Album Review: Joie de Vivre by Katrin Endrikat

Hello folks, I have another superb recording in my guitar string-calloused little mitts to review for you. And once again it’s another cracker.

Joie de Vivre album is the second recorded offering from young German guitarist Katrin Endrikat (her first being Between the Worlds, released in 2014). Katrin, born in Berlin, Germany in 1989, graduated with a Master of Music in Guitar Performance from the Yale School of Music (USA) under the guidance of Benjamin Verdery in 2014. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Hochschule für Musik Detmold (Germany), where she studied with Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchhoff.

So she’s no slouch! And this album is testament to that.

In fact this album is more than testament to that, and really lives up to it’s name – Joie de Vivre or joy of life! This recording bristles with a lively and exciting vibrant energy. And it was so lovely to read in the album liner notes that Katrin has dedicated this recording to her at-the-time unborn daughter – Joie de Vivre indeed!  You can hear and feel the excitement and emotion in the playing attached to such an exciting time of life.

On this recording we’re treated to some well-known favourites and , such as Torroba’s Sonatina (a delightfully vigorous interpretation, particularly the Allegretto, with some fabulous ponticello tones), Barrios’ Danza Paraguya (Katrin really brings out the lively, yet unhurried dance-like qualities of this piece. And again I really love those ponitcello tones), and a lovely Recuerdos de la Alhambra (a good deal of direction and drive, beautifully clear baseline that others don’t perhaps emphasise so well and a lovely even tremolo). We’re also presented with lovely interpretations of Granados’ Villanesca (again I was struck by the lovely ponticello tones – check this recording out if you want to hear how genuinely lovely and non-twangy a really god ponitcello can be) and Albeniz’s Sevilla (a rousing, energetic exploration of this favourite).

Joie de Vivre also features all five movements of José Luis Merlin’s Suite del Recuerdo, a piece I’ll admit I’m not overly familiar with. The first movement and album opener (my favourite of the five movements), Evocacion, is lyrical, yet vibrant, with sensitive phrasing.

I particularly like Lauro’s El Marabino – a wonderful foot-tapping little waltz, with just the right smattering of rubarto, without becoming trite or “obvious”, if you catch my meaning.

The recording is rounded out by a delightful Brazilian number Jongo by Paulo Bellinati, with some absolutely fab percussive sounds. Love it!

But for all of the wonderfully energetic renditions on Joie de Vivre my favourite has to be the lullingly soothing interpretation of the traditional (arranged by Miguel Llobet) El Noi de la Mare (which rather aptly translates as Mother’s Child). A case in point that a guitarist doesn’t have to present the flashiest, most technically challenging piece to demonstrate mastery of the instrument, allowing the music to speak through the delivery of a sensitively shaped melody, divine phrasing and full harmonies with beautiful tone.

All in all, Joie de Vivre is a wonderful recording – a delight of tonal variation, energetic flow and direction coupled with beautiful lyricism. Katrin Endrikat is certainly a guitarist worth keeping an eye (and ear!) on.

Be sure to check out Katrin’s website here: http://katrinendrikat.com

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Album Review: Echo & Return by Callum Henshaw – accomplished, polished and just a little adventurous!

Echo & Return is the first recording from young Australian guitarist Callum Henshaw. And what a cracker it is!

Who is Callum Henshaw?

Callum began playing guitar aged just six, learning from a number of talented teachers including Carolyn Kidd, Daniel McKay and Minh Le Hoang. In 2013, he completed a degree in guitar performance with First Class Honours at the ANU School of Music, taught by the world-renowned guitar performer and teacher, Timothy Kain.

Cal has won numerous awards both in Australia and internationally. In 2012, he won First Prize in the Cordoba International Guitar Competition in Spain. In 2013, he was awarded Best Performance of an Australian Work at the Melbourne Guitar Competition (which I witnessed and I can tell you he wasn’t too shabby at all!). With duo partner, Campbell Diamond, he won First Prize in the Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Duo Competition. In 2014, he placed third in the Adelaide International Guitar Competition, and placed first in the Tirana International Guitar Competition in Albania.

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Nicole’s Verdict on Echo & Return?

This is certainly a very special recording, and it’s clear we’re witnessing here the rise of another top Aussie guitar talent.

The playing is highly accomplished and musically presented, including across all ten of Granados’ Valses Poeticos and Ponce’s Variations sur “Folia de España” et Fugue, both presented as single tracks on the recordings. Between these two mammoth tracks we’re treated to Napoléon Coste’s Le Départ, which is played with a virtuosic flair, high energy levels and beautiful tone colours.

We’re then treated to all four movements of Peter Sculthorpe’s From Kakadu, my favourite of which being the third movement Misterioso. Callum’s approach to this particular movement really evokes that mysterious quality Sculthorpe is no doubt looking for.

My favourite piece on this recording though has to be Bleed-through by young Australian composer Samuel Smith. Let me warn you however – this is not a piece of music for the faint-hearted, nor those who like to reside comfortably in the relative consonant simplicity of traditional Western classical music.

If you are on the more adventurous side and like to explore cutting edge guitar and art music generally then you’ll be on to a winner here. With its soundscapes of chilling echoes, feedback loops (providing inspiration for the title of the recording “Echo & Return“) and suggestions of colour this is a great new addition to the oeuvre. And a big hats of to Callum for being adventurous enough to include in this recording. I do wish more artists, established and budding alike, would make these kind of valuable musical explorations. Well done!

I urge you to check out Echo & Return – head over to Callum’s website at http://callumhenshaw.com/music to download the album (and rather generously name your price for it) or order your very own hardcopy CD of this wonderful recording. Get on it now and check out this star ascendant.