Rouse & Tan Dun Guitar Concertos
These two concertos will come as a shock to anyone who believes that guitar music is about Spanishry and tunes to carry away in memory’s pocket, but if approached with open ears the shock should benefit both them and the guitar. Chrisopher Rouse’s tribute to Gaudi is as spectacular and unconventional as its eponym’s cathedral in Barcelona – and it is at least finished! The strummed opening seems to herald another Concierto de Aranjuez but it is utterly deceptive; any connection with traditional Spanish music is soon submerged in a polychromatic and eclectic succession of episodes.
Tan Dun’s Yi 2 recalls the shamanistic rituals that accompanied burials near his childhood home, but ‘does not relate to the death of any one person’. Intense orchestral passages represent ‘the weeping and wailing by everyone present – a part of the ritual’. The Chinese lute, the pipa, was in the composer’s mind but here he fuses Chinese traditions with elements of flamenco. The music has been described as ‘flamenco meets Stravinsky in the Hard Rock Cafe’, which leaves out only the Chinese cultural element that pervades the whole of this astonishing fabric of strange sounds and fluctuating emotions. It is perhaps the most remarkable work yet written for guitar and orchestra. No superlative would be excessive in describing Sharon Isbin’s performances in this vivid recording. Her work on behalf of the guitar’s present and future remains unparalleled, a continuation of that of Segovia and Julian Bream in earlier decades, supported by skill, musicality, dedication and seemingly boundless energy