Nature’s patterns, cycles, circles, birth and death, motion and stillness, the coming and going of light and dark, suffering and happiness. Human existence is awash in the inevitable and in change, from moment to moment engrossed in the passage of time. The individual grasps little of the whole and is a transient witness to only a fragment of something much larger. Amor fati, acceptance, the ability to say yes to life. Not to tolerate, but to love and to embrace all of nature’s patterns, large and small. The Stoic attitude that allows one to look upon Nietzche’s eternal recurrence with reverence and awe, to release the paralyzing horror and to unburden the weight of the unknown, of cycles and circles and light and dark, to affirm life, saying yes, never have I heard anything more divine.
This album offers homage to change and cycles and the patterns that contextualize our lives. Seasons bring rebirth, renewal and life as well as endings, solitude and death. The works heard here contain all of it and much more.
A Song of Early Spring, a sweet and lyrical folk song by Akira Nakada. The arrangement for guitar by Takemitsu captures the rhapsodic romance of the song, simple but lush with harmony.
Las Estaciones Porteñas depicts the four seasons of Buenos Aires. Originally written for Piazzolla’s own quintet, filled with complex rhythms and polyphony, this piece finds an uncertain medium in the solo guitar. However, Sergio Assad’s arrangements go beyond simple translation, constituting works of originality and compellingly imaginative writing. Piazzolla himself offered improvisational and alternate versions of his own work; no two recordings of a given piece are quite the same. Taking this ethos to heart, I have tried to find a way into the music that is easy and unhindered, to find a manner of playing and interpreting that captures a moment. Rather than striving to craft a definitive version, I have sought the unattached approach of the improviser. I have taken a few liberties with the score, by no means re-writing or re-arranging, but elaborating a harmony or deviating from a line, incorporating elements that have grown from my relationship with the music. I hope the arranger finds himself sympathetic to these choices.
Equinox: Takemitsu’s musical language has a depth and completeness that is rare. It would seem the title has more do to with musical symmetry than the Earth’s orbit but the evocation was too good to resist. I have placed this work, naturally, dividing the program into equal halves. I’m not sure if this music elicits feelings of change or of stasis, in fact I’m not sure I can easily speak the emotions it stirs, it seems to evaporate just as it appeared, a profound type of musical ephemera unique to Takemitsu.
Cyrcles by Frank Wallace is a substantial piece for solo guitar. It is always an honor and a joy to work closely with composers. I have known this particular composer for years and am grateful to have played a role in bringing this piece of music into the world. Cyrcles conveys Wallace’s musical spirit well, strong and gestural but balanced with lyrical passages and episodes of rich melodic writing. His aesthetic is immediately modern but also comes from tradition, a music that gives precedence to the musical contour and to the breath, a sense of strong and weak, qualities of the lute and early music. Cyrcles is cyclical in form, motivic ideas and melodic fragments recur from movement to movement. These motifs carry the names of people the composer had in mind while writing, their names translated into musical notes, including close friends, a doctor and my own name. But, the dominant theme is that of Ko, one of the composer’s students, lost to suicide at the age of 22. Ko’s motif translates to 5 musical steps, chromatic or diatonic depending on the musical context. The Great Sleep – Ko’s Way is a striking movement, in memoriam, relentlessly quiet and still, offering a moment of meditation on death, loss, and grief. In spite of the pain inherent in the cycles of nature, the composer iterates the positive message of his piece saying, “Cyrcles is optimistic. It embraces the sacred cycle of life and death. And it mourns the loss of youth. My youth, as a 66 year old man, but more importantly OUR youth. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Drug overdose also claims many lives of our youth. The circle is broken. Let’s wake up and be gentle with each other and our mother the Earth. Only in that gentleness is there hope to reclaim optimism and dreams of a brighter future for all species.”
Un Dia de Noviembre by Leo Brouwer, is a programmatic piece written for a film of the same name. Whenever I play this piece, I find the haunting, repeating melody truly evokes the sense of introspection one finds in November, before the winter sets in and all is asleep and at peace, a perfect compliment to the springtime opening of this album.
- David William Ross
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Ravello Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.
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