted to capture some of the character traits of the composers mentioned". Inspired by Torroba, Debussy, Falla and Ponce they could be labelled pastiches, but they are finely crafted pieces with nothing in them to suggest that they were written as recently as 1994. This is certainly music written for the guitar; much of the rest is, as far as I can see, arrangements, probably by Koch himself, although the booklet texts gives no information about that. The Albéniz and Granados pieces are definitely piano music, but the playing of them (tracks 1, 2 and 7) is so enormously vital, almost frantic, that one doesn’t miss the piano. Contributing to this almost larger than life feeling is possibly that he plays them on a custom-built eight-string guitar.

On seven tracks (9 – 15) he is joined by cellist Herwig Tachezi, who is a fine player with a smooth, silken tone. One of the highlights is Albéniz’s Córdoba (track 10) one of the longest pieces on this disc, while Granados’ Spanish Dance No. 5 (track 11) is surprisingly slow and inward.

Joaquín Nin’s Seguida Española (tracks 12 – 15) was a pleasant acquaintance, and in so far as the combination cello and guitar appears very often in recital, both the second and fourth movements would be ideal encores. The Rodrigo Adagio, aranged for solo guitar, works well without the orchestra and to round of this entertaining recital Gareth Koch plays Villa-Lobos’s Prelude No. 4, which indeed is originally conceived for guitar.

One could regret that there is little in the booklet text about the actual music; instead we get a very interesting essay about the development of the guitar, which is compensation enough.

I hope I have made it clear that I have enjoyed this box very much and I am convinced that it will appeal to many listeners, guitar lovers or just "normal" music lovers. At the price nobody will regret buying this set – and there is no need to play it straight through at one sitting, as poor reviewers sometimes (have to) do. Strongly recommended.

Göran Forsling

 



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