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THE LION IN THE LUTE Sir William WALTON (1902-1982) Five Bagatelles Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971) Elegy    Sir Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989) Sonatina Op 51 Theme and Variations Op 77 Sir Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998) The Blue Guitar Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Nocturnal Op 70 ANDERS MIOLIN-ten-stringed guitar BIS-CD 826 [77.29]
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I was really looking forward to hearing this disc, the music being favourites of mine, made familiar by the recordings of Julian Bream. The debt to him for commissioning all but one of these works  is acknowledged in the inlay notes, and given that I kept an open mind,  alternative versions should be interesting. On the whole most guitar discs usually have the luxury of varied period (Baroque, Romantic, etc.) and/or geography (Latin America, Germany and Spain, etc.), and lets face it that is what many music lovers who want a little guitar music on their shelves have come to expect and quite understandably. For the purpose of this review and considering the nature of the recorded material, I listened to this disc firstly in small sections (one composer per sitting) and then in its entirety from beginning to end. A programme like this is really targeting the guitar specialist market and before embarking on such a programme the musician has to be up to the task not only technically but also intellectually.

Anders Miolin is a new name to me although I understand this is not his first recording for 'BIS' and his credentials make impressive reading. For this recording he plays a ten stringed instrument, though none of the works demand or require it, and the general tone he produces is pleasant enough, though not distinctive, and his technique is very capable but he seems reluctant to explore the tonal colours that the instrument offers him, as is the case with his dynamic range. Indeed the playing is somewhat lethargic, whereas the variety of mood and atmosphere can be very extensive within these works, from a dreamlike quality to outright aggression. Here there seems to be no attempt to get to the heart of the music so the disc proceeds from one piece to the next over 77 minutes with no apparent consideration of musical character or even distinction between composers. A very flat, one-dimensional affair and the use of the substituted bass notes available on the ten string guitar (not written in the original score) becomes intrusive, even irritating.

I have avoided a piece by piece analysis as I feel it rather pointless in this instance as at no time did the performance seem able to involved me or hold my attention. A less than satisfying experience. So with all best intent Anders Miolin's offerings fall far short of displacing Bream's recording, whose intensity and committed readings of these formidable works is difficult to equal.


Andy Daly


Andy Daly

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