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Brouwer: Guitar Concerto, Etc; Albeniz / Korhonen, Ollila

Release Date: 05/21/2002 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 979   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Leo BrouwerIsaac Albeniz
Performer:  Timo Korhonen
Conductor:  Tuomas Ollila
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer occupies an interesting niche in the world of contemporary music. A versatile creative mind in many different media, his reputation rests largely on his extensive oeuvre for guitar, and deservedly so. His music for the instrument is marvelous. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a composer who has so successfully reconciled the demands of writing contemporary "art" music with the popular tradition that is the guitar's special musical legacy--a fact that this disc illustrates to perfection.

Brouwer's Fifth Guitar Concerto was composed for Timo Korhonen in 1991/92, and the title "Helsinki" simply refers to the originating commission by the
Read more Helsinki Festival and not to the work's musical content. Its three movements last nearly half an hour, making it a substantial composition whose unflagging attractiveness and inventive variety almost make you forget that it's a guitar concerto. Just kidding--but you get the point, which is that despite their comparative popularity, the number of great works for this particular medium are few and far between.

The two basic difficulties with writing for guitar and orchestra are balance between solo and ensemble, and the instrument's total lack of natural cantabile. Brower resolves these issues by intelligent use of contrast--textural, harmonic, and melodic. For example, the second movement (subtitled "Lightness and Heaviness") keeps the ear consistently engaged through its alternation of episodes varying in musical density and melodic character. He also writes good tunes, and in the finale enriches his textures contrapuntally in a series of duets between guitar and solo winds. In short, Brouwer sustains the work's length with ease and confidence.

The other two pieces included here explore in very different ways another popular guitar medium: the transcription. Albeniz's Iberia Suite always has been a favorite with arrangers both for orchestra and guitar (sometimes more than one). Brouwer has created what is in effect a mini-concerto, featuring three movements containing an abundance of guitar-like writing. But this is more than just a literal transcription. Brouwer understands how to re-think the original piano textures for the new medium. Listen for example to his evocative use of sustained strings to add a touch more harmonic spice to Evocación, or the little flecks of wind texture that decorate the guitar's repeated-note theme in El Puerto. Like Bach, Brouwer's arrangements sound so natural that you would never know that the same music exists in any other form.

The last work on the program, From Yesterday to Penny Lane, takes seven Beatles tunes (She's Leaving Home; A Ticket to Ride; Here, There and Everywhere; Yesterday; Got to Get You Into My Life; Eleanor Rigby; Penny Lane) and creates a brilliantly witty suite for guitar and string orchestra. The arrangements aren't literal but rather use a variety of harmonic and contrapuntal techniques to explore--albeit in a gentle way--various aspects of these ever-popular tunes. Eleanor Rigby makes a particularly strong impression, with its passionate string cantilena and surprisingly "Spanish" harmonic coloration. But each of these pieces is a delight, as much a tribute to songsmiths Lennon and McCartney as to Brouwer's compositional cleverness. Provocative, well crafted, and lovable--how many pieces of "new" music offer that particular combination of virtues?

Timo Korhonen, whose fine edition of the complete guitar music of Villa-Lobos already graces Ondine's catalog, plays all of these works with the requisite virtuosity, finesse, and an absolute minimum of squeaks and slides across the frets that make so many guitar recordings such a chore to listen to. His tone (especially in the slow movement of the concerto and in Iberia's Evocación) has a fullness and clarity that, like the sound of a great harpsichord, overcomes the instrument's natural lack of sustaining power, and his choice of tempos, both fast and slow, binds the notes together into long, elegant phrases. He's also magnificently recorded--never artificially forward yet perfectly balanced against an orchestra that in turn never sounds inhibited or dynamically compromised. Indeed, there are several climaxes on this disc (try the end of Iberia's El Albaicín) that will give your sound system abundant opportunity to strut its stuff, thanks to a Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra under Tuomas Ollila that always knows when it's time to hold back and when it should really cut loose. I doubt that there's a better played, better recorded, more musically varied and appealing guitar and orchestra disc in the catalog. Magnificent!

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Guitar no 5 "Helsinki" by Leo Brouwer
Performer:  Timo Korhonen (Guitar)
Conductor:  Tuomas Ollila
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; Cuba 
Date of Recording: 05/2001 
Venue:  Tampere Hall, Finland 
Length: 29 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: This piece is dedicated to Timo Korhonen. 
From Yesterday to Penny Lane by Leo Brouwer
Performer:  Timo Korhonen (Guitar)
Conductor:  Tuomas Ollila
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; Cuba 
Date of Recording: 05/2001 
Venue:  Tampere Hall, Finland 
Length: 19 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a medley which inludes songs: "She's Leaving Home,"
"A Ticket to Ride," "Here, There and Everywhere," "Yesterday," "Got to Get You Into My Life," "Eleanor Rigby" and "Penny Lane" by John Lennon and
Paul McCartney. 
Suite Iberia by Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Timo Korhonen (Guitar)
Conductor:  Tuomas Ollila
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906-1908; France 
Date of Recording: 05/2001 
Venue:  Tampere Hall, Finland 
Length: 16 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Arranged: Leo Brouwer 

Sound Samples

Guitar Concerto No. 5, "Helsinki": I. Spaces
Guitar Concerto No. 5, "Helsinki": II. Lightness and Heaviness
Guitar Concerto No. 5, "Helsinki": III. Luminosity
Iberia, Book 1 (arr. L. Brouwer): I. Evocacion
Iberia, Book 1 (arr. L. Brouwer): II. El Puerto
Iberia, Book 3 (arr. L. Brouwer): Iberia, Book 3: I. El Albaicin (arr. L. Brouwer)
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 1. She's Leaving Home
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 2. A Ticket to Ride
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 3. Here, There and Everywhere
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 4. Yesterday
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 5. Got to Get You Into My Life
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 6. Eleanor Rigby
From Yesterday to Penny Lane: No. 7. Penny Lane

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