Chamber & Gamelan Works * Concerto in Slendro * Main Bersama-Sama * Threnody for Carlos Chávez * Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetto * String Quartet Set * Suite for Percussion
Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is well represented by recordings and these two discs range widely amongst his diverse interests, far from the mainstream classical concert world.
It is all easy listening, but not too simple, and conveys a captivating joie de vivre.
The New World disc has a wide range of instrumentation, with tack pianos, gamelan a suite for percussion and a substantial string quartet (26'27", Kronos Quartet).
Recommendable as a perfect introduction to the music of Lou Harrison by Raymond Tuttle; his review for Classical Net makes a detailed one from me redundant. He explains that this is a re-issue of earlier discs and that "these performances have quite a history, but all of them are first-class – nay, definitive".
Guitars: John Schneider
The new MODE disc of guitar music explores Harrison's interest in the variety of tuning temperaments, which are of course commonplace for early keyboard music, but impossible with fixed fretted instruments.
As the guitar lends itself to the straight, fixed fret equal temperament tuning system, Harrison was initially put off composing for the instrument until the early 1950’s when he experimented with tuning various instruments to Just Intonation alone.
With the invention of Tom Stone’s guitar with removable fingerboards, Harrison set about composing five guitar suites with five different 'just intonation' tunings (pictured) which are contained on this CD. John Schneider has explored many alternative guitars with adjustable frets. He also uses steel strings for one of his instruments.
There were many evocative and melancholic moments especially in particular the Music for Bill and Me.
In contrast, Harrison incorporates other instruments in his Serenade for Guitar and lively percussion interjections accompany the solo guitar. In Homage to Pacifica he uses just intonation gamelan and guitar, where both sound worlds blend together very well.
The CD provides further interest in demonstrating the versatility of the guitar and its adaptability and suitability with other instrumentations. Further exploration for future development of the just intonation guitar and its repertoire is indicated.
A must for young guitarists keen to widen their horizons. At the least, it will sharpen your ears !
Georgina Whitehead & Peter Grahame Woolf