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Leo BROUWER (b.1939)
1. Beatlerianas (1985 rev. 2012) [21:48]
2. Paisaje cubano con fiesta (2007) [3:18]
3. Cantilena de los bosques (2007) [3:33]
4. Zapateo (1973) [2:55]
5. String Quartet No. 5 (2011) [13:06]
6. Micropiezas (1957-8) [8:11]
7. Guitar quintet (1957) [17:01]
Carlos Barbosa-Lima (guitar: 1-4,6,7) Larry Del Casale (guitar: 6) Havana String Quartet (1,5,7)
rec. September 2012, Teatro Góngora, Córdoba, Spain (guitar and strings); October 2012, Loft Studios, Bronxville, New York, USA (guitar solos and duets)
ZOHO MUSIC ZM 201304 [69:52] 

This CD is incredible fun. Leo Brouwer is a great composer, known mainly and justifiably for his guitar music but capable of many different delights. Brouwer, a Juilliard graduate who studied composition with Vincent Persichetti and Stefan Wolpe, has a diverse output and doesn’t limit himself to one voice or style, a strength fully on display here.
The disc starts with its most obvious crowd-pleaser.Beatlerianas is a very creative arrangement of seven Beatles tunes for guitar and string quartet. And I really mean creative: Brouwer appends his own colorful introductions, smartly recasts moods, adds a guitar solo here and there, and really puts these works into a new light. I read somewhere that a musicologist considers Paul McCartney one of the great classical lied composers, and this suite helps prove the point - five of the seven were written by Paul, and they feel natural in classical garb. It also demonstrates Brouwer’s imagination and his affection for the originals. I can’t think of a “classical Beatles” tribute I’ve ever liked this much.
In stark contrast is the Fifth String Quartet, with its darker, shadow-filled lento opening proving that Brouwer is also a keen student of recent music of the classical variety. There are even hints of Soviet-type composition and American minimalism - Reich maybe? The “Celebration” that follows is even closer in spirit to Brouwer’s contemporaries in the avant-garde, but never difficult to enjoy on its face thanks to its grounding in dance rhythms. The quartet, written in 2011, stands in contrast to the Guitar Quintet from 1957, when the teenage composer was wearing his national folk-styles on his sleeve.
All the solo guitar music here is excellent, as one expects from Brouwer. The Micropiezas for two guitars, which the booklet calls a tribute to Milhaud, are delightful tunes, the last of which will be very, very familiar to every listener … and is subjected to well-crafted variations. Earlier in the program we hear three short, excellent guitar solos which paint vivid images in sound.
I’d never heard of the Zoho Music label before, but they’ve put together an excellent album: the Havana String Quartet plays well and with keen enthusiasm, matched by the redoubtable guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima. The booklet quotes praise of Barbosa-Lima from Brouwer himself. Larry Del Casale makes a cameo as the second guitarist in Micropiezas, the sound is forward and enjoyable, the booklet well-written: all told, whether you’re drawn to Brouwer’s more abstract or his more crowd-pleasing work, or if you’ve never heard the sophisticated work of this Cuban composer, the CD’s a real treat. It’s worth it just for what might be the perfect Beatles/classical crossover. Now I’m going to track down the Havana Quartet’s earlier disc with String Quartets Nos. 1-4.
Brian Reinhart