Guitar Works

Author: 
John Duarte

Guitar Works

  • Hommage à Villa-Lobos
  • Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra
  • Suite populaire brésilienne
  • Chôros No. 1

Roland Dyens has made several recordings, of which this is the first to cross the Channel, and, as he has (unless I have missed something) yet to play in the UK, he has until now remained no more than one of many disembodied names. He is Tunisian by birth (1955) but he appears to have followed his musical studies in Paris, where his guitar mentor was the volatile Alberto Ponce, and he is described as ''composer, improviser and performer''—in all three of which guises he appears on this recording. Whatever Dyens may lack in his armoury (and that is remarkably little) it is not technique, his nimble fingers are entirely at his command and, as is not always the case with those given to 'prestidigitation', his tone-production is admirable. The recording is ''dedicated to the memory of Mindinha Villa-Lobos'', the composer's second wife, who died in 1986—just too soon to witness the celebrations for her husband's birth centenary.
Dyens offers a selection from Villa-Lobos's guitar oeuvre, a corpus of work that is as famous as it is modest in quantity. Whilst this presents a problem that other performers share in focusing on Villa-Lobos, Dyens the composer comes to the rescue with his own Hommage a Villa-Lobos, a four-movement piece that seems to owe more to Leo Brouwer than to its eponym, albeit not to Brouwer's own 'Villa-Lobos period', however, the paying of homage via stylistic pastiche is a tricky business, perhaps best avoided when the subject is (as they say in the northern counties) a 'one-lot'. What Dyens brings to his tribute is an evocation of South American rhythms and textures, spiced with some tricky guitaristic effects—things which, though he must have been aware of them, Villa-Lobos eschewed in his own compositions, and played with infectious energy and rhythmic Impulse. It is music that, like Villa-Lobos's own, could have been written only by someone with an intimate working knowledge of the guitar, discovered at the fingerboard, and very enjoyable it is too.
The Suite populaire bresilienne has its charms but it is light-weight in the extreme. Its first four movements, all choros, were written between 1908-12 and were gathered together with the final Chorinho (1923), the weakest piece of the five (for which reason it is sometimes omitted, as by Julian Bream on his LP recording on RCA), to form a 'suite', Villa-Lobos expressed his disapproval of the designation but his wife said that it was in fact he who suggested it! Dyens approaches the work with disarming freshness, seeming, to coin a phrase, to be discovering it as he goes along and indeed, in a sense, he is doing just that, for he adds interest by 'recomposing' parts of it; his apologia is unnecessary this is no intellectual exercise in tight organization, it is light music, in an idiom with a tradition of extemporization, so yes, Villa-Lobos probably 'would have pardoned' Dyens the improviser.
There are several other CD versions of the Concerto, of which Bream's most closely approaches Dyens's in its disciplined fervency, both are well served by good orchestras and crisp recording in which they are forwardly placed. I really wouldn't like to choose between the two, there is no overlap in the remainder of their programmes, but, containing also the Preludes and Etudes of Villa-Lobos, Bream's disc is the more 'archival', with the more solid material, and offering better value for money with a 69-minute playing time. At the same time, Dyens's recording is like a breath of fresh air, welcome in its own right.'

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