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Richard Alexander Vaughan : Chinese Suite for solo guitar :Bergmann

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Richard Alexander Vaughan

Bergmann Edition : 21 pages

I have seen a few of this composer’s pieces and they are all intriguing , well – written, and yet a little different from the usual, so that often you find yourself in a musical place where you didn’t expect to be, which is always fascinating .

This latest suite, dedicated to the player Xuanxuan Sun has four longish movements opening with The Forbidden City marked Allegro Con Incertezza (with uncertainty).A winding solo note introduction then develops into a tremolo piece that successfully avoids the obvious whilst remaining interesting throughout. The coda involves alternating some harmonics whilst still retaining the tremolo.

Yangtze, the second movement has a dropped D 6th, and is in a relaxed tempo that begins with a two voiced idea of a moving set of quavers accompanying a melody, before turning into some pleasantly crunchy chords atop a bass line. Then the piece moves into semi- quavers and gradually gets trickier from there, with moments of quintuplet semi – quaver arpeggios , then sextuplet, an then demi – semi – quaver runs too before after a longish time eventually becoming groups of nine semi – quavers in almost rolling arpeggio patterns. Then things start to calm down and a triplet idea topped by a melody line takes the piece gently into a coda with the previous chords giving us the final few bars.

The third movement Mt.Lao is occasionally marked with the odd text comment explaining where the piece is pictorially, at that particular time. Marked Maestoso it takes us through a number of ideas including a long melodic line interspersed with simultaneous long harmonics, and open notes underneath, a few harp like arpeggio effects, and a large number of big chords intertwined with a constantly moving melody line, just to mention three. The piece is harmonically speaking always on the move and it remains very involving whilst never going where you expect it to go.

The final Drunken Dance is perhaps the trickiest, and the fastest of the four movements, with a leaping melody that traverses long spans, atop a steady bass line. The ‘wrong’ note elements here are no doubt showing the listener just how drunk the person is, and indeed they get worse as the piece progresses. Leaping around as it does, it will catch the player out in a number of places, as will the ‘wrong note’ element as the note you often land on is definitely not what you think it will be, and so careful checking of the accidentals is necessary here!

This is a great suite from this composer, and is a substantial size , full of interesting music , and should be taken up by anyone who likes their music modern but not atonal, and who has a good technical armoury under their fingers!

Chris Dumigan

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