Album Review – From Her Source To The Sea by Matthew Fish

 

Well this is the final album review of the year I have for you today folks, and we’re wrapping up 2016 with a beautiful recording from US-based guitarist Matthew Fish.

This recording clearly demonstrates that Matthew is a very talented guitarist and musician. His biography is testament to this fact also, having received his Bachelor’s of Music Degree from CSU, Chico and then his Masters of Music in 2012 at the San Francis Conservatory of Music studying with Sérgio Assad.

Matthew is a strong supporter of new repertoire for the guitar and has premiered works by a number of contemporary composers. As well as his solo work Matthew is also a member of the San Francisco Guitar Quartet.

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This latest project of Matthew’s, released on 25th September – From Her Source To The Sea – is a recording comprised entirely of the works of Johannes Möller. It’s so great to see (and hear!) an album of this nature – Johannes has such a great collection of compositions, it’s fabulous to hear other artists, particularly talented up and coming young artists, pick them up, play them so beautifully and dedicate an entire recording to them. I just love this approach; a great in-depth study of one contemporary composer’s works. Bloody brilliant!

The track listing includes:

  • Song to the Mother
  • A Star in the Sky, a Universe Within…
  • From Her Source to the Sea (of which this is the world premier recording!)
  • 6 of the 24 Preludes, Op. 12 (of which these are also the world premier recordings!)
    • No. 3 in G Major
    • No. 5 in D Major
    • No. 7 in A Major
    • No. 8 in F# Minor
    • No. 12 in G# Minor
  • The Night Flame (another world premier recording!)
  • Nocturne Op.16, No.1 (and another world premiere recording, and this one was dedicated to Matthew by Johannes)
  • Ananda
  • Future Hope

This is an album that I don’t hesitate in believing that Johannes himself would be very proud of (and that Matthew should be proud too). Matthew’s playing is as virtuosic as any I’ve heard in recent times. He’s more than equipped technically to deal with the Johannes Möller repertoire. Absolutely fantastic playing, partnered with a very well produced recording.

He’s also clearly more than equiped with his sense of musicality to really bring Johannes’ music to life. My favourite track on the album would have to be a toss-up between The Night Flame and album opener Song to the Mother.

The Night Flame is a dramatic Indian-inspired piece of hearty length, and not an undertaking for the player of faint-heart! With the slow, gentle, lulling start to the piece Matthew plays all beautiful ringing on cross-strings and introduction of the main melodic theme in a haunting fashion, underpinned by a pulsating Indian rhythm. Matthew builds the intensity throughout the piece, and creates the beautiful, shimmering illusion that he’s in fact playing a sitar rather than a Western classical guitar, and the build-up through the rasgueado section makes the hair on the back of me neck stand up! This piece is at once beautifully haunting and dramatically virtuosic.

Song to the Mother is played with a lush tone, both down in the lower positions and right up the top of the fretboard. Matthew delivers the piece with just a fabulous sense of timing throughout those divine phrases Möller has written. And I just love, love, love those little harmonic flourishes.

This album is an absolute must if you’re a fan of beautifully played, contemporary classical guitar. From Her Source to the Sea is expressive, beautiful, dramatic, inspiring. Matthew Fish is a classical guitarist to keep an eye (and ear on) for sure.

Details on where you grab your own copy of From Her Source to The Sea is on Matthew’s website: http://www.matthewfishguitar.com/recordings.html

And check out some of Matthew’s beautiful playing on YouTube too:

 

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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