Paul Galbraith plays a unique guitar: it has eight strings,
with an extra high and low string, and he holds it like a cello.
The instrument has a metal endpin, and stands on a wooden resonance
box. He is probably the only guitarist to play such an instrument.
I have long appreciated his recordings, notably his transcriptions
of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin, which
reviewed here in 2001.
On this DVD, Galbraith presents three works by Mozart, Britten
and Bach, as well as three “encores”. Since this was not recorded
live before an audience, but in a studio, the choice of the
word “encore” is a bit odd, but these three “little” pieces
round out the recital.
This is a low-budget DVD, with some cheesy title screens and
filming, which, in the first Mozart piece, annoys slightly.
Since it’s hard to film a solo artist performing on such an
instrument, the camera moves around a lot, even in an arc in
front of Galbraith. There are many close-ups of his hands, and
lots of cuts, with shots above and below the performer. After
a while, I just ignored the visuals, though, and focused on
the music. Galbraith is such a fine guitarist, and his unique
instrument has a full, rich sound, that listening to this recording
is a joy.
I especially like Britten’s Nocturnal, and found it quite interesting
to see it performed - notably because, back when I played a
bit of classical guitar, it was a piece I tackled. The cameras
are less excited during this work than the Mozart, and watching
Galbraith play here is more interesting. His transcription of
Bach’s fourth cello suite is also interesting and quite attractive.
And the encores are nice short pieces, making this a fine recital.
You probably won’t buy this DVD for the video, but rather for
the music. In fact, unless you’re a guitarist, it might be better
to buy the CD, which contains the same music. It’s not clear
if it’s the same takes that are on the DVD or not. But Galbraith
is a fine performer, and seeing him play a unique instrument
such as his eight-string guitar will certainly interest other
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog