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Let Go: New Music for Three Guitars
Bruce MACCOMBIE Tango Amoroso (2004) [8:05]
Ned BENNETT Strange Dreams (2004) [7:48]; Food for Fish (2004) [6:42]
Paulo BELLINATI Baião de Gude (1989) [5:26]; Maracatu da Pipa (2004) [7:43]
Hayley SAVAGE Storm in a Teacup (2004) [9:20]
Benjamin VERDERY (arr. Amanda COOK) Start Now (2004) [2:10]; Let Go (2004) [3:43]; Now You See It, Now You Don’t, Now You Do (2004) [2:10]
Gary RYAN Cabaret (Showgirls) (2005) [5:55]
Appassionata Guitar Trio (Rebecca Baulch, Amanda Cook, and Hayley Savage)
rec. February and April 2005, St. Thomas a Becket Church, Pagham, West Sussex, UK.
BGS RECORDS BGS111 [59:05]

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) vein.

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 riffing.

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 background rhythm.

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.

Brian Burtt



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