The name "Appassionata"
may call to mind a particular piano
sonata, but here it refers to the classical
guitar trio formed by Rebecca Baulch,
Amanda Cook, and Hayley Savage. The
liner notes claim they "met and
first performed together as teenagers,"
then reconstituted after conservatory
in 2003. This is their first release.
"Let Go: New Music
for Three Guitars" is the kind
of classical guitar recording I like
to see: performances of quality works
by contemporary composers, showcasing
young artists of high caliber with promising
careers ahead of them, offered by an
independent label obviously committed
to the integrity of their work. The
compositions here are all very friendly
and accessible — there is nothing crunchy
or avant-garde here, so those seeking
new music that is "challenging"
are likely to be disappointed. All of
the works have significant Latin-American
jazz and dance influences, though they
are all original compositions in a classical
(rather than folk, popular, or improvised)
My favorites, the ones
I think most highly of and deserving
repertory status, are MacCombie’s "Tango
Amoroso" and Ryan’s "Cabaret
(Showgirls)." The first is beautifully
yearning and elegiac, as much a song
as a dance. The second begins with an
almost southern rock groove before moving
into bright up-tempo Brazilian jazz
Bellinati’s works are
also heavily influenced by Brazilian
rhythm. "Baião de Gude"
puts a nocturne between a beginning
and end that are similarly bouncy romps.
"Maracatu da Pipa" has elements
of perpetuum mobile; movement that is
active enough to be far from minimalist.
The title of Bennett’s
"Strange Dreams" may evoke
Britten’s "Nocturnal," but
its style is actually closer to that
of Tippett’s "The Blue Guitar."
"Food for Fish" is a charmingly
simple rhythmic dance. Hayley Savage
also composes and contributed "Storm
in a Teacup." With an atmospheric
beginning this piece builds up the frenzied
energy of a storm, with respites of
what sound like raindrops. This all
occurs on top of a quirky tick-tock
Benjamin Verdery is
the only name I was familiar with coming
into this review — a prolific composer
of interesting guitar and chamber music,
he is chair of the guitar department
at Yale. The works on this album are
three selections arranged from his Eleven
Etudes that sound like they fit together
as one sonata.
The Appassionata Trio
Play together as one very capable instrument,
and are perfectly recorded. There is
plenty of guitar warmth without the
sound becoming overly resonant. The
pieces here range from good to great.
If you are interested in contemporary
music that is easy on the ears and may
cause you to tap your feet, I commend
this to your attention.