f you love the sound of the acoustic guitar – well, here’s 4 of them!
This is actually the fourth CD release from York Guitar Quartet, but don’t worry if you haven’t got a copy of any other of thier albums, this one is a great introduction to both their music and musicianship – in equal balance! They have performed numerous concerts, to wide recognition as an ensemble of such musical excellence, and providing audiences with such an exciting experience at each performance, that there concerts are always waited for with much anticipation, Although I’m talking about their latest recording, try and catch them live, as you won’t be disappointed. Anyway, this recording as is usual with the YGQ albums, features a wide variety of music – exciting, reflective, inspiring, beautiful – by a eclectic collection of composers, both old and new, all on one disc. Featuring the combined talents that are: John Mackenzie; Mark Currey; Andrew Forrest; and David Scarth, each of these talented musicians brings something individual to the mix, and when added together, shaken, not stirred, although maybe sometimes, they produce a total unity of thought and ensemble, which gives shape to this collection of musical works and which they stamp their musical authority of ownership upon. Instead of using the standard guitar quartet line-up of four classical guitars, this group of musicians use two requinto guitars, one classical guitar, and completing this ensemble, an acoustic bass guitar. With this combination it gives the quartet a wider tonal range, almost like the string quartet, and a unique timbre which once heard, never forgotten – in a very good way!!
’Three Balkan Folk Songs’
This is a nice group of traditional songs from the Balkans, which have been arranged by Andrew Forrest. Using a traditional idea, of, fast, slow, fast pieces, one, after the other, they form a really good contrast to one another, but also, as the same musician arranged all three of them, a musical unity too.
‘Oblivion’ and ‘Fugata’
These two pieces, written by Astor Piazzolla, the famous tango composer. Arranged by quartet member David Scarth, they are true musical companions, showing a two sided aspect of Piazzolla’s compositional style – a slowish, thoughtful ‘Oblivion’ followed by a more fiery ‘Fugata’.
Originally written by French composer Michel Corrette, it’s preented here by a nice arrangement by quartet member Andrew Forrest. As in the first piece on the album, it’s in three contrasting movements, fast, slow, fast in the usual baroque style.
Again, arranged by Forrest, this a terrific little work by Lili Boulanger, the very talented sister of the more famous composer Nadia Boulanger. Originally written for flute/violin and piano, the arrangement here for four guitars works extremely well and the ensemble deliver a great interpretation of her work. Lili Boulanger unfortunately died at a very early age of 24, oh, what would she have given to musical world, if only she’d survived to write more works. These three short pieces give us only a hint of what might have been!
Written by the wonderful french composer Francois Poulenc, this is a suite in seven, short movements. Almost sketch like in brevity, but so beautiful coloured in tone, which the quartet manage to produce so easily, although no doubt with much focussed practice to bring it off, they are a delight to the ears. Using the various available tones of all four guitars, the performers provide an insight into the mind and heart of this composer.Again arranged by A.Forrest.
A work by american composer Harry Stafylakis, is a great choice to add to this album. Using a combination of dramatic, traditional, emotional, film, intellectual music ideas in his music, which makes an immediate impact on our auditory senses, and this comes through clearly here, as the composer takes us on a journey with him, into a luscious soundscape.
‘Fantasy on Two French Carols’
A lovely work by quartet member Andrew Forrest, who brings these two french carols together, and with his musicianship, and compositional skills, brings us something and fresh, weaving his musical magic around the original simple tunes, producing something more substantial and great to listen to.
‘Landscape with Trees’
The title track of the whole album, was written by British composer Peter Byrom-Smith. Commissioned by the YGQ, they have performed the work many times in concerts. With this experience, they’ve developed not only a total understanding of the work, but a great insight into the composers original ideas. The quartet and composer are pretty close friends, and have been for many a year. In fact, the composer did indeed spend much time discussing with the players, meeting regularly with then, and attending many of thier concerts, before committing pen to paper. There’s a connection in the composers mind/heart about trees, the sounds of the guitar, made from wood from around the world, and even the famous tree paintings by David Hockney. Split into three sections, although without a break, the instruments weave in and out of one another, sparring both melodic ideas and harmony. This a truly great ending to an extraordinary album of music for guitars.
So, to sum up my thoughts. This, is, definitely a terrific recording of music, some familiar, some not, and some especially written for the Quartet and this recording. The sounds of four guitars, played by such great players, adds up to a must buy, and give it plenty of plays – you’ll love it! To find out more, and to get a copy, check them out at: Yorkguitarquartet.com