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“David Starobin: New Music With Guitar, Vol. 8”: DAVID STAROBIN: Variations on a Theme by Carl Nielsen (2010); PAUL LANSKY: Partita (2010); POUL RUDERS: Six Pages; GEORGE CRUMB: The Ghosts of Alhambra – David Starobin, guitar/ Mari Yoshinaga & Daniel Druckman, perc./ Patrick Mason, bar. – Bridge

B00DYA7Y2U “David Starobin: New Music With Guitar, Vol. DAVID STAROBIN: Variations on a Theme by Carl Nielsen (2010); PAUL LANSKY: Partita (2010); POUL RUDERS: Six Pages (2008); GEORGE CRUMB: The Ghosts of Alhambra (2009) – David Starobin, guitar/ Mari Yoshinaga & Daniel Druckman, perc./ Patrick Mason, bar. – Bridge 9404, 54:31 [7/15/13] [Distr. by Albany] *****:

David Starobin and Bridge march proudly on with Volume 8 in their brilliant work on behalf of the guitar, consisting of works specifically requested by Becky Starobin, the guitarist’s wife and co-creator of their marvelous enterprise.

David’s own 10-minute Variations on a Theme by Carl Nielsen deservedly takes pride of place, for it tells us equally about Nielsen, Starobin, the guitar and beauty. The piece was written in 2011 to celebrate Starobin’s love affair with Danish music and musicians, to a theme taken from a song celebrating the Danish countryside Nielsen wrote to a poem by his friend Ludvig Holstein.

Nielsen’s theme is deceptively straightforward; as it sheds its thematic skins, it evolves through older modes and more courtly times before striking out into discordant 20th century harmonies. The effect is entirely bewitching, and it signals that Starobin’s ability to be part of such a team as Bridge has required not just musical curiosity and technical excellence but something charismatic in the way the music is made. Not to mention that in his hands, the guitar often ceases to sound like one instrument, but like a symphony.

Paul Lansky’s Partita is wonderfully all over the place, with Mari Yoshinaga adding to the intoxicating mix of instrumental colors from xylophone things and wooden blocks and all sort of magical sounds which Starobin responds to with increasingly excited tones and rhythms, including suggestive chromatic passages in the instrument’s throatiest middle registers, capped off by an invigorating Gigue, absolutely visceral in Adam Abeshouse’s vivid recording at SUNY Purchase. And although Poul Ruders’ six short character studies are absorbingly uneventful, two of them have the kind of iconic quality that could could serve as Starobin’s calling card.

For the disc’s last 20 minutes, Starobin, baritone Patrick Mason and percussionist David Druckman combine forces in in George Crumb’s Ghosts of the Alhambra, seven creepy, scary songs based on poems by Garcia Lorca. Performed with  perfect sense of theatrical timing, it raises the standard for a perfect date night, classical music horror experience.

The four pieces were recorded by master teams working at four different venues so that, in addition to the musical pleasures, David Starobin Volume 8 is also useful for checking out just how many strands of nuance and layers of subtlety your system is capable of. The authoritative liner notes include full texts English translations for the Crumb songs.

—Laurence Vittes

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