This CD, originally released in 2011, is the second by Duo
Transatlantique, two young guitarists who also have solo
Laforest from France and Benjamin
Beirs from the USA. Laforest's latest solo disc was released
at the end of last year to critical acclaim - see review.
Their recital here is a blue-sky, warm-breeze collection of
originals and transcriptions from the 18th century to the modern
day, a Gallic feast of elegant, melodious pieces with a dash
of American flamboyance, sure to appeal to all tastes.
There is something magical about the guitar that gives it the
ability to turn transcriptions of music written for different
forces into what sounds like original works. Such is the case
here with Franck's Prelude, Fugue and Variation, delicately
arranged by Matanya Ophée; with the two Sonatas by Scarlatti,
their underlying Mediterranean character strikingly revealed
in these transcriptions by Julian Gray and Ronald Pearl. Even
Joplin's famous Maple Leaf Rag seems made for the guitar at
least as much as for the piano!
There is no requirement for a knowledge of French cinema to
appreciate the remaining arrangement: wistful melodies plucked
from the 2001 Jean-Pierre Jeunet film 'Amélie' and made
into a lovely suite by Laforest - in this instance an improvement
on Yann Tiersen's somewhat clichéd soundtrack.
The well-chosen original works are just as compelling. Brazilian
guitarist Paulo Bellinati's Jongo is a memorable opener, not
only for the amazing seventy-second percussion duet that erupts
just over halfway through! Its subtly South American colours
and rhythms will please audiences all over the world. Guitar
virtuoso Antoine de Lhoyer was France's answer to his great
Italian contemporary Mauro Giuliani, and one of history's most
prolific composers for two guitars. His Duo Concertant is a
delightful work, mellifluous and imaginative, and really deserving
of greater exposure. Finally, though the music is eminently
approachable, the title of Eric Pénicaud's Little Suite
for Children is slightly misleading - these four very short
pieces are not simple nursery tunes but rather impressionistic
descriptions of a young child's day - 'Waking', 'Playing', 'From
moment to moment' and 'Dreaming'. Pénicaud has dedicated
the work to Laforest and Beirs.
Duo Transatlantique give superb performances from beginning
to end, full of warmth, detail and relaxed energy, both individually
and as a pair. Their ten years together has evidently given
them an intimate understanding of each other's technique and
phraseology, and together they radiate an listener-pleasing
authority and enjoyment.
Sound quality is excellent: warm, intimate and well-balanced.
The album is available through Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes and some
other outlets, with wildly differing prices. The only disappointment,
aside from the sub-hour running time, is the digipak case, which
comes without a booklet and thus provides almost no information
about the music: the track-listing is virtually all there is.
The side given over to a bilingual awards-ceremony-style list
of people Duo Transatlantique would like to thank is a waste
of space - they have all surely been thanked before, whereas
listeners will curse the lack of basic background or biography,
really a common decency to living composers in particular.
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk