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A.J. Williams : Complete Works for Solo Classical Guitar Volume 1 :Bergmann

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

A.J. Williams : Complete Works for Solo Classical Guitar Volume 1


Bergmann Edition: 46 pages

Welsh – born Williams has at the moment three volumes of his complete works available at Bergmann and the first thing that strike you when you play them is the truly original voice the composer has when writing for the classical guitar. Volume 1 has twelve such pieces, all saying musical things on the guitar in a way that perhaps you might not have seen before, for there are no (or very few) patterns that you have seen before, as they go on their way with a disregard for the way you expect the music to fall under your fingers. They are certainly not that predictable.

With Grace and Spirit has a dropped D 6th and is indeed in D. It opens pizzicato before the melody takes off in an extended hand position that immediately has you double checking where your fingers should be going. It is constantly on the move and although utterly melodic in every way, does not remind you of any other guitar piece you may have played. The middle section modulates into Gm briefly before returning to the home key once more. After this a surprising modulation turns the piece into Eb Major, where the slightly quicker speed of the melody has reminiscences of what has gone before, and then an A Major harmony takes the player back for the final time into D for a brief resume, and a coda on D.

Borrowed at first glance appears easier, but then again the opening C Major and its subsequent harmonies are deceiving, as it quickly moves off into a different direction that catches you out. A move into D Major takes the piece into a thematic return of the opening idea but sounding new in its brighter key.

How Strange relies to a certain extent on the clashing of open strings ringing out against fretted strings higher up the fingerboard, but here again moves this into new places where you really do have to double check your fingerings, for none of this is at all easy! The key of A minor then moves into the tonic major using similar patterns before returning back to the minor for the final section and a coda that pushes back into A Major to finish.

Found is in B Major and although based to a certain extent on arpeggio patterns is in 2 and sometimes 3 voices and the strings required and fingerings you have to use means you are constantly required to move into tricky areas. It drops a sharp halfwa6y through and moves to E Major where the constant flow of Williams’ musical thoughts takes you into areas of fingerings you wouldn’t have tried before. The harmonies also are never hackneyed, and so, difficult it might be, but always gripping for the player to get into.

I Hear the Whisper of the Rain is a tremolo piece set in A Major, and has a melody that reminded me of I’m Always Chasing Rainbows at the beginning! The very fact that it is in a pattern the player has come across before makes this charming piece a little less surprising to finger , as everything falls immediately under the fingers a little swifter than some of the other pieces.

Bitter – Sweet is a sort of Tango set in A minor with open Bs clashing constantly against the A minor chords The use of wide- spread melodies and sudden runs of very small note makes this a little challenging , but fascinating nonetheless. A second section set in Em is Meno Mosso, and if anything, a little more angular than the opening, as it races around the entire fingerboard still in Tango rhythm.

There Will Be Better Days is largely running around in semi – quavers throughout its duration .Set at first in A Major, it moves unexpectedly into F Major, and there has a couple of wide spans that will task all but the largest of hands, but then returns to the opening key for a final dash around the fingerboard and a brief coda.

In The Breeze is again in A Major and largely in two voices and a little easier to achieve quickly. A brief excursion into E Major then returns back into A for the final few bars.

Blue and Gold has a Dropped D 6th , and is set in D Major, with a movingly emotional melody and some beautiful harmonies which still have an individual way with them , that literally sounds like no other guitar music you have played before.

Remember is another work using the cross – stringing harp effect, but with areas where you are beyond fret 12, and still playing the cross – stringing, not an easy ride by any means, but well worth the effort.

Grasshopper is agile and set in 6/8 with a melody that runs and leaps around with an instruction to keep the right hand fingering to an a, m, I, pattern throughout. Towards the middle the music gets much more agitated and multi-le strums and percussive taps enter together with a number of fast glissandi that really help to bring the picture of the athletic leaps and bounds of the grasshopper.

The final piece Suddenly is set in the moody key of C minor and has a number of individual harmonies and finger positions that are inventive and totally individual and lead to a middle section in C Major marked with an Accelerando that goes over more than 50 bars before slowing down into a reprise of the opening theme for a moving final coda.

This man’s music needs to be seen, heard and played. His music is really like no other’s I have previously come across, and the harmonies are constantly inventive and sometimes chromatic, without resorting to any atonality. Altogether this is a book to try out, but you have to be a very good player!

Chris Dumigan

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