Bryan Johanson : Quartet No1
Les Productions D’Oz: score and separate parts (32, 9, 11, 9, and 9 pages respectively)
This prolific musician has written lots of pieces for guitar of all sizes and kinds, and also occupies the rest of his time as an author, and a concert guitarist, as well as, until recently, teaching at Portland State University where he was Professor of Music and a founding Director of the Guitar Performance Programme.
Quartet No1 is set in three movements, and begins with an Allegro Molto in A full of running quavers at a crotchet speed of about 208 beats a minute, so it really doesn’t sit around! The opening phrase is very tonal and is passed from player to player while the other performers are accompanying sometimes with staccato chords, and other times with a little phrase involving pull- offs before all four players are running the opening scale like phrase in contrasting directions all at once. Then a change of tack leads the players into E with an idea that mimics the opening scale – like runs before other keys intervene, and the music goes through a sort of development on what has been heard before. There are moments when longer notes give the musicians some respite from the running quavers and here flat keys momentarily take the fore before a long E leads back to the recapitulation and the home key for a surprisingly quiet close.
Largo e Intimo is a 9/8 movement in Am, with elements of 12/8 and 6/8 along the way. Everything is quiet and full of little touches of harmonics and tambora, and pizzicato with some surprisingly complex rhythms, and a few moments of fast runs, a couple of them being cadenza – like in construction.
The final Allegro Giocoso is a 2/4 that begins in almost modally in D, the key the piece ends in, but without a key signature. Not that the music is anything other than tonal, for it most certainly is tonal all the time. The opening 4 bar phrase of jumping quavers is then carried further via imitation on the other guitars in different keys, quasi – fugue. In fact the piece has more than a touch of the Baroque about it in its innate style. Everything in this extensive movement flows beautifully along and goes through various musical ideas before reaching an optimistic conclusion on a D Major chord.
This is an imaginative, tonal, and involving piece that is substantial , and will take some good players to make it work well, and as this is one of quite a few Quartets that Johanson has written , I look forward to seeing others, if they are as well –written as this one!