Notes and Editorial Reviews
El Decamerón Negro.
Two Japanese Songs
Ilkka Turta (gtr)
MSR 1491 (53:43)
Ilkka Turta is a Finnish guitarist and composer who plays music dating from the Renaissance to current times. Not only does he play classical music as a soloist and chamber musician, he is also a member of the popular music group
. He composed his Études in 2011 and this is their premiere recording. Turta’s 10 pieces range from soft and lyrical to strong and dramatic. They show the full measure of the guitarist’s ability. Turta has an incredibly beautiful tone when he plays lyrical music and his studies reveal the lyric palette of a master colorist. Some of these short works begin as though rain or snowflakes are falling softly onto the surface of a lake. There are contrasting dramatic sections and passages that could encourage meditation. This composer is a fine craftsman and it would be easy to become addicted to his lyrical sonorities. Although his name is new to most of us, he has total mastery of the guitar.
Cuban composer Leo Brouwer has reminded us of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century
by naming his suite for guitar
El Decameron Negro
(The Black Decameron). Brouwer based his program on African folk tales published by the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius. In the first section, “El arpa del guerrero” (The Warrior’s Harp), a young man is banished from his tribe because he spends too much time playing his harp. When invaders attack the tribe, he returns to lead them to victory, but the tribe still wants him to be exiled and he leaves with his lover. In telling this part of the story, Brouwer contrasts lyrical interludes with rhythmic and dramatic passages. His second section, “La huida de los amantes por el valle de los ecos” (The Flight of the Lovers Through the Valley of Echoes), follows them on their flight. One can hear the rhythms of their galloping horses as they venture into the black oblivion of the African night. When they stop to rest, they make love to seductive melodies. When they continue their journey, one can hear the sound of their horses’ hooves echoing from hill to hill. The third part, “Balada de la doncella enamorada” (Ballad of the Young Girl in Love), describes a young girl’s awakening to passionate love in a ballad that uses one of the lover’s tunes from the previous section. Elena Papandreou made a comparable recording on Naxos in 2002, on which she plays Brouwer’s music exactly as he wrote it with no further interpretation. It’s interesting, but I do not think it compares with Turta’s well-thought-out version. Also, the sound is nowhere near as clear and present on the Naxos as it is on Turta’s 2013 MSR Classics recording. Composer Toshio Hosokawa writes: “I am searching for a new form of Japanese spiritual culture and music, one through which I can remain true to myself as well as to my origins.” His two songs, “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) and “Komori-uta” (Lullaby) are simple and evoke an ethereal beauty that Turta fulfills with the overtly beautiful tone quality of his lyrical playing. This recording is a true gem that belongs in the home of every fancier of modern guitar music.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
El decameron negro by Leo Brouwer
Illka Turta (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1981; Cuba
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