(William Knuth, violin. Adam Levin, guitar.)
Naxos Records 8.574045
Total Time: 51:07
Duo Sonidos launches a three-disc survey of new arrangements for violin and guitar. The pieces here are mostly arranged by guitarist Gregg Nestor who may be familiar to film music fans as a soloist and arranger. He has also released albums of his film music arrangements for guitar. The collection here features his work for various pieces from across the musical spectrum of 20th-Century music.
Two familiar selections from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess open the album and invite us into a blend of jazz and classical style first with “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, and then with a brief cover of “Summertime”. The latter moves us into a rather beautiful piece by Szymanowski, “Dawn” (1925) written with and for violinist Paul Kochanski (1887-1934)—the arrangement here is by Allen Krantz. It is followed by a work from the same year that also lends the album its title, ”Wild Dance”. These pieces give us a little window into the blend of aesthetics influencing Symanowski’s style coupled with references to Polish folk music. The violin takes on the lyrical vocal lines that populate Rodrigo’s Four Sephardic Songs (1965). The piece is balanced then with a similar approach in Ravel’s Two Hebraic Melodies (1914). Here one gets a good sense of the more modern style of the former with the chant-like impressions heard in the latter. Korngold arranged music from his Much Ado About Nothing Suite, Op. 11 (1919) for violin and piano to increase its ability for a wider audience. The Duo includes the gorgeous intermezzo and the hornpipe. Two more popular pieces then follow with a transcription of Ponce’s beautiful Estrellita, a common occurrence for guitar recitals, and an arrangement of John Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List. The latter is a rather interesting experience that creates an almost folk-like expression of this music in an equally moving performance. Lukas Foss’ Three American Pieces (1944) comes from that period when Americana explorations were quite abundant in American concert music and that can certainly be heard in the pieces here along with the composer’s sense of wit and integration of folk melodies.
The program here flows from moments of lyricism to dance and back again. Other connections can be heard as well from the exploration of Hebraic and Sephardic melodies to other folk melodies. In many ways, the album explores these various folkish pieces in a way that provides an accessible window into even the less familiar pieces here. That is what helps make the release a bit more unique as well. For a transcription to work, the listener must be convinced that this music falls naturally for the forces here. Indeed, the emotional interpretations of the lyric lines really help to communicate well with this music. Knuth has a gorgeous tone here that brings a real warmth here when needed and there are a few moments when a little more technical virtuosity is allowed to shine as well. The guitar becomes both an integral component for harmonic support as well as having times to add even more subtle shaping. Selections here allow for a wide range of musical experience and taste, many which may invite exploration of other music as well. The result is a moving program that bodes well for the next two releases.