There was a time when names like Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Paco Peña and the Romero brothers were never far from a television screen. The Australian John Williams outshone the lot by appearing on film soundtracks, arranging Beatles songs, and playing electric guitar in a classical-rock fusion band. Classical guitar set the tone for movies like “The Deer Hunter” and “A Fish Called Wanda.” It was cool to strum classical. And then, this subtle musical voice grew quieter and quieter.
Williams turned 70 in April, with no heir in sight. Enter Miloš Karadaglić. A 28-year-old guitarist from Montenegro, he speaks not a word of Spanish yet is the first classical guitarist signed to Deutsche Grammophon in many years. "Mediterraneo," his collection of solo pieces with a Mediterranean influence, is our Album of the Week.
We first came to know the music of Miloš (the telegenic guitarist is known only by his first name), when he was a guest on our Café Concert series in March. He described an upbringing in the war-torn Balkans in which he found escape through music, learning on a beat-up old guitar he found tucked away in his parents’ bedroom. After giving his first public concert at age nine and appearing on state radio and television as a teenager, he won a scholarship at 17 to London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with professor Michael Lewin.
Lewin helped select and arrange some of the pieces for "Mediterraneo," Miloš’s debut album. It opens with a crisp, vivid account of Albeniz's popular Asturias before proceeding with unhurried takes on numbers like Tarrega’s Adelita, Albeniz's Granada and Granados’s Andaluza. At the center of the album is the Koyunbaba suite by the contemporary Italian composer Domeniconi, which draws liberally on unorthodox modal scales as well as traditional techniques like rapid arpeggiation. But the most spine-tingling moments come in quiet selections like Francisco Tarrega’s Lagrima, seen below.
With the English Chamber Orchestra, Paul Watkins, conductor
Pre-Order at Arkivmusic.com (release date: 6/21)
Q2's Album of the Week:
On the one hand, John Luther Adams’s newest album offers more of the composer’s signature style: Large-scale works that harmonically hint at the isolated vastness of Adams’s adoptive state, Alaska. Yet, just as no two snowflakes are alike, Adams has been able to simultaneously mine the tundra soundscapes and produce works of startling singularity, and Four Thousand Holes sits chief among them. Though it may seem rash to compare this two-track beauty to time-tested works like 1997’s Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing or 1983’s A Northern Suite/Night Peace, Four Thousand Holes may simply be Adams’s best work to-date.
Neatly comprised of two tracks, the titular work clocking in at just under 33 minutes followed by a 10-minute chaser, …and bells remembered…, Four Thousand Holes is a deeply quiet work that, when given the focus it deserves, strips down all other potential distractions to the listener, demanding attention to be paid to clusters of spare yet striking notes arranged in varied rhythms and wrapped with a tonalist bow. It serves well as a soothing element on a crowded rush hour express train (this listener’s first experience with it), but it’s also a pitch-perfect disc to play in the dark on a boiling summer night.
With Scott Deal on vibraphone and bells, Stephen Drury on piano and Adams himself on electronics, the journey in Four Thousand Holes is a meandering one. Like wandering a snow-covered field with few discernible landmarks, you don’t have a precise course to stay, nor is there a clearly defined end-point—what’s really important here is the voyage itself. …and bells remembered… lives in a similar moment, with Drury (who commissioned both of these works) leading the Callithumpian Consort in a meditative, cathedral-quiet work for tuned percussion. So far, 2011 has had its lion’s share of exquisite recordings, but this disc stands out as required listening.
John Luther Adams
Four Thousand Holes
Available at Arkivmusic.com