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Miloš Karadaglić (guitar)
The Moon & The Forest
Joby TALBOT (b. 1977)
Ink Dark Moon, Concerto for guitar and orchestra [23:32]
Howard SHORE (b. 1946)
The Forest, Concerto for guitar and orchestra [20:52]
Ludovico EINAUDI (b. 1955)
Full Moon, transcribed for solo guitar by Michael Lewin [3:39]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Traumerei, transcribed for solo guitar by Michael Lewin [3:36]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ben Gernon (Talbot)
National Arts Centre Orchestra/Alexander Shelley (Shore)
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, January 2019 (Talbot), Southam Hall, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Canada, May 2020 (Shore), RAK Studios, London, October 2020 (Einaudi, Schumann)
DECCA 4851525 [51:39]

Howard Shore may be best known for his film music. I much enjoyed his work in The Lord of the Rings, so I looked forward to his Guitar Concerto The Forest, recorded here for the first time. It was composed for the guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, the soloist on this CD. In the booklet notes, Shore writes that he wrote the piece whilst surrounded by nature – he lives in an oak wood – so the work and its title were conceived and created when he interacted with his surroundings during the changing seasons.

The delightful orchestration occasionally captures the sounds of a woodland as the seasons come and go, and the guitarist is well presented amidst the orchestra, given the prominence necessary when a guitar is pitted against an orchestra. Unfortunately, I found the music for the most part bland, lacking any true melodic distinction. Shore mentions that he refers in his piece to the Concierto de Aranjuez. One tires of its incessant repeats in the media, but Rodrigo knew a good melody when he penned it.

One of the accompanying pieces is Michael Lewin’s transcription for solo guitar of Ludovico Einaudi’s piece Full Moon. It seems that the composer created differing versions of the piece, included in his work Seven Days Walking. I have not the patience to find out how much they differ. Whenever I come across his music on air, it all sounds very, very similar: the piano interweaves its way through gentle strings in an amiable but thoroughly forgettable manner. I have listened to this guitar transcription several times, and its content remains stubbornly elusive for my memory. It is short and pleasant, and I have no doubt that it is played expertly here.

The other transcription is of Schumann’s unforgettable Traumerei. Now there’s a melody for you, and it fits the guitar well.

Joby Talbot composed his concerto for Miloš Karadaglić, and for an orchestra larger than would normally be the case for a guitar concerto. The guitarist had told him that, when he waits to go on stage, he feels dispirited to see half the orchestra walk off. Naturally, a larger band causes problems, especially since most of the orchestra – evan a smaller ensemble – cannot hear a guitar play with them. Karadaglić came up with the idea of placing speakers within the orchestra, thus “gluing” his sound and the orchestra’s sound together. It would seem that this was done at the work’s premiere at the Royal Albert Hall during the 2018 BBC Proms.

The concerto, a pleasing piece, opens with a simple up-and-down theme for the soloist, repeated about eighteen times with gradually increasing additions from the guitar and evolving support from the orchestra. This introduction is followed by a much faster section. Discreet yet consistently varied orchestral accompaniment allows the guitar to stand out as the soloist executes a series of rapid, flowing passages. Towards the end, the opening phrase makes a reappearance, but soon vanishes amidst gentle guitar and orchestral rustling.

The intriguing slow movement is a dreamy confection that very slowly rises to a climax via a series of smaller crescendos, interrupted by a quiet section in which the violin muses, eventually interrupted by the brass, followed by more guitar musings amidst the quiet yet colourful orchestral accompaniment, which sometimes sounds like a shimmering veil drawn across the sounds of the guitar. This, in my opinion, is the most interesting music on the CD.

The short four-and-a-half minute last movement begins with a short ‘juggernaut’ theme in the orchestra, which recurs periodically amidst much scurrying orchestral activity. It is neither memorable nor as textually attractive as the slow movement, but it brings the piece to an impressive virtuosic finale.

The CD production is very good. The booklet contains an introductory essay by the soloist, and two essays by Shore and Talbot which describe the genesis of their works. No mention apart from the track listing is made of the Einaudi and Schumann transcriptions.

Jim Westhead

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