American Record Guide, Kenneth Keaton
I’ve reviewed three previous releases of the Aquarelle Quartet—Michael Baker, Vasilis Bessas, James Jervis, and Rory Russell—with enthusiasm (J/A 2009, N/D 2010, N/D 2012). This one is every bit as fine, if not their best yet. Ambitious transcriptions and compositions, realized with total virtuosity, a broad range of sound, and imaginative interpretations— this was a real pleasure.
Sor’s Grand Solo is, in fact a solo, arranged for quartet by David Roe. He has added some extra parts, mostly decorative scales and a few counterlines, to make the transition to a larger ensemble meaningful. It’s all in the right style, other than the fact that there is almost no repertory for guitar quartet before Los Romeros in the 1960s, and it sounds like a lot of fun to play.
Also arranged by Roe is La Vega. This is perhaps Albeniz’s greatest single composition— every bit as fine (and grander in scale) as any one movement of Iberia. I’ve long wanted to arrange the work for guitar quartet, and now I’ll hope that Roe publishes this. This won’t replace Alicia de Larrocha’s magnificent performance of the piano original, but it is a treasure to have it in the repertory.
Capriccio Espagnol? Really? Well, yes, and it works. Arranged by Bill Kanengiser for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, it’s the sort of piece that you wouldn’t even think about doing unless you had an ensemble with the virtuosity and imagination of the LAGQ. There are few such ensembles around, but the Aquarelle is one of them. I loved the performance and never missed the orchestra. That’s high praise.
Ian Krouse’s Folias, his fourth guitar quartet, was also written for, and recorded by, the LAGQ. It’s as ambitious as the Rimsky-Korsakoff, but written for guitar quartet originally. It’s a big, sprawling canvas, with 27 variations and a coda; and styles ranging from minimalist to non-tonal passages to big romantic restatements of the old melody that’s been used for variations for centuries. This is another work that is terribly demanding, but the Aquarelle’s engaged performance makes the journey seem inevitable. As in the Rimsky, their performance is every bit as fine as the LAGQ’s.