Gramophone review

Review of 'Guitar Concertos' by William Yeoman in the November 2020 issue of Gramophone Magazine:


"It’s always good to see younger guitarists continuing the tradition of commissioning new concertos for their instrument, especially when the resulting works are as substantial and attractive as the two which here receive their first recordings. Such continuity is made explicit by including Corigliano’s Troubadours, written for Sharon Isbin, while highlighting the fact that Constantine Caravassilis’s and Wayne Siegel’s concertos – both written for Bangsø – were partly inspired by the Corigliano. Joanna Wyld in her booklet note also observes that ‘the themes of nostalgia and memory recur throughout this album’. And indeed, this provides the key to navigating the eclecticism of these three concertos, which contrast archaic appropriations and bald tonality with bold modernistic tendencies.


There are concertante elements in all three. But the overwhelming effect, especially in Corigliano’s Troubadours, evokes the image of a wandering poet confronted with the sublime. This chimes well with those ‘themes of nostalgia and memory’. Troubadours and Saudade quote respectively a trobairitz song, and a lullaby and Greek folk song; Siegel’s Chaconne takes an old form, as well as the charming device of having the guitarist hum a tune at the beginning, ‘trying to recall a forgotten memory’; it is this tune that forms the ground bass for the entire work. But the theme-and-variations idea also occurs in the other two works.


Bangsø is more guide than lone poet; or, better, a true collaborator, even when in declamatory mode, his playing equal to that of the superb Tallinn Chamber Orchestra under the ever-sensitive Kaisa Roose. The effect is expressive less of nostalgia and memory than of a sympathetic collective consciousness."