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The Belfort Guitar Duo : John W. Duarte Guitar Music Vol.1 –Music for guitar solo and 2 guitars : CD

DUARTE: English Suite No2 Op77; Suite Ancienne Op47; Cancion Y Danza Op117; Badinerie Op32a; Danserie No1 Op71; Danserie No2 Op87; Mutations Op58 and Op58a; Sans Cesse Op34.

Brilliant Classics: CD: 96184

Here is the first in a new set of what I think is a long overdue set of recordings, namely the works of the famous and much revered English composer John W.Duarte, organized by his son Chris Duarte.

Nearly everything here is a first recording, and what isn’t actually a first recording hasn’t been recorded previously for a considerable time. So what you get here are some very entertaining and musically diverse pieces for one and two guitars, played by The Belfort Guitar Duo, who are Antonio De Innocentis and Nicola Montella.

The opening English Suite No2 for two players is one of his most immediate works, as the three movements are based on English Folk songs and everything is beautifully written ( and played !) and is a great opener to this album.

The Suite Ancienne Op47 is a solo first recording of a six – movement work that shows off one of his most interesting traits as composer, namely that of being able to immerse himself in a particular style .For this work is actually a set of variations, each named after a Baroque dance. So we have the opening theme, based on a Pierre Phalese piece from 1571, the Premiere Bransle Gay, followed by a Prelude, Courante, Sarabande, Badinerie, and finally a Gigue all beautifully played by Nicola Montella.

The Cancion Y Danza Op 117 is another solo first recording doffs its cap towards the other famous work of that title, by Antonio Ruiz – Pipo. It was written for a competition in San Remo, and its two movements are firstly slow, and emotive, whilst the second is fast and full of surprising moments musically, and is another fine performance.

The Badinerie Op32a is a duo piece, originally intended to be part of a larger work for the Presti – Lagoya duo, unfinished when Ida Presti tragically died before the entire work was completed. As it stands it is a lovely work with both players taking responsibility for the themes.

The Danserie No 1 Op71 for two guitars , the first of four pieces called as such , is in three movements , the first being a fun opener called Interrupted Polka that at times shows Duarte’s more modern harmony work , followed by a Galliard, and a Piva that has moments full of percussive elements and a relentless feel to it.

The Danserie No2 Op87 is a solo work in two movements very Latin – based, a Tango, and a Tarantella both with many humorous moments and yet another fine work that many won’t have heard before.

The Mutations Op58 and Op58a is a set of no less than nine movements where every one is based on a composer’s style. This set was suggested by the great writer/composer Angelo Gilardino, giving John Duarte the composers’ names and a style he could imitate. Therefore the opening theme , itself based on the famous Dies Irae, is followed by Prince Philip his B***** Galliard the title of which got this movement omitted from the printed score, and given the Op58a Opus number , but based on John Dowland’s style. Then we find the Sonata K556, named after Domenico Scarlatti, and for a number of years, thought to actually be by Scarlatti (until you realise that Scarlatti only wrote 555 works of this nature) .The Romanza Dal Padre copies Haydn’s style of writing , whilst the following Aimez – Vous Cette Danse Hongroise? , is an imitation of Brahms. Gibraltar has a Spanish, Albeniz style of writing, whilst Bird Song is very jazzy in style and is a tribute to the music of Charlie Parker. The Variation Avant Finale, leads into A Sort of Gigge (Some of Myselfe) and is based on Duarte’s own style. This is a considerable work of nearly 25 minutes length that really deserves to be played and enjoyed, and this is its first recording.

The final work is Sans Cesse Op34, for 2 guitars written at the request of Ida Presti, to be ‘for an encore, and with lots of effects’. Unfortunately she never got to hear it as she died a week before its completion. Now standing as a tribute to her, the short work is relentless, requires really good players to do it justice and finishes this fabulous album off with a slam – bang.

This is superbly played and recorded, and is an important tribute to one of the UKs greatest guitar composers, and I can only say that everyone who likes this man’s music should buy it.

Chris Dumigan

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