Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: John. Cage. Guitar – Classical Guitar Magazine

John. Cage. Guitar.
Aaron Larget-Caplan (guitar and prepared guitar) 
with Sharan Leventhal (violin) and Adam Levin (prepared guitar)
Stone Records

Ear-opening Cage on guitar

One scenario I yearn to witness is a quiz-master demolishing an other wise unassailable contestant by asking him to name a work by John Cage, other than 4’33”. Possible answers are numerous, but known only to those who’ve done their homework. What Cage apparently didn’t do was compose for guitar, leaving a gap that is definitively filled by this ear-opening release from American guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan.

Drawing on Cage’s catalog for piano and prepared piano, Larget-Caplan eases the listener into the proceedings with the hypnotic soundscape of A Room, the word “minimalist” being invoked for a second time in the performer’s notes, alongside a disclaimer that “Cage did not use the term.” Whatever the genre, the two-part textures have a transparency ideally suited to the guitar. This is enhanced by Larget-Caplan’s tidy and understated playing, the feeling of brightness and focus well-captured by engineer Steve Hunt. Likewise Three Easy Pieces, in which the tonal/modal language prompts Larget-Caplan to suggest the first two pieces “could easily be mistaken for 19th century guitar compositions.” Few are likely to confuse Cage with Carulli, but the comparison is not without merit.

As the album progresses, occasional sharp edges emerge, most notably in the deliciously noisy Bacchanale, arranged for two prepared guitars. However, anyone hoping this CD will perpetuate the false image of Cage as merely a purveyor of the impenetrable will leave empty-handed. —Paul Fowles

Classical Guitar Magazine, Spring 2019, P. 67

 

Review: John. Cage. Guitar. – THE ARTS FUSE

John Cage on guitar? Why not? Though the American maverick never wrote explicitly for the instrument, some of his early piano music was adaptable enough for guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan to arrange for his instrument. The results, out now John Cage: Guitar, are often enticing and plenty appealing.

Larget-Caplan’s program consists of seven Cage pieces, all of which originated in the 1930s and ‘40s, a couple of which are remarkably prescient. The opener, A Room, for instance, anticipates the Minimalist procedures of a later generation or two. And the prepared-guitar closer, Bacchanale, sounds a couple decades younger than it is, almost like a kind of high-brow anticipation of Jimi Hendrix.

In between come Cage’s Three Easy Pieces, which sound like just that: a set of short, contrapuntal exercises that exude not a little bit of charm, especially the central “Duo.” Chess Pieces and Dream are more substantial. The former is adapted from a composition that appears in a 1944 Cage painting while the latter, a ruminative essay, was originally conceived as a dance piece. In a Landscape is another affecting, resonant meditation.

Then there are Six Pieces, a set of radiant miniatures for violin and guitar, in which Larget-Caplan’s joined by violinist Sharon Leventhal. Cage’s writing here is highly specific – the violin part, for instance, indicates which string each note is supposed to be played on – but the music itself is anything but restrained, ranging from the quiet ecstasy of “Melody 1” to the jaunty syncopations of “Melody 3” and the subdued glow of “Melody 6.”

Larget-Caplan’s performances are excellent. Technically, he’s got everything under control, no matter how involved the arrangements get. What’s more, his playing brims with charisma and understanding: Cage can be a tough composer to really bring to life. Larget-Caplan (and Leventhal, in Six Pieces) manage the feat impressively.

Classical Music CD Reviews: ROCO’s “Visions Take Flight,” Nordic Affect’s “He(a)r,” and “John Cage: Guitar.”


 

Jonathan Blumhofer is a composer and violist who has been active in the greater Boston area since 2004. His music has received numerous awards and been performed by various ensembles, including the American Composers Orchestra, Kiev Philharmonic, Camerata Chicago, Xanthos Ensemble, and Juventas New Music Group. Since receiving his doctorate from Boston University in 2010, Jon has taught at Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and online for the University of Phoenix, in addition to writing music criticism for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

John. Cage. Guitar ? – Review

 

 

“To this writer’s knowledge, John Cage had never written any music for guitar. So, for Larget-Caplan to imagine this project, and write all of the arrangements, was quite daring. The capacity audience responded most favorably.”

Read the complete review: https://www.classical-scene.com/2018/12/03/john-cage-guitar/

“John Cage Arranged for Guitar” gave us cause to celebrate.

“Larget-Caplan gave honor to the music, blending the guitar with violin, as though this was the intention of Cage himself.”

‘The two-guitar arrangement of this composition is so well considered, it is hard to remember that this is not the original format! Both guitarists focused intently and clearly. An excellent arrangement, and even stronger performance, created universal excitement throughout the room.”

 

NeuGuitars of Italy features Aaron

Neuguitars, a blog dedicated to contemporary guitar music (classical, jazz and experimental) featured Aaron’s most recent work in a December triple treat:

1 – Album Review – John. Cage. Guitar.
“An excellent introduction to those who want to approach [Cage] for the first time. Highly recommended.”

2 – Interview – “I am a product of consistent work, listening, and collaboration. I have forged my path.”

3 – Video Playlist – John Cage & Elliott Carter

Thanks to Andrea Aguzzi for including me on his wonderful site, and spreading the good sounds far and wide.

 

CD REVIEW: John. Cage. Guitar. – MusicWeb International

STONE RECORDS 50601927 80833

Stone who have established a name for their song series including embracing long-needed projects, such as the output of C.W. Orr, here branch out in unaccustomed directions.

A Room is an insistent little minimalistic mood piece. The Three Easy Pieces are amicable diminutives. There is no obstacle to cool enjoyment and any fears about Cage and the avant-garde are misplaced. The Chess Pieces and Dream throw out plenty of variety of atmosphere and, within the confines of a cool shadowed world, exploit the confiding and orating of Aaron Larget-Caplan’s guitar. Six Melodies for violin and guitar are a shade, but often only a shade, more complicated. After six tracks of Cage, the tunefully atmospheric music-smith, one’s mind and ears are ready for the Melodies‘ gloriously creaking match and mismatch carried by violin and guitar. These Melodies, mercurially varied and each radiating the feel of a journey, occasionally carry the suggestion of baroque Iberian courts. In a Landscape is an interplay of shadows, dripping archways and rilled watercourses. The music here is about patiently moving water rather than torrents; it would make a tasty companion to Rodrigo’s Aranjuez concerto. Bacchanale revels in discontinuity including deadened wood-splintering resonances. Somewhere in the mix is the sound of the koto for which Cage’s similarly inclined friend, Henry Cowell, wrote a concerto premiered by Eto Kimei and conducted by Stokowski in 1964.

The notes, which address the individual works, Cage from various perspectives and artist profiles are by Aaron Larget-Caplan.

This disc, quite properly, knows no fear in its blend of delicacy, complexity and amiable simplicity.

Rob Barnett

John CAGE (1912-1992)
A Room (1943) [2:35]
Three Easy Pieces (1933) [4:06]
Chess Pieces (1944) [7:52]
Dream (1948) [7:06]
Six Melodies for violin and guitar (1944) [12:34]
In a Landscape (1948) [8:36]
Bacchanale for two prepared guitars (1940) [10:38]
Aaron Larget-Caplan (guitar, prepared guitar)
Sharan Leventhal (violin)
Adam Levin (prepared guitar)
rec. 2017/18, Massachusetts, Boston
STONE RECORDS 50601927 80833 [54:03]

CAGE Guitar – STONE RECORDS 50601927 80833 [RB] Classical Music Reviews: November 2018 – MusicWeb-International

*Read it on MusicWeb International:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2018/Nov/Cage_guitar_5060192780833.htm?fbclid=IwAR3INH1ZqutUo5FRUQDyK3IkNdlS3PGGWWOXBPUlALcubCdZea_FhNcm6rg

Brilliant “Solace” Radiates

Boston Musical Intelligencer
Review by  • OCTOBER 1, 2018

“Larget-Caplan stretched the limits of the sound of the guitar, experimenting with playing positions most others do not tend to use: sul tasto, sul ponticello, finger vs. nail, etc. It’s refreshing to hear and very rewarding.”

Osvaldo Golijov (file photo)

FULL REVIEW:
Introspection and catharsis abided on the Pickman Hall stage Saturday with Radius Ensemble’s “Solace,” an eclectic set of comforting pieces highlighting composers who suffered within or escaped from totalitarian regimes along with a pairing of two living composers, an underplayed oddity, and a titan of the repertoire. Eugene Kim on cello, Aaron Larget-Caplan on guitar, Megumi Stohs Lewis on violin, and Randall Zigler on bass, joined the core ensemble.

Osvaldo Golijov compiled the majority of Lullaby & Doina from the score he wrote for the 2000 movie The Man Who Cried, taking much from “Entendre Encore” (I still believe I hear) from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (the two different worlds met in the movie itself). Extracting score cues under the melody of “Entendre Encore,” Golijov constructed a decent hybrid of both composers’ styles, though he seemingly emphasized Bizet’s melody over his own material. Sarah Brady on flute and Eran Egozy on clarinet sounded like one instrument. The strings of Lewis, Noriko Futagami on viola, Kim, and Zigler supported the winds admirably and functioned well in the solos, especially Futagami, whose throaty C string playing complemented the clarinet well. The main star of the show, however, was Egozy. When he played, this reviewer paid full attention; his phrasing of the decidedly more folk-like and klezmer-like passages spoke to a deep understanding laid bare for everyone.

Eclogues, Op. 206 of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco sets an odd combination: flute, English horn, and guitar. Brady and Radius founder Jennifer Montbach on English horn joined Larget-Caplan in trotting out this underplayed set of bagatelles. Through the lynchpin of the flute, the strange combination of voices functioned pretty well. There were some cracks in the orchestration between the guitar and English horn, but that is not the performers’ faults. Brady and Montbach once again became a single voice, responding to one another lyrically and smoothly when in imitation and united as a single complex voice when in harmony. Larget-Caplan stretched the limits of the sound of the guitar, experimenting with other playing positions most others do not tend to use: sul tasto, sul ponticello, finger vs. nail, etc. It’s refreshing to hear and very rewarding. The piece itself, though, left a lot to be desired. Castelnuovo-Tedesco, despite having excellent melodies and a highly exploitable palette of timbres, instead crafted formulas to use over and over again: English horn states a phrase, flute responds, guitar plays like a piano and accompanies on chords. Rinse and repeat. The fourth movement broke the trend by reversing it, with much-needed freshness after stifling loops of the same ideas over and over.

Responding to the shooting of noted Islamic women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai, Elena Ruehr (in attendance that evening) wrote Liftfor solo cello. It clearly had moved Miriam Bolkosky of the core ensemble. Before she set he bow on the strings, she discussed what the work meant to her, a visual sensation that reminded her of Yousafzai’s home she had to flee for speaking out. Though perhaps that sensation did not translate to the audience as well as she hoped, Bolkosky did an admirable job with the solo. The lower register material at times mirrored that of an organ or a choir, multiple voices resonating with the help of the cello to expand the instrument far beyond any perceived limitations. At times, it sounded as though there was more than one instrument playing in the lower registers, thanks to the power of the overtone resonance. The upper register, however, did not fair as well. What was intended to be lyrical sometimes came across as choppy, bow strokes cutting the smoothness of attack that the low register basked in. Some notes also took a moment to settle, Bolkosky needing a noticeable moment to lock them in. Despite these issues, Bolkosky delivered.

Elena Ruehr (file photo)

A firework of a piano trio rounded out the evening. Shostakovich’s incredibly personal and introspective Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67 resonated with pianist Sarah Bob when she too became grief stricken (this reviewer cannot recall why), mirroring what Shostakovich felt upon the death of close friend Ivan Ivanovich Sollertinsky. Grief begetting grief. How appropriate. Lewis and Bolkosky, and Bob truly thundered, especially through the third and fourth movements, which became the brain and bite of the evening, as personal anxiety and anger mixed with the pervasive and unwanted hand of Papa Stalin through Soviet Realism. Bob and Lewis ruled here, as though they went through the composer’s tragic loss with him, filling the notes with angst in the third movement and biting grit in the fourth. It should be released on CD for the world to hear.

The radians began their 20th anniversary season with a bang rather than the soothing whispers the concert’s theme suggested. The group’s been all about dichotomy whether intentionally or. Pay attention when a performance of theirs comes up. It really can be life changing.

Ian Wiese is a doctoral candidate composer at the New England Conservatory of Music. He studies with Mr. Michael Gandolfi. Several of his friends and colleagues performed on this evening’s concert.

Cage for Guitar Review

The first review of CAGE – PIANO MUSIC ARRANGED FOR GUITAR!!

Thanks to Julio J. Sequeira and the quarterly MU PHI EPSILON (ΜΦΕ) Triangle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

READ IT ONLINE: http://online.fliphtml5.com/tuhv/dvrd/#p=10

Recent Fan Letters!

On occasion I get notes from fans following concerts or after they hear a CD or a podcast. Happily, this is occurring more and more!

Here are a few recents:

1 – “A note to say how much I enjoyed your concert. It is one thing to see an accomplished musician play his instrument; it’s quite another to see and listen to a brilliant musician who is at one with the guitar. Truly, as I sat there, I felt the connection between you and your guitar – they were one. This doesn’t happen often, so I’m glad I saw you perform. At times, the guitar sounded as a harpsichord; at others, like a violin. That is a testament to the musician.” – Jan., Oregon

2 – “Your CD. Wow! You have wonderfully braved the criticism of the fuddy-duddy classical ineffectuals. The choices and playing have opened your music to a much wider audience. I’m sharing the experience with friends and family, we are all on board. Another thing I really appreciate about the CD, you are willing to follow the lead of the last half of the 20th century and move away from strictly tonal music. Please keep it up.” – David C., Oregon

3 – Aaron, I recently listened to your interview with Bret Williams and videos at Savage Classical — both were excellent!! Thank you for continuing to push the guitar forward!! – Ben R., NY

4 – Wonderful concert yesterday! I was honored to be in the audience. – Mary J., Oregon

5 – “It looks like Aaron is ready to make a big splash In New York. It’s funny, I played his [Legend ofHagoromo CD yesterday, and the thought occurred to me that, if you hadn’t seen him perform it, you might think it was some trick done during the recording.” – Carolyn E., – Oregon

 

“Stunning Performance” – CD Review

My latest CD ‘The legend of Hagoromo’ (Stone Records, UK) received a stellar review in ‘The Triangle’ the quarterly magazine of the professional music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon. Read the complete review and find links for purchase below.
legend-of-hagoromo-triangle-fall-2016

Amazon: http://a.co/iyMs1Zd
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-legend-of-hagoromo/id1007477239
ArkivMusic: http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=2135600

The complete Fall 2016 issue of ‘The Triangle’: HERE

CD Review by This is Classical Guitar

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-8-15-43-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-23-at-8-18-07-pm 
The Legend of Hagoromo

American & Japanese Music for Classical Guitar
by Aaron Larget-Caplan
Stone Records 2015
Visit This is Classical Guitar

I recently received this excellent recording, a mix of Japanese and American music performed by Aaron Larget-Caplan. You probably recognize Larget-Caplan from his videos, concerts or his other projects such as my recent review of John Cage arrangements or the New Lullaby Project. Also of note, Aaron Larget-Caplan is the first guitarist and first American to record on the UK label Stone Records, visit their artist page and spot the best bio pic of the bunch. Larget-Caplan-coverI haven’t been doing as many reviews lately but I love albums that have a good programatic concept and this one delivers. No shortage of great repertoire here with all 20th Century to Contemporary works:

  1. Keigo Fujii: The Legend of Hagoromo
  2. Leo Brouwer: Hika, in memoriam Toru Takemitsu
  3. Toru Takemitsu: Equinox
  4. Ken Ueno: Ed è subito sera*
  5. Kota Nakamura: Sui-hou*
  6. Harold Arlen: Over the rainbow
  7. George Gershwin: Summertime
  8. Martin MaxSchreiner: Japanese idyll no.1*
  9. Martin Max Schreiner: Japanese idyll no.2*
    *Première recording 

The Legend of Hagoromo, an epic 18 minute singe movement work by Japanese composer Keigo Fujii (b.1956) is dedicated to David Russel with whom the composer studied guitar. You can find a write up about this work in an article on Aaron Larget-Caplan’s site. It’s a beautiful opening to the album with lush orchestral chords and pacing that ranges from improvisatory to determined forward moving momentum. Excellent musical playing by Larget-Caplan, and believe me, his playing is put to the test with a wide variety of textures and challenges in terms of balance and the large scope of the piece. You get orchestral brushing, sweet melodic lines, a little Spanish touch here and there, Japanese modes, tremolo, harmonics, everything. It meanders a bit but always brings you back with bouts of focused writing. Based on a folk tale, the composer used a 16-bar song by Hiroshi Yamanoha (d. 1991), on the same title, as a basis for the work which helps tie it all together.

Takemitsu was an obvious choice for the album and Equinox delivers the goods. Also, perfectly in line with the album’s concept, Takemitsu’s arrangements of Gershwin and Arlen connect the two countries even if the music itself seems a bit out of place. General listeners will find it interesting to hear the two sides of Takemitsu ranging from contemplative dissonance to jazzy arrangements of American music. The inclusion of Takemitsu also allows some bending of the rules to get Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s Hika, in memoriam Toru Takemitsu onto the album. Larget-Caplan’s Brouwer delivers a focused performance with nice spaciousness where needed.

Personally, I was most interested to hear the new music on the album. On the American side we have a premiere by Ken Ueno (b.1970). Ed è subito sera is an exhilarating and hypnotic work combining some of the best textures the guitar can produce but not in a cliché way. The quick tremolo/arpeggio effect with the surrounding twinkling notes and micotones (bends) are very effective. Too bad this wasn’t a multi-movement work as it’s very successful and well played by Larget-Caplan with a driving determination. My only wish was that the composer would have extended the dissipation at the end to lasted longer. Japanese-born composer Kota Nakamura’s Sui-hou is a slow but steady meditative expanse. I like how the work pulls the listener into single notes while exploring multiple textures around it. The melodic strumming is very successful and handled tastefully by Larget-Caplan. Both works were commissioned for Aaron’s New Lullaby Project The Martin Max Schreiner arrangements of Two Japanese Idylls offer a mirror of the Takemitsu arrangements. These pretty, melodic, swaying works are a beautiful way to cool-down for the end of the album. Plenty of interesting effects reminiscent of traditional Japanese music and instruments: angular strong-weak melodic lines, bends, repetitive alternation, and percussion.

Overall good recording quality, more of a studio sound rather than live. It sounds a bit on the close-mic side with some overpowering mid-range to bass but nothing unpleasing. It does offer a wide spectrum of warm bass sounds to brighter and plucky tones. I think the opening chords of Fujii’s work is well suited to the mix with a warm, almost watery-bell-like sound emerging and the harmonics are nice and soft rather than piercing or too glassy. Maybe Equinox could have benefitted from a different mix but I’m splitting hairs. Also, because of the wide range of textures this mix ensures that the strumming and other effects are not harsh which was the right choice.

 Conclusion

Aaron Larget-Caplan’s The Legend of Hagoromo combines a conceptually strong programme with virtuosic and sensitive performances all-around. From the epic work of Fujii, meditative Takemistsu and Nakamura, to the charming arrangements of American and Japanese songs, this album will not disappoint guitarists or general listeners. More importantly, this is not just a random collection of concert works, but a focused project with new music, artistic creativity, and vision.  Highly recommended. – Bradford Werner (thisisclassicalguitar.com)

Read the full review on This is Classical Guitar: http://www.thisisclassicalguitar.com/review-the-legend-of-hagoromo-aaron-larget-caplan/