Saturday, January 3, 2015

David Tanenbaum - Guitar Recital - Alan Hovhaness - Terry Riley - Aaron Jay Kernis - Steve Reich - Lew Richmond - Frank Zappa - New Albion 1997

This is one of my all-time favorite solo guitar recordings, with the great guitarist David Tanenbaum.
An earlier post also featuring David Tanenbaum (and also on New Albion) playing the music of Lou Harrison with William Winant and guests is of equal importance to me, it's a disc entitled "The Perilous Chapel" and I urge everyone who has not checked it out yet to do so, it's a rather special disc full of the most wonderful sounds (everything from bells, percussion, Tibetan water bowls, and of course guitar, among other instruments). It is here:

I originally bought this disc, like I have with many other compilations-for the two Guitar Sonatas
by Alan Hovhaness. Almost everything on the program is great listening in my opinion, my favorites being Reich's "Nagoya Guitars" (which is actually a translation by Tanenbaum of the original composition, "Nagoya Marimbas" for two marimbas. I like the original however I like the guitar version played here even more), Lew Richmond's "Three Preludes", and of course the Hovhaness Sonatas. The Kernis "Partita" is quite nice as well. The 39 second "Waltz" by Zappa is forgettable and while I love Terry Riley, "Barabas" doesn't really do it for me.

David Tanenbaum received a phone call from his friend the composer Aaron Jay Kernis long after this recording project was already underway. "I went to Steve Reich's concert last night" Aaron told Tanenbaum, "and heard a piece that I think could work for guitars." David Tanenbaum apparently called up Reich right away and got a copy of Nagoya Marimbas, which was commissioned by the Nagoya College of Music in Japan. Tanenbaum found the piece to be sight readable on two guitars, and after a period of playing it and consulting with Reich, he lowered the original pitch a fifth but everything else was left the same. Then Tanenbaum added a few slurs, harmonics as well as fingerings to exploit the guitar's possibilities. 

Lew Richmond is the least known of the composers here; in fact he's virtually unknown and seems to have no problem with that. An amateur musician, Zen-priest and software specialist, Richmond's "Three Preludes" are inspired by the guitar playing of Alex de Grassi. Like Hovhaness or Kernis, he chose to cloak an old form in a new language. These pieces arrived unsolicited in the guitarist's mail one day during the 90's.

The Aaron Jay Kernis "Partita" is based on Baroque forms, hence the name, and came about gradually after Kernis and Tanenbaum discussed and argued about the piece (which was initially written as a three movement solo guitar suite in 1981) which lead (in 1995) to the addition of a new movement, "Echo", and to a modification of the opening movement "Ciacona" to include Echo's low C tuning of the bass string.

The two Hovhaness sonatas have been virtually neglected, never recorded and rarely played, but happily they are favorite works of the guitarist who plays them both with magic. They are also played with faster tempos than Hovhaness indicates; Tanenbaum found the original tempos often too slow for the guitar to uphold and most movements are therefore faster.

*I'd like to point out that I have been posting many discs with Apple Lossless encoding lately, which still uses m4a files-but lossless quality. As Zshare can only host 200mb, I have to split it into 2 parts. In this case, the second upload is the last two tracks plus the album art. Just add the last two tracks from the part 2 upload to the part 1 folder to make it the complete disc. I mention this only because there was a bit of confusion about this, I received a few emails from folks.


First Part:


Second Part (last 5 tracks, the Hovhaness Sonata)



Emmanuel Iraem said...

Thanks for this unusual guitar music, es deliciosa. btw, which are your other all-time favorite solo guitar recordings?

Tzadik said...

Hola Emmanuel, you are quite welcome, and thank you for commenting! -I have quite a list of guitar recordings (well, in my head, I haven't put pen to paper) and I'd be happy to list some. I will try to do so tomorrow, as it's 2 am out here! -I will quickly say that I have been playing a great guitar disc on Nimbus lately called "The Blue Guitar", which is also the name of the S. M. Tippett work on the disc-it's all British composers TZ