Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Modern Classical Guitar from Andrew McKenna Lee

There may not be quite as many active classical guitar composer-performers getting exposure to the listening public today as one might wish. Andrew McKenna Lee and his release Gravity and Air (New Amsterdam) marks the presence and convincing performance of one of the very best.

He makes it clear from the start that he is preceding out of a long, evolved tradition of sound and technique by opening with Bach's rather iconic "Prelude for Lute in D Minor." He follows this with his own compositions, three to be exact. The first, "Five Refractions of A Prelude By Bach" uses thematic material from the Bach Prelude and freely extends and adapts, then goes beyond, refracting and resituating motives into contemporary vessels of expression, commenting in the light of where music has gone, utilizing the full range of modern classical guitar technique with skill, taste and intelligence. It is an impressive performance of a captivating composition.

Then follows Lee's lovely chamber work "The Dark Out of the Nighttime," a movingly luminous modernity that features Lee's vivid guitar work plus a tightly conceived sonority that involves perceptively precient part writing for guitar, flute, viola and harp. There is a natural luminescence to the sound quality, an impressionistic play of extracted light in darkness. . . wondrously evocative yet idiomatically musical poetry. Fifteen minutes of joy, mystery and contemplation are what you get.

We return to Lee's solo guitar pieces with the final "Scordatura Suite." As implied by the title Lee seems to adopt non-standard tuning. The three movements provide a convincing sort of portrait of the artist as a near-perfect vehicle of inventive brilliance and technical mastery.

Gravity and Air vies with the very best of performance-composition outings by a modern classical guitarist. Lee belongs in the ranks of the most skilled and most creative of those practicing today. The music soars.

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