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Philip Hemmo : The Nine Planets Op4, for Guitar Ensemble (in four parts) : DOz

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

Philip Hemmo

Les Productions D’Oz: score and separate parts (20, 4, 5, 6, and 7 pages respectively)

Philip Hemmo is an American musician who has here written what he describes as 9 Etudes for guitar quartet. If, like me, you were expecting something Holstian in size or grandeur, then you will, I am afraid, be very disappointed, for the entire 9 pieces only play for 15 minutes, and nearly every one of the scores is over two pages, with the last piece only one page, and so every one of the movements plays for a little over a minute each.

Therein lies the trouble here, because the first performance on YouTube just somehow doesn’t add up to a satisfying whole. For example Mercury has two of the parts repeating Gs in various octaves whilst the other two play a jumpy quartet of semi – quavers that jump from one to the other. A middle section of 4 bars is set over some Am harmonies, the opening section returns for one more time and its done.16 bars in total. Hardly enough time to even establish itself before it closes. Venus has some brushed chords a handful of bass pizzicato and a short sequence of harmonics, and again is all over in 18 bars. Even Earth which has a gradually increasing volume based on a simplistic idea in C Major, that takes 37 bars to complete, simply doesn’t grab you one way or the other.

I could go on and mention every one of the 9, but the fact remains that I was totally unmoved by any of it. It was harmonic, it was not more than intermediate in difficulty, but as a set it simply doesn’t work, for every one of the movements was over before it had begun, and left so much unsaid.

Chris Dumigan

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