Album Releases: Candice Mowbray, Gantriis-Zimmerman Guitar Duo, and Louis Valentine Johnson

Gantriis-Zimmermann Guitar Duo
Albany Records

This is a fascinating and stimulating album from two top European guitarists: Kristian Gantriis from Denmark and Volkmar Zimmermann from Germany (both also play in the Denmark-based Corona Guitar Kvartet, alongside Per Dybro Sørensen and Michael Norman Sørensen). In fact it almost feels like three different albums, though it all hangs together remarkably well. The first and last tracks have a decidedly modern mien, with the kickoff number,  Canadian composer Peter Wingfield’s Teyatá, being a wonderfully intricate slice of clearly Steve Reich-influenced layering of steadily rhythmic parts that develop subtly at first, overlap, join in unison moments, answer each other, and even provide opportunities for brief solos over the pulsing pattern; it’s so full of life! By contrast, the concluding Nocturnal Procession, by John Frandsen, is spare, a bit dark, and rhythmically irregular; a very serious note to end on.

Three quite melodious and delightful arrangements of traditional Danish songs dating back to the 19th century form another stylistic block on the album, and then the largest thematic chunk belongs to seven Latin “dance” pieces—four arranged by Pepe Ferer, three by Gantriis—all of them new to me, including a milonga, a couple of tangos, a vals, and more. The “finds” here are Piazzolla’s Decarísimo, which starts as a solo-guitar ballad and then moves into a tango duo; and then three piano works by Federico Mompou, delectably arranged for two guitars for the first time here. (In fact, the entire album consists of premiere recordings.)

Finally, I can’t resist quoting Michael Schelle’s liner notes description of Romance de Barrio (music by Anibal Troilo): “[It] will drag you out onto the dance floor and plant a blood-red rose between your thorn-torn lips.” Now that’s passion!

Teyatá (Wingfield); Fred hviler over Land og by (Niels la Cour; arr. Hedegaard ; Den blå Anemone (Harder, arr. Hedegaard); Stille, Hjerte Sol går ned (Laub, arr. Hedegaard); El Portenito (Villoldo, arr. Ferrer); Naranjo en Flor (V. and H. Espósito, arr. Ferrer); Romance de Barrio (Troilo; arr. Ferrer); Decarísimo (Piazzolla, arr. Ferrer); Canción y Danza I and II(Mompou, arr. Gantriis); Cuna (Mompou, arr. Gantriis); Nocturnal Procession (Frandsen)