Athens Guitar Duo – Vol. 1 – Magellan’s Playlist – CR6019
£9.99 – £23.99
“Close your eyes and the players are just out there behind your speakers. I have not heard the CD version but I expect that too will sound excellent”
“The playing is first-class, utterly convincing and the overall impression is one of deep musicality and welcoming, fascinating moods. A very strongly recommended issue, outstandingly well recorded”
“Obviously, the players’ abilities are important, but the stunning quality of the 24-bit, 192kHz recording, produced and engineered by Colin Attwell at a church in Brighton, England, is critical as well”
“This could be the best-sounding classical guitar recital I’ve ever heard”
“it sounds better than any CD I have heard”
MAGELLAN’S PLAYLIST – On Tour in China
A child of the Renaissance, Ferdinand Magellan was the first explorer to sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific and the first to cross the Pacific before being murdered during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippine Islands. It was Magellan and his exploration that, with the passage of centuries, gave the world a sense of geographic unity and opened up a consciousness of the oneness of this multicultural universe. In this CD, featuring composers of myriad nationalities and with widely divergent musical styles, this eclecticism as displayed by the explorer in his groundbreaking circumnavigation of the globe, finds its realization in a musical context.
The title of this CD, Magellan’s Playlist, evokes the exotic and adventurous nature of its repertoire. It is a repertoire that could well have accompanied the explorer on his journeys had he lived in our digital age, his “playlist” as it were, a cornucopia of musical delights full of intercultural variety and musical pleasure. Beginning with the music of Fazil Say, the selections on this recording cover a wide span of cultural differences and eras ranging from Say’s easily accessible but revolutionary ideas through the British dryness of John Duarte and the sarcastic wit of Jean Francaix to the guitar virtuosity of Andrew York. Included as well is a bit of Chinese traditional music, a tribute to the country that hosts the Athens Guitar Duo on its tour of the People’s Republic. This recording parallels the repertoire performed on that tour and brings to the listener a virtuosic and musically grandiose excursion through the multi-cultural world of music for two guitars.
Fazil Say (b. 1970), the Turkish crossover pianist and composer, builds his music on the principles of improvisation, enticing motives from molecules of sound and creating a unique musical landscape which has its roots in his native Turkey. Say is also an outspoken critic of social injustice and has acknowledged himself as a critic of religion, a stand which led to him being arrested and imprisoned for offenses against Islam. Musically, however, he has been touching audiences for more than 25 years with his musical inventiveness and intimate directness. Fazil Say belongs to the tradition of composers which includes Bartók, Enescu, and Ligeti, each of whom enriched their music through drawing on the richness of his indigenous folklore.
John Duarte (1919-2004) contributed to a significant development of the guitar repertoire, most notably for his transcriptions for guitar solo of the Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. His Greek Suite, op. 39 is often performed and contains five movements, “Zagoresios”, “In the Valleys”, “Tsirigotikos”, “Karagouna”, and “Kalamatianos”, and shows the close connection between folk elements and “art” music. Duarte said in a radio interview about this suite: “… the Greek guitarist Evangelos Assimakopoulos, referring to my first Greek Suite, said it was impossible to believe that I had never been in Greece. In fact it was written in two weeks in 1968 and I first went to Greece in 1984! I believe that the character of a people is encapsulated in its folk music.”
Lowell Liebermann’s (b. 1961) music mixes traditional tonality with innovative polytonal elements and creates a world of sound that is his own special signature. His Nocturne-Fantasy represented here is typical of this unique blending of disparate musical styles. His music has been performed around the world and recorded by some of America’s greatest soloists. Liebermann resides in New York and is on the faculty of the Mannes College of The New School for Music there.
Jean Francaix‘s (1912 – 1997) music is full with examples of musical humour as best reflected in his 4-movement Divertissement with its movements “Entrée”, “Elegie”, Madrigal” and “Rondeau”. Francaix was a natural musical talent. His father, Director of the Conservatory at Le Mans, and his mother, a teacher of singing, sent him to the Le Mans Conservatory and, later to the Paris Conservatory. As a boy of six, he took up composing in a style strongly reminiscent of Maurice Ravel. Thereafter, Francaix studied with the renowned music peda gogue, Nadia Boulanger, who encouraged his career and considered him to be one of her finest students. Among Boulanger’s pupils were Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Elliot Carter. Francaix remained musically prolific until his death in 1997. In 1991 he was named an Officier de la Légion d’honneur.
Oriental influences and colour have permeated guitar music since the beginnings of western musical culture. Beginning with the Han Dynasty in China (206 B.C to 220 A.D), the expansion of the Silk Road through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and into the west afforded not only expanded trade opportunities but also an exchange of cultures which brought Eastern ideas to the Occident and opened the door to our modern, polyglot world. In Europe, this was especially true with Moorish influences brought into Spain during the crusades, influences which remained in Spanish music following the defeat of the Moors in 1492 and the return of the country to the Spanish crown. It is equally true as well in the cross-pollination of musical styles made possible through cultural interactions between China and the west as a result of the Silk Road. In the case of Ren Guang (1900 –1941) and especially in his mini-masterpiece, Silver Clouds Chasing the Moon, his studies in Paris in the early 20th century and his assimilation of western compositional techniques there made of him a fitting ambassador representing the richness of Chinese musical innovation. Among Ren Guang’s most notable works are also his “Song of the Fishermen”. Silver Clouds Chasing the Moon appears on this recording in a new arrangement by Cody Brookshire. Cody Brookshire is a native of Georgia in the USA and adds his background in pop, rock, alternative and classical guitar styles to the crossover beauty of Ren Guang’s work. In recent correspondence, Cody commented on how “… this background on the fringes of experimental pop has helped shape my dedication to craft and fuel my creative spirit … Perhaps due to the difficulties of translation from the Chinese into English, the piece has an alternate English title which translates to “The Moon Chased by the Colourful Clouds,” which I found inspiration in. With this thought, I decided to emphasize the ‘colourful clouds’ aspect by making the accompaniment richer and more interesting. Most of the harmonies feature extended sonorities … not uncommon in jazz music … Harmonics twinkle like stars over the lush accompaniment and entwine themselves into the melody … I also found it irresistible to include a touch of Spanish flare with some occasional strumming and a recurring tambora section, both of which come so natural to the guitar and are surprisingly at home in this arrangement.”
The French composer, Roland Dyens (b.1955), in his suite Comme des grands, reveals the darker side of the guitar repertoire, with “Gloomy Light”, “Il Funghetto” and “Crown Blanc”. Dyens was born in Tunisia and studied guitar with Alberto Ponce and musical analysis with Désiré Doneyne. Dyens is a virtuoso guitarist as well as a composer and tours extensively across Europe, the USA and Asia. He is considered one of the finest exponents of guitar improvisation alive. His concerts are events in themselves, often beginning with an improvised piece as a means of getting a feeling for the venue and for the audience. Compositionally, his music draws on Jazz and folk elements and his many arrangements have made their way into the standard repertoire of guitarists, worldwide.
This CD closes with the music of Andrew York (b.1958), who’s Evening Dance is a striking example of his own virtuosity as a composer and performer. York has made a reputation as a brilliant guitarist and is one of the most prolific and outspoken exponents of this instrument. He was also a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, with whom he played for 16 years, and is an accomplished lutenist.
© Prof. Steven Paul
The Athens Guitar Duo – Matthew Anderson and Dusty Woodruff – have been successfully consistently entertaining audiences, offering them exquisitely crafted performances, each presented with a delicacy and creativity only to be found amongst the finest of chamber ensembles. They have opened up the world of the guitar to new audiences and have promoted the works of both modern and traditional composers with a youthfulness and freshness that makes the music of those composers come alive. Of this ensemble, Jim Montavalli of radio station WPKN in New Haven, CT, has said: “[Their] interpretations of music from both classical and contemporary composers are seamlessly blended into an organic whole.” Similarly, the Clearwater Tribune wrote: “Individually they play with passion for the music and … their sounds blend to produce one harmonic tone that is pleasing to the ear and tends to soothe the soul.”
Review I – Musical Opinion Magazine
There have been several albums of music for two guitars, the most famous being those by Julian Bream and John Williams, but this latest release on the Claudio label has some deeply attractive and unusual music played by these two very gifted young musicians. Magellan was of course an early global explorer, and it is an intriguing concept to have put together music that might well have featured on his personal ‘playlist’ were he able to hear it as he traversed the planet. There are several excellent conceptual pieces here by the late lamented John Duarte, alongside music by such as Fazil Say, Lowell Liebermann and Jean Françaix, together with folk-based tracks. The playing is first-class, utterly convincing and the overall impression is one of deep musicality and welcoming, fascinating moods. A very strongly recommended issue, outstandingly well recorded. [JP]
Review II – International Record Review
The eye-catching title of this disc derives from the repertoire. First there is the exotic range of music from all over the world such as might parallel the eclecticism of Ferdinand Magellan’s world travels during the early 16th century. Second these are some of the works the duo are now taking on a tour of China. This, their premiere CD recording, took place in Brighton, England. To add to the multinational feel, this duo comes from Georgia in the USA. There are extensive and carefully researched notes about all this in the accompanying booklet which is in Spanish as well as English, perhaps as befits a disc of guitar duos which one would expect to sell particularly well in the Spanish-speaking world.
There can be no doubt as to the commitment of the Athens Duo to this music. There is a crispness, a colouration and a sense of involvement which is most attractive. As must be a requirement of good duos, they play as if joined at the hip. They treat the unusual, such as the Say and the Duarte pieces, with just as much care as they do the more well known Jean Françaix. They have garnered some justifiably good reviews, gathered on their website at www.athensguitarduo.com To my ears most of this repertoire is mood music. It encourages the mind to wander to pleasant but non-musical thoughts, unlike the music of, say Torroba or Ponce which seems to draw the ear to the music itself. One wishes they had recorded some Bach arrangements to stretch the listener. This might have been intentional and dictated by the requirements of their Eastern tour.
What struck me more forcefully than anything else was the startlingly clean and present recording. This is another of Colin Attwell’s hi-res efforts recorded with his minimal microphone technique. Once again, it really works well and transports one to the venue most convincingly. Close your eyes and the players are just out there behind your speakers. I have not heard the CD version but I expect that too will sound excellent.
The disc will play on universal players or Blu-Ray players and I should note that owing to the very high definition of the recordings the programme spills over onto two DVD-As but is on just one CD. There is no price penalty.
Review III – Virtuoso -Germany
The Athens Guitar Duo fills “Magellan`s Playlist Vol. 1 – On Tour in China – with contemporary concert works. Both Americans have seen as many harbours as did the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan. On their tour they demonstrated such musical clarity as would be missing with most guitarists. And they have found the perfect balance between world music and chamber music.
Review IV – Absolute Sound
“This could be the best-sounding classical guitar recital I’ve ever heard.
The extra-musical sounds that are an inevitable part of executing technically challenging guitar repertoire-those slides and scrapes-are audible. But, as with live performance, they seem to exist in a different plane than the music are easily ignored. Dusty Woodruff and Matthew Anderson play guitars made by California luthier Kenny Hill, including a very unusual 11-string instrument that contributes to the complexity of the duo’s sonority. Rapid passagework is pristine, harmonics ring out with bell-like clarity, and percussive effects, as when the strings are struck with the open hand, have impressive dynamic impact. Obviously, the players’ abilities are important, but the stunning quality of the 24-bit, 192kHz recording, produced and engineered by Colin Attwell at a church in Brighton, England, is critical as well. The disc is titled Magellan’s Playlist because the origins of the music performed circumnavigate the globe. Composers from Turkey, (Fazil Say), Great Britain (John W. Duarte), France (Jean Françaix) and Roland Dyens), China (Ren Guang) and the US (Lowell Liebermann) and Andrew York) are represent by performances that serve the stylistically wide-ranging, but always accessible, 20th and 21st century material as well as can be imagined” AQ
Review IV – Sound Board
It seems that downsizing is hitting everywhere these days. The aliens Guitar Trio, mentioned favorably in Soundboard some years back, is now a duo, and Dusty Woodruff and Matthew Anderson are ‘ good indeed. They have presented with this disc a programme of new and less known works, including some gems I had not previously known. ‘Hie disc begins with the intriguing sounds of Turkish composer Fazil Say’s Princess of Lykia, depicting an imaginary princess in the eponymous ancient Anatolian state. It is an accessible, but inventive work with a number of quite arresting textures and timbral effects. There is a kind of irony when a duo from Athens, Georgia, plays John Duarte’s Greek Suite. But in this work, one of the British composers uncannily accurate adoptions of another country’s musical styles, the players might as well be from the Old World instead of the New. It is a very convincing performance. Lowell Liebermann is one of America’s major composers. His Nocturne- Fantasy is a very fine work, contemporary, but far from forbidding in tone. Jean Françaix’ Divertissement been recorded by the Newman- Oltman duo, but the present performance more than does justice to this charming work by the Ravel-influenced composer. Comme des grands is one of my favorite works by Roland Dyens, lovely and genuine in expression, avoiding the “straining for effect” of some of his work. The duo performs it quite beautifully. The recorded sound is both pristine and flattering. The liner notes would have benefitted from more specific information about the works included. — Al Kunze.
SOBRE LA MÚSICA
La Lista de Magallanes – De gira por China
Como hijo del renacimiento, Fernando Magallanes fue el primer explorador en pasar del Océano Atlántico al Pacífico y el primero en cruzar el Pacífico antes de ser asesinado durante la Batalla de Mactán en las Islas Filipinas. Fue Magallanes quien con su exploración del pasaje de los siglos le dió al mundo una sensación de unidad geográfica abriendo paso a una consciencia de unión a este universo multicultural. En este CD se presentan compositores de un sinfin de nacionalidades y estilos musicales ampliamente divergentes; Aquel mismo eclecticismo que mostrara el explorador en su revolucionaria circunnavegación del globo se ve realizado aquí en un contexto musical.
El título de este CD, la Lista de Magallanes, evoca la naturaleza exótica y aventurera de su repertorio. Es ese repertorio que podría haber acompañado al explorador en sus viajes si éste hubiera vivido en nuestra era digital, su “lista” por así decirlo, una cornucopia de deleites musicales repleta de variedad intercultural y placer musical. Empezando con música de Jean Francaix, las selecciones en esta grabación cubren una amplia gama de diferencias y eras culturales que abarcan desde el ingenio sarcástico de Jean Francaix, pasando por la sequedad británica de John Duarte hasta las revolucionarias afirmaciones de Fazil Say. Pero también incluye algo de música tradicional china, un tributo al país anfitrión del Duo Ateniense de Guitarra en su gira por la República Popular. Esta grabación es análoga al repertorio de actuaciones de esa gira haciendo llegar a los oyentes una virtuosa y grandiosa excursión musical a través del mundo multicultural de dos guitarras.
La música de Jean Francaix‘s (1912 – 1997) está llena de ejemplos de humor musical tal y como refleja su Divertimento en 4-movimientos con sus movimientos “entrée”, “elegía”, “madrigal” y “rondó”. Francaix fue un talento musical natural. Su padre, director del Conservatorio de Le Mans, y su madre, maestra de canto, lo enviaron al Conservatorio de Le Mans y más tarde al Conservatorio de París. A sus seis años empezó a componer en un estilo claramente reminiscente de Maurice Ravel. A continuación, Francaix estudió con la célebre pedadoga musical Nadia Boulanger, quien lo fomentó en su carrera por considerarlo uno de sus mejores estudiantes. Entre los estudiantes de Boulanger figuran Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein y Elliot Carter. Francaix siguió siendo un músico prolífico hasta su muerte en 1997. En 1991 fue nombrado Oficial de la Légion de Honor.
En su suite Comme des Grands, el compositor francés Roland Dyens (b1995) revela la cara más oscura del repertorio de guitarra con “Gloomy Light”, “Il Funghetto” y “Crown Blanc”. Dyens nació en Túnez y estudió guitarra con Alberto Ponce y análisis musical con Désiré Doneyne. Dyens es un virtuoso guitarrista al tiempo que compositor y se encuentra continuamente de gira por Europa, USA y Asia. Está considerado como uno de los mejores exponentes de la improvisación de guitarra en vida. Sus conciertos,verdaderos eventos en sí mismos, comienzan a menudo con una pieza improvisada para darle una sensación al público de lo que le espera. En cuanto a su composición, su música se nutre de jazz, y de elementos de folclore y sus numerosos arreglos se han abierto camino en el repertorio estándar de guitarristas en el mundo entero.
John Duarte (1919-2004) contribuyó a un significante desarrollo del repertorio de guitarra, destacando notablemente por sus transcripciones para el Solo de Guitarra de las Suites para Cello sin Acompañamiento de Bach. Su Suite Griega, op. 39, que es interpretada a menudo, contiene cinco movimientos: “Zagoresios”, “En los Valles”, “Tsirigotikos”, “Karagouna”, y “Kalamatianos”, y muestra la estrecha relación entre elementos de folclore y de la música “de arte”. En una entrevista de la radio Duarte dijo sobre esta suite: “el guitarrista griego Evangelos Assimakopoulos, refiriéndose a mi primera Suite Griega, dijo que no se podía creer que yo nunca hubiera estado en Grecia. Lo cierto es que la escribí en dos semanas en 1968 y la primera vez que yo fui a Grecia ¡fue en 1984!
Creo que la idiosincrasia de un pueblo está encapsulada en esta música folclórica”.
Fazil Say (b. 1970), el multifacético pianista y compositior turco, elabora su música basándose en los principios de la improvisación, captando motivos de las moléculas de sonido y creando un paisaje musical único que tiene sus raíces en su nativa Turquía. Say también es un crítico abierto de la injusticia social y se ha declarado crítico de la religión, una postura que le llevó a ser arrestado y encarcelado por ofensas contra el islám. A pesar de todo, su música lleva más de 25 años conmoviendo a audiencias con su capacidad de invención musical y su íntima franqueza. Fazil Say pertenece a una tradición de compositores que incluye a Bartók, Enescu, y Ligeti, cada uno de los cuales enriqueció su música inspirándose en la riqueza de su folclore autóctono.
Las influencias y el color orientales han permeado la música de guitarra desde los principios de la cultura musical occidental. Comenzando con la Dinastía Han en China (206 a.C – 220 d.C) la expansión de la Ruta de la Seda por Turquía, Irán, Pakistán y por el oeste hizo posible no sólo las extensas oportunidades comerciales sino también el intercambio de culturas, lo cual hizo llegar las ideas orientales a Occidente abriendo las puertas a nuestro mundo moderno y políglota. En Europa, este es precisamente el caso con las influencias moriscas que alcanzaron España durante las cruzadas, influencias que permanecieron en la música española mucho después de la derrota de los árabes en 1492 y el retorno del país a la corona española. De la misma manera que se muestra en la polinización cruzada de estilos musicales hecha posible a través de interacciones culturales entre China y el Oeste como resultado de la Ruta de la Seda. En el caso de Ren Guang (1900 – 1941), y especialmente en su mini obra maestra, “Silver Clouds Chasing the Moon”, “Nubes de Plata Persiguiendo a la Luna”, sus estudios en París a principios del S. XX, así como su asimilación de técnicas compositivas allí hicieron de él un apto embajador representante de la riqueza de la innovación musical china. Entre las obras más notables de Ren Guang se encuentra también su Song of the Fishermen. Silver Clouds. Chasing the Moon figura en esta grabación en un nuevo arreglo de Cody Brookshire. Cody Brookshire es nativo de Georgia, en EE.UU. y suma sus antecedentes musicales en los estilos pop, rock, guitarra alternativa y clásica a la multifacética belleza de la obra de Ren Guang. En una carta reciente, Cody comentaba cómo “esta experiencia al márgen del pop experimental me ha ayudado a modelar mi dedicación para intensificar y estimular mi espíritu creativo”. Quizás debido a las dificultades en traducir del chino al inglés la obra tiene un título alternativo en inglés que se traduce “La Luna Perseguida por Nubes Coloridas”, y en el que yo encontré mi inspiración. Con esta idea, Yo decidí poner énfasis en el aspecto de las ‘nubes coloridas’ haciendo el acompañamiento más interesante. La mayor parte de las armonías representan sonoridades extendidas… algo que no es inusual en la música jazz. Las armonías brillan como estrellas sobre el exuberante acompañamiento entrelazándose con la melodía. Además no pude resistir incluir un toque de fuego español intercalando algún ocasional rasgueo y secciones periódicas de tambora; ambos se unen de forma natural a la guitarra, y es que sorprendentemente se sienten en casa con este arreglo.
En esta grabación se ven representados también dos importantes compositores contenporáneos, Andrew York (b. 1958) y Lowell Liebermann (b. 1961). El CD concluye con Danza de Noche, de Andrew York, y con la Fantasía Nocturna del compositor y pianista americano Lowell Liebermann’s (b. 196l). Especialmente York se ha ganado una gran reputación como genial guitarrista siendo uno de los más prolíficos y declarados exponentes de este instrumento. Además de ser un laudista consumado también fue miembro del Cuarteto de Guitarra de Los Àngeles, con el que tocó durante 16 años. La música de Lowell Liebermann mezcla la tonalidad tradicional con innovadores elementos politonales creando un mundo de sonido singular que es su propia firma. Su música ha sido interpretada en el mundo entero y grabada por algunos de los más grandes solistas de América. Liebermann reside en Nueva York y está en la Facultad del College de Mannes de la Nueva Escuela de Música neoyorquina.