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Xianji Liu : Latin Guitar Sonatas : CD

SERGIO ASSAD: Sonata (1999) : LEO BROUWER: Sonata No3- El Decameron Negro ( 2012): ROBERTO SIERRA : Sonata (2010).

Xianji Liu

Ibs Classical: IBS 62017

These are three truly heavyweight modern Sonatas written by three of the very best guitar composers, and is a journey through the popular music of Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico, its rhythms, harmonies and colours, in a contemporary language that really does create new life into the traditional forms. Of course the musical language is not for everyone, you understand, but is never atonal.

Instantly the first thing that hits you is Xianji Liu’s precision and clear sound, where every note stands out. After a very dynamic and exciting Allegro Moderato, there is a huge contrast with the Andante that follows which is very lyrical, and is very clear and emotive., and has moments of almost strangeness in the almost child – like wonder created by some of these sounds. The final Presto is exactly what you might expect, with Liu astonishing the listener with the accuracy of his playing in the very fast notes passages. This piece is most definitely extremely hard to play successfully, and yet our player manages to make it sound utterly under his fingers without any problem. Everything builds and builds until a final coda where the rasgueado strums bring it to a most definite completion.

Leo Brouwer’s Sonata No3 named the Black Decameron is in four movements, often very mysterious in sound, and at times so frenetic are the small noted runs that it sounds like nothing else you may have heard before, and yet it captures the listener’s attention and imagination throughout. Yet again the playing is astounding in its depth of clarity, and the technical achievement in physically playing this extremely difficult work is second to none. This work it is fair to say is significantly more modern in its harmonic sound than the first Sonata, but still fascinating throughout.

Roberto Sierra’s Sonata from 2010 is again in four contrasting movements, beginning with a Con Pasion, a description that aptly fits this very emotive opening movement. The slow movement follows and has an Expresivo, Casi Religioso marking. Again the movement might have a slow beat to it, but the amount of rapid runs and very tricky moves as it goes along its way are anything but slow. At times it is very violent with a number of dramatic strums, interwoven amongst the slower more contemplative themes. The short third movement is a Scherzando, and really does live up to its name, again showing the listener what a wonderful player our guitarist is. The final Salseado is abrupt and full of cross rhythms and again a large amount of violence throughout its almost four minute’s duration.

So, in summation, the three Sonatas are not an easy listen at all, and so if you don’t like your music modern, musically challenging, extremely contrasting in volume and full of sounds you will not have come across before then this CD is not for you. However if you do like your CD to show off some almost unbelievable playing, full of drama, and in a very clear and vibrant sound world, then this CD is most definitely one you should get.

Chris Dumigan

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