“24 Ways Upon the Bells” – Christian Rivet – guitar, lute; Music by DOWLAND, PLAYFORD, BRITTEN & The BEATLES – Naïve Classique [Distr. By Naxos], 75:30 ****:
Christian Rivet studied guitar and lute at the Conservatoire National Regional in Metz. He was particularly influenced by lutenist Hopkinson Smith who taught Rivet how to select repertory that crosses styles while still being very respectful of a diverse range of periods and mindsets. He has later earned a reputation performing modern works by composers such as Pierre Boulez, Peter Eotvos, and Pascal Dusapin. Rivet has taught classes in guitar and chamber music at the Conservatoire of the 8th arrondissement of Paris since 1989.
His new CD is a complete delight to listen to! It certainly establishes Rivet as a master of his instruments and as a performer with a keen sense of programming; eclectic, thought provoking and attractive. I have long been familiar with the music of John Dowland’s lute music. His works, while written for courtly entertainment in Elizabethan England, retain their beauty and their emotional range. The selections that Rivet has chosen carry the same playfulness at times; sadness, melancholy and reflective at others. Rivet’s playing tone and delicacy is consistently clear, tangible and emotive.
Entering this disc, I was not familiar with Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal after Dowland” but found these pieces to be equally attractive to listen too. Many of the harmonic progressions and shifts in mood (and mode…) that characterize Britten are there but these pieces are also so reflective of the Dowland from which he drew inspiration. I felt the same about the selections by John Playford, another English courtier who post dates Dowland by about half his lifetime. The influence of Dowland upon Playford is clear here, too, and these pieces are also performed with a sensitivity and playfulness that it is easy to listen to and to admire!
This wonderful recital concludes with the unlikely choice of two Beatles songs, arranged by River for guitar (in this case, a Gibson electric!) and arch lute; “Yesterday” by John Lennon and “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison. [Not so unlikely; lots of classical performers and composers have worked with classic Beatles tunes: Leo Brouwer, Peter Breiner, Aki Takahashi, The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic, the various Baroque Beatles albums, etc…Ed.] Listening to those two exact pieces in the context of the Dowland, however, shows the connections that cannot be made just by assumption. “Yesterday” is full of the chord progressions and plaintive tone found in many of Dowland’s best known works – particularly the “Lachrimae”. “Here Comes the Sun” is, of course, more upbeat in tone but the pacing, cadence and harmonies here too are so reminiscent of some of the other Dowland and Playford offerings.
The booklet and photography in the Naïve release are also very informative and interesting; chock full of detail about why Rivet chose this program and also about his very impressive instrument collection. Any guitarist would be envious of these marvelous instruments and of Christian Rivet’s playing. This disc is strongly recommended for any listener. A serious guitarist or a devotee of Renaissance court music or anyone wanting some beautiful but non-intrusive dinner music would love this!
— Daniel Coombs