Album Review: Vast Expanse by Gidi Ifergan

Well, dear reader, once again I have been very privileged to wrap my ears around another utterly fabulous recording – Vast Expanse by Melbourne-based guitarist Gidi Ifergan.

And this recording is quite a special one, as far as I’m concerned, as aside from the fantastic playing (more on that shortly) it’s by a very talented guitarist that I used to share a teacher with (the marvellous Ben Dix, who also happens to be the producer behind this great recording) and brief conversations about all things guitar in the hallway of said teacher’s house.

Now, one could accuse me of slight bias here! But a listen to this recording and you’ll understand my feelings towards this recording and that they are entirely justified (that and I also have bit of an unwritten rule that I only feature positive reviews on the blog)

Vast Expanse, released on the UK label Cala Records in August of this year and recorded at Pughouse Studios in Thornbury, Melbourne, is a wonderfully sensitive, informed and thoughtful presentation of some equally fantastic repertoire ranging from J.S. Bach to Ralph Towner, Astor Piazolla, Villa-Lobos and Leo Brouwer.

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The recording kicks off with the latter composer and a beautifully reflective rendition of Cancion de cuna  – a glistening, rich and expansive piece that lives up to the title of the album. This is followed by an equally rich rendition of Ojos brujos, with exquisite tone and expert note placement and phrasing. This one could be a contender for favourite on the recording for me.

Or it could be the next one on the track listing – Alfonsina y el Mar (Ariel Ramirez arr. Dyens)  – all controlled passion, beautifully coloured, achingly delicious phrasing without slipping into trite territory. Ooh this is good stuff. Definitely worth getting yourself a copy of this recording for this piece alone. Yep, this one is my favourite on the recording.

But then again….. The Reluctant Bride (Ralph Towner, transcription Leonard Grigoryan) is equally beautiful. Gidi, you really do a have a lovely tone and sense of phrasing!

The Reluctant Bride is followed on by a couple more equally delightful Towner pieces – Green and Golden and Beneath an Evening Sky. This latter piece is quite beautiful, particularly with Gidi’s son joining him on an expertly played muted trumpet. I’ve been playing this one quite a lot recently – very atmospheric. Great balance between the two instruments too. A very good example of sensitive and considerate duo playing to bring the best out in the music.

Coming to Gidi’s interpretation of the much-loved Villa-Lobos favourite, Prelude No. 1 in E minor, I really liked the reflective, more laid-back approach to this piece. Too often there can be a tendency for this piece to become a bit of a race to the finish. Here Gidi allows the music, the phrases, the natural beauty of the piece to shine through. Really lovely.

And Gidi’s demonstrates he’s not too shabby with a bit of Astor Piazzolla either. Il Romantico  – again the phrasing is delicious, as is the rich tone. Mmm mmm.

Vast Expanse is rounded out by one of my favourite Bach Lute Suites, BWV 997. This is a suite I’m working up at the moment, so I will definitely be using Gidi’s interpretation as a reference recording. Again, a really beautiful, clear and musically sensitive approach to Bach’s fantastic phrasing. The Fuga is my particular favourite here, with the lines all so very clearly displayed in all their glory, and some of those lines are off the charts!

This recording is full of vivid, bright, deep, richly reflective and thoughtfully virtuosic guitar playing. If you’re into recordings that demonstrate a depth of thought and a depth of feeling that is matched in its depth of communication (and quality of recording) then it’s well worth you getting a copy of this recording for yourself. This album is genuinely going into the shortlist for my favourite recording of 2016. Seriously. And not just because I know Gidi. This is top notch stuff.

Vast Expanse is available to purchase as a download or CD format from the Cala Records website: http://www.calarecords.com/acatalog/info-CACD77023.html

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