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Timo Korhonen : Mano a Mano : CD

LINDBERG: Mano A Mano: TAKEMITSU: In the Woods: HENZE: Royal Winter Music 1 – First Sonata on Shakespearean Characters for Guitar.

Timo Korhonen

Ondine : ODE 1091-2

Timo Korhonen the Finnish guitarist here presents three large modern works of significant importance. The title track Mano a Mano by Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg was premiered by Korhonen, and seems to be the only guitar work written by him as he is a pianist not a guitarist. The music itself is very modern , but still very approachable .However the energy and large array of colours in the music and the very density of the actual material make this a very challenging piece to play, and at a little over seventeen minutes long it proves to be one of the most important pieces of stature, written in recent years. No, it’s not an easy listen at first , but the musicality and harmonious nature, albeit , very unusual at times, does come through in the performance and Korhonen proves to be an expert performer of this material.

Toru Takemitsu (1930 – 1996) was a Japanese composer with a huge catalogue of compositions, only a small handful of which were for the guitar, or included the guitar when combined in chamber ensembles. In The Woods is a terrific example of his style of writing, which has more than a feel of Debussy in its use of whole tone scales and other harmonies that are deliberately enigmatic, but friendly throughout (There are no atonal moments here) The three movements Wainscot Pond, Rosedale and Muir Woods are filled with moments of stillness, and then hauntingly unusual chords that seem to speak of nature at its deepest, and then moments of activity, again followed by a pause and more quietness. This is music like no other you may have heard on the guitar and is quite a listen, and it makes me want to find the score to try it out!

After this sixteen , plus minutes of beautiful enigmatic music comes the longest piece on the recital, the six movement Sonata , Royal Winter Music 1, based on Shakespearean characters, Gloucester, Romeo and Juliet, Ariel, Ophelia, Touchstone Audrey and William , and finally Oberon. At more than 30 minutes in length, this immense and hugely challenging set of movements is first of all, extremely modern, atonal for a great deal of the time, and to be fair, not everyone’s choice of listening material as it has vast swathes of very abrupt, chords and runs, which of course makes it also a challenge for the player, who does a wonderful job of getting behind this piece. Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012) wrote a huge amount of music which was extremely varied in style , as throughout his life he was influenced by serialism, atonality, jazz, Arabian harmony, Italian music, and the modern Russian style of Stravinsky, to name but a few. He only wrote a very small amount for guitar, but two of those are the two huge Sonatas, the first of which is one this recording.

So in summation, one can see just how vastly different the three pieces are on this CD. All are very important and some of the most round – breaking works for the guitar that have ever been written, but as a listener, you have to decide whether or not these pieces appeal. The playing is fabulous, the music is all extremely technically advanced and Korhonen seems to take it completely in his stride. So in the end it is up to the purchaser to make his own mind up about it.

Chris Dumigan

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