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Widening Circles - Pasieczny, Beirs, Reich, Dyens / Benjamin Beirs

Pasieczny / Benjamin Beirs
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Azica   Catalog #: 71285   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Steve ReichMarek PasiecznyBenjamin BeirsRoland Dyens
Performer:  Benjamin Beirs
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WIDENING CIRCLES Benjamin Beirs (gtr) benjaminbeirs.com (45:29)

REICH Electric Counterpoint. PASIECZNY American Suite. BEIRS Awakened Awareness. DYENS Libra Sonatine

Benjamin Beirs plays with clarity, energy, and a flowing musicality that brings out the Read more best in these four contemporary works. The Reich is a Minimalist classic, displaying both the positive and, for me, negative aspects of the genre; Beirs does as much as anyone could to convey its vitality and “Minimal melodiousness.” Performing this intricately layered music without assistance required some serious overdubbing—as many as 12 parts—but the composite was flawlessly assembled. Beirs’s decision to perform on a conventional classical guitar as opposed to the electric instrument stipulated by the composer substitutes a softer timbre for the tart, more metallic original without compromising the forward motion.

What about Pasieczny’s Suite is American ? Perhaps the wistful folklike melodies of the first movement, “New Lifetime,” or the strophic repetition? Why, in a suite intending to evoke America, is the second movement dubbed “Above the Scottish Sky”? No idea, but the lovely central Spanish-sounding episode, colored with tremolos, is a highlight of the suite. “The Truth Is Out There” (third movement) more than likely refers to The X-Files, but the music’s fetching lyricism doesn’t conjure up images of frustrated conspiracy theorists searching for hidden explanations. I interpret the title as a humorous homage from a composer who’s seen his share of American TV. On the other hand, Pasieczny says he wanted to write something “spatial and impressionistic,” so perhaps the music is painting a picture of that “space” from which answers will one day arrive. “Tearing Away/The Finale” lives up to its name. Its fast but not furious plucking—somehow reminiscent of bluegrass’s spirited exuberance—brings the suite to an animated close.

Awakened Awareness could be heard as the sum of its disparate parts. In other words, the piece is an amalgam of several styles or idioms, strung together. It starts out very much like the Reich but without any overdubbing, then a lower-string, Spanish melody enters, adding a darker quality accompanied by body thumps (the guitar body, that is). Besides the persistent Spanishness, there’s a hint of oud music and technique—not so surprising when one remembers the Moorish links to flamenco. Two or three chords herald the last section, in which time slows down and a subtle Eastern atmosphere holds sway until the conclusion. This is Beirs’s first independent composition, but he’s posted a charming transcription of McCartney’s Black Bird on YouTube, which broadcasts another side of his talent.

As Beirs mentioned in our talk, Roland Dyens’s music is a blend of jazz, classical, and ethnic influences. The three movements progress from sweetly lyrical tunefulness to fiery explosiveness, with what might be an evocation of Django Reinhardt in the central Largo . I wouldn’t label it crossover music, but hear it more as an example of the contemporary tendency to mix and match anything and everything that takes a composer’s fancy. Call it what you will, it’s an attractive piece, written by a composer who knows how to exploit every facet of his instrument to achieve the maximum effect.

Benjamin Beirs, too, is “one” with his instrument, and that identification, coupled with his all-embracing virtuosity, makes Widening Circles a complete success. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by predicting that we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
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Works on This Recording

Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich
Performer:  Benjamin Beirs (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; USA 
Date of Recording: 09/2011 
Venue:  Sound Temple Studios, Asheville, NC 
Length: 14 Minutes 0 Secs. 
American Suite, for guitar by Marek Pasieczny
Performer:  Benjamin Beirs (Guitar)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2003 
Date of Recording: 09/2011 
Venue:  Sound Temple Studios, Asheville, NC 
Length: 15 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Awakened Awareness, for guitar by Benjamin Beirs
Performer:  Benjamin Beirs (Guitar)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Date of Recording: 09/2011 
Venue:  Sound Temple Studios, Asheville, NC 
Length: 4 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Sonatina for Guitar "Libra" by Roland Dyens
Performer:  Benjamin Beirs (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Tunisia 
Date of Recording: 09/2011 
Venue:  Sound Temple Studios, Asheville, NC 
Length: 12 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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