British Guitar – Andrew Keeping – CC4628


“For anyone interested in new and modern guitar music this disc is a must, not only for the compositions, but also for Andrew Keeping’s playing, which is a joy throughout”

“This superbly atmospheric recording of Andrew Keeping’s British Guitar, crisply focuses the solo instrument in a big reverberant acoustic”

SKU: 4628 Categories: , ,


The leisurely and logical evolution of the musical language was abruptly interrupted in the 20th century, when the tonal and formal norms of the past were strongly challenged in the interests of progress. Many composers continued (and still do) to develop the old values in their own ways, but others adopted other and radically different musical languages, either personally devised or in pursuit of a current trend, of which one of the most extreme was atonality, the abandonment of the tonal centre. It became no longer possible to listen to all composers with ears tuned to the same set of values; an open mind and good will were the necessities. Tonality and the absence of it now happily co-exist.

John Duarte’s Partita II was written for the Swiss guitarist Deborah Mariotti; its subtitle “Relazione” refers to certain thematic elements shared amongst its movements. The left-hand slurs in the Prelude assist in clarifying the interchanges between 6/8 and 3/4 time, and pose problems of concentration for the performer. The “Plainte” (lament) is an overt tribute to the Swiss composer Frank Martin, a direct reference to the third of his Quatre pieces breves. The Perni (Ital.= hinges) are the notes on which the tonality gradually pivots. The final energetic Toccata needs no explanation. All four movements are variously tonal.

Richard Rodney Bennett has described the Impromptus, dedicated to Julian Bream, as the atelier in which he learned how to write for the guitar, a preparation for his Guitar Concerto (1970).

Their language is atonal and they are all derived from the note-row (all 12 semitones) stated without repetition at the beginning of No.l, and returning near the end of No.5, a procedure that gives them an important feeling of unity. There is not one common triad in the Impromptus but there are elusive suggestions of allegiance to tonal centres; in No.3, for example, the first three chords suggest a kind of Tonic – Dominant – Tonic relationship and are repeated at the end.

Oliver Hunt studied the guitar with Adele Kramer at the Guildhall School of Music and privately with Julian Bream, and composition with Sir Lennox Berkeley and James Illiff. His music, written on a large canvas, is often ‘programmatic’; he responds to images and story-lines. Concerning Leviathan he writes:

“[It] was inspired after a reading of the Hobbes classic of the same name. I was absorbed by the relationship between the power of the state and the freedom of the individual, which, translated into musical terms, became the relationship between the dichotomies of discipline and freedom and form and content. The five movements are cast in the form of a palindrome. The textures and themes of the first and second are further developed in the fifth and fourth movements respectively. The third movement, the centrepiece, has a tripartite ABA structure.” The tonality of the music ‘roves’ (shifts), whilst that of Berkeley, his teacher, is full of ambiguity.

Timothy Bowers studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Alan Bush (1973-8) and privately with David Blake. In the mid-1980s he studied further with David Kershaw at York University. He has taught at his alma mater since 1979 and is currently its B.Mus.Tutor. The Five Preludes, which won first prize in the Domecq International Guitar Competition ‘Search for new music’ section (1983), were written during his period of study with David Blake, who encouraged him to experiment with serialism, in which a fixed series of elements – notes (most often the 12 chromatic notes of the equal-tempered scale), note-durations etc. governs the composition in various ways: “Although I have not formally adopted the technique, it helped me to forge a motivically based language of free, though tonally- centred chromaticism. The Five Preludes marked the beginning of a love-affair with the guitar. They alternate slow and fast tempi. The longest is the fifth, a passacaglia on a four-note theme.”

John Tavener, a student of Sir Lennox Berkeley and David Lumsdaine, was so deeply moved as a boy by Stravinsky’s Canticum sacrum that he joined the Orthodox Church in 1976. His Chant stems from this conversion. “I have never felt drawn to writing specifically for this instrument [the guitar] but as often happens, musical ideas took over. I became aware of the sound of a bazouki [a Greek plucked-string instrument] and in spite of the fact that I wrote it in London in November, its origins seem to me to belong to Greece, which I consider is my second home. A typically Greek landscape with its ancient statues and buildings, exuding a silence that is centuries old, and somewhere in the distance the sound of a Byzantine chant.” For most of its time the work is, like the chant that pervades it, appropriately written in a single line, punctuated by periods of stillness, so that there is space on all sides of the notes, and more animated passages that evoke the sound of the bazouki. Other composers have returned to earlier musical languages, speaking them with a 20th-century accent – old wine in new bottles, but none more tellingly and with greater economy than in Tavener’s Chant.

Sir William Walton’s Bagatelles, written for Julian Bream and his only work for solo guitar, (written with the aid of a fingerboard chart which told him where the notes were located), exemplify his capacity for adopting the language of popular music and jazz, already shown in Facade (1926). The directive “con slancio” might send non-Italian musicians in search of a dictionary, but not one who, like Walton, lived for many years in Italy. Where others might have used “con impeto” he expresses a finer shade of meaning (leaping forward). No.l and 5 are filled with rhythmic energy and brio. No.2 lazes hypnotically in the warm Italian sunshine that, in its Caribbean form, also illuminates No.3. No.4 is a gentle love song, English rather than demonstratively Italian. These amiable and accessible masterpieces prove that Schoenberg’s saying “There are still plenty of good tunes to be written in C major” – or indeed in any other key. Tonality is still happily with us.

© John W. Duarte (1996)

Andrew Keeping  graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London, studying under Michael Lewin, Timothy Walker and Bob Spencer, and in masterclasses with John Williams, Julian Bream, Robert Tear and Eduardo Fernandez. This followed an intensive five years being taught by the renowned professor and composer Oliver Hunt. He has appeared at venues worldwide including broadcasts on both radio and television. He works in partnership with various international singers and instrumentalists. His intimate drawing-room recitals have included performances before Pope John Paul II, and members of the British and Spanish Royal Families.

His reputation as a performer with flair and innate musicality were demonstrated with the release of his critically acclaimed solo C.D., “British Guitar” and two ‘sell-out’ recitals at London’s South Bank. As a session musician his versatile playing can be heard in film music, TV ads and as a backing guitarist to some of the world’s most illustrious Rock and Pop artists. His talent, wide ranging repertoire and warm personality is winning new audiences for the classical guitar, and has made him a much sought after performer.

Andrew’s close affinity to the works of British composers has not only led him to champion major contemporary works, but also encourage composers to write for the instrument. He has been recognized for his interpretive insight to communicate with conviction and imagination challenging new techniques and ideas.

In December 2015 Andrew launched his long awaited album “Classic Guitar”, featuring many of his audiences’ most requested repertoire. The entire project was recorded, edited, mixed and mastered by Andrew through his own record label KeepingMusic. With over twenty-five years’ experience in recording studios around the world, Andrew has taken this knowledge and set up his own Location Recording company in 2014. His recordings have received high praise from some of the most respected producers and engineers in the business for their clean, and sensitive quality and for the originality of his productions and compositions. In 2018, Andrew launched his album “Indigenous”, containing his own original cinematic soundscapes and tone poems compositions. Andrew was hugely honoured to have respected composers, producers and musicians  happy to brandish the album “A Masterpiece”.

As a highly accomplished and experienced guitar tutor, many of Andrew’s students have successfully forged music careers in their own rite. He is currently a Professor and Lecturer at the London College of Music/ University of West London. Since he and his wife became foster carers in 2004, Andrew has further developed his versatility and aptitude in working with children; including those that have learning disabilities, emotional, behavioral, and communication difficulties. He has found his guitar and recording techniques a powerful tool in helping children and adults with additional needs overcome many of the obstacles they face on a daily basis. His ground-breaking studies and work with Music Therapists, Speech & Language Therapists and Psychotherapists have demonstrated how Music Technology can play an invaluable role in providing a positive and life affirming experience.

With his unique blend of humour, specialised knowledge and natural style, Andrew is frequently asked to run lecture/masterclasses, workshops, and sit on committees and adjudicating panels. He is a member of the Royal Society of Musicians, Guitar Teachers Association,  Patron of  ME and CFS sufferers North London, and is Chairman of the Board of a charity he and friends have set up looking into and supporting those affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD Awareness South East).

In 2001 the Royal Academy of Music rewarded his achievements and he was made an Honorary Associate of that institution. In 2017 Andrew was awarded a Fellowship of the Incororated Society of Musicians for his contribution to the music industry and 15 years work on various committee’s including the Performer’s and Composer’s Section Committee.

Some artist’s Andrew has worked/played with include; Take That, Gary Barlow, Jools Holland, Dame Alicia Markova, Wayne Sleep, Jason Orange, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, James Galway, Aled Jones, Charlotte Church, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Stephen Dodgson, Sade, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Angie Browne, Gary Moore, Paco Pena, Stevie Vai, George Benson, Brian May and others.

Andrew performs on a custom-made guitar called ‘Pascale’ by the renowned English luthier, Trevor Semple.

**Artists Website

Review I – Music Web International

With this 1996 collection of 20th century guitar works Andrew Keeping goes a long way to justify a position as Julian Bream’s natural successor in this area of the repertoire. The fact that Andrew attended master classes with Bream is apparent; all the fingerprints are here, the full range of tonal pallet and a dynamic range to match, plus the high level of musical insight. Yet Andrew has still retained his own personality that comes through the music in a most engaging way.

The works presented here are selected from the familiar “Five Bagatelles” of William Walton and “Impromptus” of Richard Rodney Bennett, to two premiere offerings, these being John Duarte’s “Partita II” subtitled “Relazione” and Oliver Hunts “Leviathan, Sonata for guitar”. Compositions by Timothy Bowers, his “Five Preludes” and from John Tavener “Chant”, which I believe, to date is his only piece for guitar in his distinguished output, complete the programme.

Julian Bream recorded both the Walton and Rodney Bennett during the 1970’s and the Walton in particular became recital favourites with many concert guitarists. Andrew Keeping does not perhaps play either of these works with the intensity invested by Bream (Andrew is somewhat lighter in character) but never the less they still are more than adequate alternative readings.

The name of John Duarte is synonymous with the guitar as a composer and most knowledgeable scholar of the instrument. Unfortunately of late his inclusion in recordings is all but too rare, so it is good to see his name appear here. His most successful composition is probably the “English Suite” written for and recorded by Andre Segovia, made use of English folk songs, but now with “Partita II” Duarte shows us a completely different musical landscape, one that is for me, definitely a highlight of this disc.

I was impressed with John Tavener’s “Chant” when I first heard Jonathan Richards recording some time ago (as reviewed in January 1999), but Keeping’s interpretation, which predates Richards, I feel is finer with a more developed sense of the Byzantine influences and spaciousness that is central to the work.

At first I found Oliver Hunt’s “Leviathan, Sonata for guitar” and Timothy Bowers “Five Preludes” not as accessible as the other items on this disc, however with repeated listening both of these works revealed themselves as pieces definitely worth a return.

For anyone interested in new and modern guitar music this disc is a must, not only for the compositions, but also for Andrew Keeping’s playing, which is a joy throughout.

Andy Daly.

Reviews: -II – Classical Guitar
“A worthy disc with an exhilarating conclusion, featuring two world premiers”

Review: III – What Hi-Fi
“This superbly atmospheric recording of Andrew Keeping’s British Guitar, crisply focuses the solo instrument in a big reverberant acoustic, the player offers good insight, persuasive scale and a nice three-dimensional picture of proceedings!”

Review: IV – London Evening Standard

“He has done more than most to promote British Solo Guitar”

Review: V – Musical Opinion

“Undoubted gifts – plays with high seriousness”