I will admit I did not know nor was I aware of the existence of R.C Kohl until very recently. You may be in the same position too, but that’s ok. That’s kind of what I’m here for – to help broaden our list listening, to make the connections in our fantastic guitar playing community, to promote our players, the wealth of talent in our world and our music, and to generally share the guitar love!
So on with the show!
Firstly, who the hecky is R.C. Kohl?
R.C. Kohl (I’m going to call him R.C. from here on) is a classical guitarist and composer based in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He’s a veritable musical clever clogs with degrees of various levels from University of California at Santa Cruz, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Universidad Veracruzana, in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He has been awarded scholarships and grants in music performance and research from Mexico’s Secretaría de Educación Pública, the Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura (IVEC), the UCSC and the East-West Center of Honolulu (EWC) and has been a member of many prestigious research institutes and universities.
Ok, so he knows his eggs, but can he play?
No! He’s rubbish! Only kidding!
If the recordings I now gratefully have in my collection are anything to go by, R.C. Is a fantastic musician with immense talent for both playing and writing guitar music. He has made a multitude of recordings, a couple of which he was kind enough to send over to me here at ClassicalGuitanStuff Towers.
Rags, Jazz, Bluegrass y Más
The recording first goes by the name of Rags, Jazz, Bluegrass y Más, and is a fantastic, light-hearted exploration of musical styles from the USA. This was originally recorded and released back in 2005 and features a number of well-known favourites such as Classical Gas, Cavatina, The Entertainer, and Take Five.
Upon to listening to the first few snippets of the CD, listening to wee bits of each of the tracks (and of course I’d not already got the CD in my grubby mitts already) I would most definitely part with my cool, hard cash to add this recording to my library. The playing is excellent, really top-notch stuff and R.C. makes such a lovely tone – I’d love to know what kind of guitar he uses on this recording. Yes, I know it’s a classical guitar….I mean the luthier.
The stand-out tracks for me on this recording are an arrangements of a traditional American tune Beaumont Rag/ Black Mountain Rag and Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag – so very light-hearted, joyful, fun. It makes me want to play it! I was less enthused about the interpretation of Joplin’s The Entertainer, but hey ho, this is just purely and simply personal taste. The Beaumont Rag/ Black Mountain Rag sounds so very typically in that North American folk tradition – it’s nice to hear style of music every now and again and sounds great on the classical guitar – and R.C. clearly has a love and passion for this music, playing it with much gusto and enthusiasm. This one makes me want to get up and do a jig! Hah hah! It also kind of sounds like the kind of tune one might hear on an Apple advert. Send it over to Apple R.C.!
Landscapes for Guitar & Orchestra
The second recording, which is his third release, is a completely different beast to Rags, Jazz, Bluegrass y Más. It features all original compositions for classical guitar and was produced with a grant from the Instituto Veracruzano de la Cultura (IVEC). The recording features not just Landscapes, a four movement suite for guitar and orchestra (which guitarist Roberto Aguirre plays the solo part on in this recording), but also showcases some of Kohl’s other works - The Man with the Blue Guitar I and II, Suite Santa Cruz, Estudios Etnicos II and Sonata Breve II.
There’s a lot of really cool stuff here!
I will say though on listening to the first track - The Man with the Blue Guitar I – I was thinking “oh no…”. It’s a very modernist kind of piece with the guitar hooked up through various electronic devices and feedback loops, partly improvisational in approach. This kind of thing is not really my cup of tea at all, but again that’s just my own opinion and I know that this piece will appeal greatly to many others.
The main feature of the recording - Landscapes for Guitar & Orchestra – was a different story for me, however. Fantastic! Love love love it! Beautiful melodic lines, shimmering strings, floating flutes, gorgeous clarinet lines, and the guitar parts blend with and work so beautifully with the larger orchestra. The music is almost programmatic in its styling – one can imagine cool, deep green forests, looming blue mountains, deserted and desolate landscapes. Most definitely worth checking out.
R.C. has also published several books and texts on guitar and ethnomusicology. Some of which he also sent me so watch out for review on those in the near future!
R.C.’s recordings are available at http://www.cdbaby.com and iTunes. Get on it!