Athens Guitar Duo – “Magellan’s Playlist” – On Tour in China Vol. 1 [TrackList follows] – Claudio DVD-A (2 discs)

Athens Guitar Duo – “Magellan’s Playlist” – On Tour in China Vol. 1 [TrackList follows] – Claudio DVD-Audio 192k/24-bit stereo (2 discs) CR6019-6, TT: 70:47 ***:

(Dusty Woodruff & Matthew Anderson, guitars)

This could be a most rewarding collection of contemporary works for two classical guitars, but it has some major technical difficulties. It is recorded with the utmost in fidelity, using the very highest level gear and recording in 192K/24-bit mode on a Nagra LB. First, I don’t understand why the entire 70 minutes of the duo’s recital wasn’t contained on a single DVD-A instead of breaking out the final three selections onto a very short second DVD-A. There isn’t even the 80-minute limit of CDs and SACDs with DVD-As. Why didn’t they just settle on 96K/24 on a single DVD, which sounds just as good and is playable on most any DVD or Blu-ray player, unlike 192K discs?

However, the major problem is that playback suddenly stops at the end of most of the tracks on both discs, requiring one to get up and press the chapter button (or on your remote) to go to the next selection. I’ve never run into that on any disc before.

The idea of the album title is that the performers are thinking of a personal playlist which Magellan, the historic explorer, might have put together to hear as he explored the planet by ship. Rather a strange and anachronistic idea, it seems to me.

The Francaix Divertissement will perhaps be familiar to many listeners. It is a two-guitar transcription of the composer’s orchestral work, presumably by Woodruff and Anderson, although it doesn’t specify. It’s full of the light musical humor of the composer and its four short movements are a delight to hear in this context. The five-movement Duarte Greek Suite is also most enjoyable listening, with a strong Greek flavor to each of the movements.

The opening work by Fazil Say is a fascinating ten-minute composition that, like most of the work of this Turkish crossover pianist/composer, draws on the richness of his culture’s folk music. The closer is Evening Dance—a virtuoso work by Andrew York, a former member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The album was recorded at St. Bartholomews Church in Brighton, England, last year. There is no explanation of how the Athens Guitar Duo got its name since neither member seems to be Greek, but the duo is certainly a top professional one, though this particular album proves extremely frustrating. The concert is also available on a single standard CD, which might be the better choice, considering the problems with this DVD-A set.

TrackList:

Fazil SAY: (b.1970)
Princess of Lykia [9.57]
John W. DUARTE: (1919-2004)
Greek Suite Op.39 [19:27]
Lowell LIEBERMANN: (b.1961)
Nocturne – Fantasy [12:57]
Jean FRANÇAIX: (1912-1997)
Divertissement [8:47]
Ren GUANG: (1900-1941)
Silver Clouds Chasing the Moon [3:58]
Roland DYENS: (b.1955)
Comme des grands [10:34]
Andrew YORK: (b.1958)
Evening Dance [4:12]

—John Sunier

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