BROUWER; VILLA-LOBOS; KOSHKIN Guitar Concertos
For guitarist/composers such as these three, writing for guitar and orchestra is always a dialectical process. On the one hand, the guitar’s abundant colouristic resources find an immediate analogue in the orchestra’s own; on the other, its relatively small sound (if only psychological now with the widespread use of amplification) makes the orchestra its natural enemy.
Hence the favouring of smaller orchestras and the careful handling of texture during those sections where the guitar predominates – two characteristics of Leo Brouwer’s Concerto elegiaco, written for Julian Bream, who first performed it in 1986 with the composer conducting, and Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Concerto for guitar and small orchestra, premiered by the work’s dedicatee, Andrés Segovia, in 1956, also with the composer conducting.
Nikita Koshkin’s third guitar concerto – written for and with the collaboration of Olsen and completed in 2007 – is, however, scored for full orchestra. And yet, despite the Bergen Concerto being, as Olsen puts it in an interview with the estimable Graham Wade, a ‘monster-piece’, the music is by the composer’s own admission ‘happy and fresh, quite different from my other two concertos’.
Indeed, it’s an attractive, beautifully crafted work, with a final-movement Polka of tremendous vitality that gives both soloist and orchestra a thorough workout. Here, as in the shorter, smaller-scale concertos that precede it, Olsen’s customary thoughtful, lapidary playing is perfectly complemented by a very much on-form ASMF under the Norwegian conductor Terje Mikkelsen, the whole vividly captured by Simon Kiln and Arne Akselberg in the Abbey Road Studios.