‘Together’ = MAXIMO DIEGO PUJAL: Suite Magica; XAVIER MONTSALVAGE: Fantasia; GARY SCHOCKER: Hypnotized; ALAN HOVHANESS: Sonata for Harp and Guitar, “Spirit of Trees”; KEITH FITCH: Knock on Wood – Yolanda Kondonassis, harp/ Jason Vieaux, guitar – Azica

Kondonassis and Vieaux – ‘Together’ = MAXIMO DIEGO PUJAL: Suite Magica; XAVIER MONTSALVAGE: Fantasia; GARY SCHOCKER: Hypnotized; ALAN HOVHANESS: Sonata for Harp and Guitar, “Spirit of Trees”; KEITH FITCH: Knock on Wood – Yolanda Kondonassis, harp/ Jason Vieaux, guitar – Azica ACD-71297, 70:21 (Distr. by Naxos) [1/27/15] ****:

Yolanda Kondonassis is probably the top name in classical solo harp right now and her specialty for many years has been recording contemporary music for her instrument and works that are a bit off the regular play list. She is a gifted performer with a true sensibility for whatever style she plays and I have often found her a delight to listen to. I was much less familiar with her amazing guitarist Jason Vieaux, so what a pleasure it was to discover this beautiful and captivating collection.

Each of the five works in this special collection is “modern” music – including the music by Gary Shocker and Keith Fitch, written especially for present duo – but none of these works should concern anyone who presupposes what “modern” music is. Indeed the styles run from the Latin-tinged works by Argentinian Maximo Diego Pujol and the Spaniard Montsalvage to the quirky charms of the music by Americans Gary Shocker and Keith Fitch.

I cannot envision anyone not enjoying the melodies and the ever so slight contemporary spin on traditional Latin forms offered up in Pujol’s Suite Magica and, similarly, the Fantasia by Xavier Montsalvage (whose name, for me, was – along with Alan Hovhaness – one of the only two composers I had heard of before this disc.) These are very nice works that do contain a lot of simple listening enjoyment.

Gary Shocker’s Hypnotized is a very interesting piece that the composer says was inspired by the similar yet very different sonorities between the harp and guitar. Knock on Wood by Keith Fitch is also inspired by the particular timbres involved. Both of these works are impressive and showcase the soloists quite well with some melodic passages as well as some truly technical sequences.

Alan Hovhaness’ Sonata for Harp and Guitar, “Spirit of Trees”, is the work that apparently brought Kondonassis and Vieaux together. In many ways, this is ‘typical’ Hovhaness for its distinctly Eastern sound and structures that always sound a bit mystical and meditative. This Armenian-American composer was a true ‘original’ and he wrote well over two hundred works that – as Yolanda Kondonassis points out in her own booklet notes – have a nearly cult following. The final moments of this five movement showcase are captivating and beautiful.

I enjoyed this collection a lot. I was already a fan of the work of Yolanda Kondonassis and of the music of Alan Hovhaness but this was a very pleasurable opportunity to hear the amazing Jason Vieaux and to hear some pieces that are quite new to me. This is true chamber music but of a very refreshing sort, indeed.  Highly recommended!

—Daniel Coombs

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