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AN 2 8792 Focus

Focus

Album information

This enterprising recording of new Canadian works for guitar duo possesses two important features. The first is the quality of the music per- formed. Though infused with a myriad of differing influences and exhibiting a vast array of guitar techniques, these works are both richly flavoured and enticing in their varying musical approaches. Second, the Adam Cicchillitti and Steve Cowan duo display an impressive technical assurance and admirable interpretive insights. The latter is hardly surprising, as the duo has had the privilege of pre- paring the program of works with their respective composers.

The celebrated Montreal composer José Evangelista’s 2010 composition Retazos explores methods of making music based exclusively on melody in an innovative, haunting yet vibrant work in five movements. Cicchillitti and Cowan arranged the piece for guitar duo in early 2017 and gave its world premiere as part of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec’s homage series to Evangelista.

Also in 2017, Cicchillitti and Cowan commissioned a new piece for guitar duo from famed guitarist, teacher, and composer Patrick Roux. The source of inspiration for Ombres et lumières (Shadows and Lights) was a painting of the same name by Roux’s close friend Mario Courchesne. Ombres et lumières is in two movements, the first, in Roux’s own words, “evoking human sorrow, immersing the listener in shadow and obscurity” is strikingly contrasted with the second, a rapid and relentless section that reflects a “journey on a sinuous, frantic and adventurous path towards the light.” The work was conceived as a dialogue between shifting musical motifs, culminating in the more obsessive rhythms of progressive rock. Ombres et lumières was premiered in September 2018.

Andrew Staniland’s 2017 piece Choro: The Joyful Lament for Villa-Lobos uses a typical Brazilian ‘choro’ (lamentation) as a source of inspiration. The rhythmically rapid and ironically joyful nature of the choro helps infuse the piece with not only extended guitar techniques but considerable virtuosic elements, aided by the composer’s original indications such as “Quiet, but driving” and “Vivacious and playful.”

Originally written for two harps, Noble arranged and edited River and Cave for Cicchillitti and Cowan, who premiered the piece in October 2018. The music of Jason Noble has been described as “brilliant, colourful, astounding and challenging,” all of which describe his work River and Cave. Symbols form an integral part of Noble’s work and his self-stylized ‘semiotic’ compositional style, in which the composer focuses on the listener’s perception of meaning derived from musical symbols. Noble notes that the “river and cave are deeply embedded cultural symbols” that are represented in the work’s three sections. The first is animated by a feeling of perpetual motion through the use of repeated patterns to emulate a fl owing river. In the river’s second, contrasting, section, the performers are asked to detune the guitar’s bass strings, simulating the rumbling and rushing of water. In the final “cave” section, the performers sing into the body of the guitar to evoke sound images of caves.

Focus is the result of a 2018 Canada Council for the Arts grant to Cicchillitti and Cowan, who commissioned this new work from Canadian- American composer Harry Stafylakis. A captivating and enthralling piece, Focus assimilates three themes dear to Stafylakis’ heart; progressive metal, classical music, and traditional Greek music. According to the composer, the opening movement of this virtuoso two-movement work, “Radial Glare,” “leans heavily on the metal end of the spectrum, deploying both classical and electric guitar idioms in an unrelenting virtuosic, ferociously extroverted stream of sound and tight ensemble work.” Based on thematic material inspired by the second movement of Beethoven’s seventh symphony, the final movement, “Inward Gaze,” is more classically-inclined.

© Richard Turp

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About

Adam Cicchillitti
Steve Cowan
AN 2 9162 Guided by Voices
Andrew Staniland

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