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  • chrisdumigan

Vida Guitar Quartet : Bachianas: CD

MENDLESSOHN: Prelude and Fugue No2 and No4 from Six Preludes and Fugues Op35; VILLA – LOBOS: Prelude – Introducao from Bachianas Brasilieras No4; Aria – Cantilena from Bachianas Brasilieras No5: BACH: Brandenburg Concerto No3 BWV 1048; SNOWDEN: Light Perpetuum; SKEMPTON: Bach Variation

Vida Guitar Quartet (with Amy Green, Soprano Saxophone on 3 tracks)

BGS Records: BGS 130

Vida Guitar Quartet consists of the Eden –Stell Duo, Amanda Cook, and Mark Ashford, all well – known guitarists themselves and here they have produced a beautifully diverse album full of great arrangements and some wonderful playing captured in a very clear recording

They start with the first of two journeys into the music of Felix Mendelssohn, namely the 2nd of the Six Preludes and Fugues Op35, written in the 1830s for piano. The Preludes is an active piece that gradually gains momentum as it progresses and the four players instantly sound as if they are one large guitar. The Fugue that follows is of course more serious but still perfectly natural in its new guise and speaking personally, these two first tracks were music I had never heard before but are well worth getting to know.

Then we come to Heitor Villa – Lobos who wrote a huge amount of music including some guitar pieces that are some of the most well – known in the entire repertoire. Here they play the first movement from the original four movements of Bachianas Brasilieras No4 with the aid of soprano sax player Amy Green, again a work that is emotional and gripping in its intensity.

Then we go from Brazilian Bach to the real thing, namely the 3rd Brandenburg Concerto that really starts off the way it means to go on. The forward momentum is superb and the four guitars really bring this work alive in a completely different way to hearing it in its original instrumentation.

The next piece is No4 in the 6 Preludes and Fugues of Mendlessohn and is a little more immediate right from the opening phrase and flows along beautifully in a perfectly natural way, a direct contrast to the Fugue being much more serious and a lot slower but still a great piece of writing and arranging by Nick Cartledge who is responsible for all the Mendlessohn pieces here, the remainder of the arrangements being the work of Mark Eden.

The 5th Bachianas Brasilieras of Villa – Lobos is perhaps the best known of these works of his, and again the quartet are joined by Amy Green who takes the lead melody almost all the way through except one noticeable point where the guitars reprise the melody, which is a great contrast to the solo sax, and something that works beautifully here.

The final two works here are originals, the first being Laura Snowden’s Light Perpetuum, again using Amy Green on Soprano Sax. Swiftly repeated chords start the piece off in a very animated manner, and then everyone joins in while the solo sax ducks and weaves around it. After a short while the pace drops to slow, and the sax plays a solo while multiple violent accents from the guitars in a manner of a Bartok Pizzicato that then die away leaving the sax to play solo for a short while. The next sound is unusual harmonics and percussive string noises continue behind the sax that now starts to bend notes in a most unnerving manner, creating a very gripping sound world as it does. After quite a long time the aggressive strumming returns and the pace picks up again as does the optimism of the whole piece, and everything then closes on a happy note.

The final work is Skempton’s Bach Variation and opens with solo harmonics intermingled with natural notes in a very steady and slow pace that continues throughout in the same way. It is a relaxing and serious close to what is a wonderfully played album, of very natural sounding pieces that until the final two works sound utterly happy in their guitaristic arrangements, and are so happy in their new surroundings that if you didn’t know, you might think they were guitar works from the outset.

So this is a great album that any lover of multiple guitars played effortlessly and superbly, will really enjoy!

Chris Dumigan

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