Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Amadeus Guitar Duo

I've been spending time listening to three recordings by the ensemble Amadeus Guitar Duo. This means there has been a lot of Spanish classical music wafting from my speakers lately. While I am a fan of such music, the review here is a result of the alphabet, as I'm going through my collection in alphabetical order.

The first two CD's I've had for awhile: Baroque Moments, and Images from the South. I just recently added Spanish Night, which is a recording of works by Joaquin Rodrigo.

The duo, based in Germany, consists of Dale Kavanagh from Canada and Thomas Kirchoff of Germany. They have been playing together since 1991. They live in Iserlohn, Germany (with a daughter, Melissa-Rachel) and teach at the Musikhochschule in Detmold (for those of you who understand German).

There aren't a lot of guitar duos out there, and music written especially for the ensemble doesn't seem too numerous. The duo handles this by making transcriptions of concerti and works originally written for other instruments.

Baroque Moments weighs in with the usual cast of Baroque composers: Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach. A short piece that ends the recording is a Choral written by Hans-Leo Hassler, who lived from 1564 to 1612, which gets him in under the wire of the year 1600, generally considered to be the beginning of the era. However, there is also a Prelude, Fugue and Variations composed by Cesar Franck, who lived from 1822 to 1890, thus placing him in almost the entire Romantic age.

Being somewhat of a fan of Romantic music, it come as no surprise that that the Franck work is my favorite of the collection. However, the duo has such a great, full sound that there isn't a wasted track to be found on this CD.

Images from the South refers to the music from the south of Europe, although the South American countries of Brazil and Venezuela are also featured. One piece is written by British composer Gerald Garcia, but it is based on Spanish melodies and so it counts as a "southern" composition. One work, entitled Surama, was composed by Alfonso Montes at the request of the duo. The CD notes say this is a play on words; Surama - Amasur, the Amadeus Guitar Duo goes south.

My most recent acquisition to the collection is the duo's Spanish Night. Along with Amadeus, the Eden-Stell Guitar Duo performs on the album. All of the works recorded are composed by Joaquin Rodrigo. They include the well known Concerto de Aranjuez with Dale Kavanagh as the soloist; Concerto Andaluz, which features both duos; and the Concerto Madrigal, featuring Amadeus. The orchestra for the recording is Internationale Philharmonie under the direction of Horst-Hans Backer.

Though I enjoy the multitude of voices that can be played on the classical guitar, my favorite of the three recordings has to be Spanish Night. I have to admit he is one of my favorite 20th century composers.

However, there is much to be said for the guitar ensemble.