“Final Cut: Film Music for Four Guitars” – The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet – Chandos“Thrum” – Minneapolis Guitar Quartet – Innova

by | Mar 17, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

“Final Cut: Film Music for Four Guitars” – The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet [TrackList follows] – Chandos 10723, 61:15 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] ****:

“Thrum” – Minneapolis Guitar Quartet [TrackList follows] – Innova 858, 67:27 [Distr. By Naxos] ****:

This is certainly a clever idea to build a classical guitar quartet album around. I don’t even know if there have been solo guitar albums of just film themes. In the notes, members of the British quartet speak about the importance of movie music and how it enhances the dramatic effect of films. The selection of the 19 tracks is far from the usual film theme program either. It opens with Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing” from Chocolat, includes themes of Gardel, Francis Lai, Mikis Theodorakis, Sakamoto, and closes with Bacalov’s theme from the Italian hit Il Postino. 18 of the 19 tracks are recording premieres.

The quartet listened to and discussed many different soundtracks before coming up with what they felt were on their four guitars their most memorable musical moments – their Final Cut. They provide quite extensive notes on each of the selections in the note booklet. The famous “Cavatina” from The Deer Hunter, was first performed by guitarist John Williams in another film and later adapted for two guitars and chamber ensemble for The Deer Hunter. The quartet just expanded it in some areas (and reduced it in others) to fit four solo guitars. I had never heard Mike Oldfield’s familiar Tubular Bells theme on four classical guitars; the effect is quite different from the soundtrack of The Exorcist. An absolutely delightful album; I only wished it could have been one of Chandos’ SACDs.


Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)  Minor Wing from Chocolat

Gustavo Santaolalla (b. 1951)  De Usuahia a la Quiaca
from The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), Arranged by Vasilis Bessas

Elliot Goldenthal (b. 1954)  Themes from Frida (2002), Arranged by Michael Baker

Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?, from Don Juan DeMarco (1994) Arranged by Michael Baker

James Horner (b. 1953), Themes from Titanic (1997)

Stanley Myers (1930-1993), Cavatina,  A version of ‘Main Title’/’Cues’ from The Deer Hunter (1978) Arranged by James Jervis

John Williams (b. 1932), Theme from Schindler’s List (1993)
Arranged by James Jervis

Michael Nyman (b. 1944), The Heart Asks Pleasure First. from The Piano (1993) Arranged by James Jervis

Max Steiner (1888-1971), Theme from A Summer Place (1959) Arranged by Rory Russell

Carlos Gardel (1890-1935), Por una cabeza from Scent of a Woman (1992) Arranged by Vasilis Bessas

Francis Lai (b. 1932), Theme (Where Do I Begin) from Love Story (1970) Arranged by Rory Russell

Anton Karas (1906-1985), ‘Main Title’ from The Third Man (1949) Arranged by Rory Russell

Mikis Theodorakis (b. 1925), The Fire Inside – Also known as ‘Make Your Bed for Two’ and ‘Cretan Dance’ from Zorba the Greek (1964)  Arranged by Vasilis Bessas

Mike Oldfield (b. 1953), Tubular Bells from The Exorcist (1973) Arranged by Michael Baker

Ryuichi Sakamoto (b. 1952), Theme from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) Arranged by Vasilis Bessas

Luis Enriquez Bacalov (b. 1933), Theme from Il postino (1994) Arranged by Rory Russell


The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet was founded in 1986 and have done several previous CDs for the Albany Records label.  All four of the works on their Innova album were commissioned by them as part of their support of new music and composers.  Each of the works gets a page or so of description, and there are also bios of each composer.

Ghetto Strings exposes the vibes of the composer’s fellow Harlemites. The work which ended up titling the album is named both for the thrumming sound of a guitar string, and also the motion of a piece of string as a bit of thrum. Thomas used a relaxed harmonic language for the work, with opportunities for each guitarist to display some of his expertise. Van Stiefel began his Cinema Castaneda retracing Copland’s steps thru some cowboy songs, but he soon imagined the four guitars playing music about the Mexican border as well as blues and The Doors. The piece has ten very short movements. The closing work is named after a province in southern China and has three movements played without pause. It adds the native Chinese stringed instrument, the pipa, to the guitar quartet, and ends with a celebration of the harvest.


DANIEL BERNARD ROUMAIN: Ghetto Strings; DAVID EVAN THOMAS: Thrum; VAN STIEFEL: Cinema Castaneda; GAO HONG: Guangxi Impression

—John Sunier

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