Sunday, April 26, 2015

From Afar: Nicholas Goluses, Guitar - Manuel De Falla, Homage...Claude Debussy - Joseph Schwantner, From Afar...Fantasy for Guitar - Manuel Ponce, Variations & Fugue on La Folia d’España - Benjamin Britten, Nocturnal after John Dowland - Mikis Theodorakis, Three Epitafios - Albany 2012

This varied guitar program begins with Manuel de Falla’s Homage to Claude Debussy, written in 1920. Although it is clear in its dedication, the music is quintessential Falla and it exudes the sunshine and bright colors of Spain. Goluses gives an energetic, persuasive, and elegant rendition of the short piece. "From Afar", the title of this disc, comes from a piece that Joseph Schwantner wrote, originally for guitar and orchestra, but which is played here in an arrangement that the composer made for guitar alone. Since this is the premiere recording of this version of the piece, Goluses has the field to himself for now. He plays it with such intelligence and sensitivity that he may not have any challengers for a long while (Sharon Isbin recorded the original version with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Virgin Classics). The longest piece on this disc is Manuel Ponce’s 1929 "Variations and Fugue on La Folia d’España". Known as La Follia in Italy and La Folle in France, this simple folk tune has been recurrent in European music ever since the 15th century. Ponce’s 23 short variations show how his fertile mind could present it in numerous guises and with all sorts of interesting embellishments. He varies the tempos and the rhythms and decorates the original in many ways. Sometimes he gives us modern styles but he brings us back to the original theme often enough to make sure we don’t forget it. The finale is a tightly executed fugue that ties up all the loose ends. The guitarist (whom I was unfamiliar with until this recording) has excellent command of his instrument and he renders each variation, as well as the fugue, with sensitivity, virtuosity, and verve. 

In 1963, Benjamin Britten wrote his "Nocturnal after John Dowland" for Julian Bream, who recorded it twice, the first time in the 1960s and the second in 2000. The latter recording, available from EMI Classics Imports, is a bit faster than the earlier one, but both renditions are intense and dramatic. Goluses’s reading is flowing, lyrical, and sensitive. Britten had great admiration for Dowland and used his "Come Heavy Sleep" as the basis for this Nocturnal, but you don't get to hear all of it until the end of the eighth variation. Before this, we are led through a dream world that is sometimes calm, sometimes agitated, but our journey moves on relentlessly to its appointment with the original theme. For Mikis Theodorakis, the "Three Epitafios" represented a transformation in his life. Having been a promising classical composer in Western Europe, he returned to Greece and his roots. Epitafios was originally a song cycle to poems by Yiannis Ritsos, but even without the text, it tells the story of the Greek people and their long and illustrious artistic history. 


From_Afar_(guitar music)


Paul Terry said...

Thanks for this... of course you know I lunged for it! ;-)

Tzadik said...

HA! yes, I was certainly hoping that you would. I have a lot of guitar discs lined up to post (if I could only find the damn time!) and I might run them by you to see if you have them already (and perhaps want to post them on your blog, I can leave those for you if you would care for that?) TZ