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  • chrisdumigan

Dale Kavanagh : 20th Century Guitar : CD

DOMENICONI: Variationen über ein anatolisches Volkslied, Op. 15: PONCE: Diferencias sobre la folia de Espana y fuga : BRITTEN: Nocturnal After John Dowland, Op. 70 (Reflections on "Come, Heavy Sleep") : COOPERMAN : Walking on the Water.

Dale Kavanagh

Naxos : 8573443

This album by Dale Kavanagh, surely one of most respected guitarists, combines two of the most important large works for the solo guitar ever written, with two less well – known pieces.

Carlo Domeniconi’s work opens the recital and is a theme, followed by five variations and a finale. The opening theme is sad and reflective and is subsequently followed by the variations that gradually increase in complexity until the melody has now morphed into a very quick one indeed, surrounded by tremolo sections. Then there is a slow variation that adds a depth back momentarily, until the finale enters and all is movement and fast and furious runs surrounded by a multitude of chords. The harmonies become a little unusual at times as the finale reaches its final moments, when the opening theme returns as it began, sad and reflectively. This is a very interesting and involving piece of writing that takes a little under 8 minutes to achieve its considerable effect.

Then she plays THE heavyweight piece of 20th century guitar composition that is Manuel Ponce’s Variations on La Folie D’ Espagne and Fugue, nearly 25 minutes of some of the greatest music ever written for our instrument. With the opening theme, followed by no less than 20 variations and a final fugue, there is plenty of room for individuality when picking the speeds of certain parts of this piece, and Dale certainly takes some of the faster movements really fast, which actually work really well. She does capture beautifully the emotive qualities of much of this music, and all the various light and shade passages are no problem to her wonderful technique. The final Fugue has all the grandeur that you might expect and as a result this is a wonderful version of this fabulous piece.

The fact that Benjamin Britten only wrote the one solo guitar work that is Nocturnal After John Dowland, Op. 70 based on John Dowland’s "Come, Heavy Sleep" and that Julian Bream was the guitarist responsible for getting Benjamin Britten top actually write for the guitar has given this piece almost legendary status with guitarists. Its nearly 17 minutes takes the listener and the player into far more modern territory than the previous Ponce, and therefore can divide people into two opposite camps in regards its musical worth. Whatever your response to this work, it is definitely treated by Dale with immense seriousness and she copes with its great difficulties with seeming ease. It is by no means an easy piece to listen to, but you’d struggle to find a better version of it.

The final work, Larry Cooperman’s Walking on the Water is seven and a half minutes of music. It begins slowly with long held chords that gradually gain some movement and a melody peeks through leading to an emotive section that picks up speed after a couple of minutes evolving into some very fast moving arpeggio patterns which move relentlessly around the fingerboard. This section remains for a long time, with the music constantly changing but still always on the move. A sudden halt to this takes us back to a variation of the opening strong chordal idea that monetarily takes us back into the speedy arpeggio idea before the coda intervenes and everything comes to a sudden halt, ending a piece that I found very pleasant and nicely written , and one I haven’t come across before.

Certainly Dale Kavanagh plays beautifully throughout, and the recording is very clear and close, so it is only a matter of repertoire. So if you like the idea of these four pieces on one CD, our player has done a perfect job of creating a fine CD for you to search for.

Chris Dumigan

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