Guitarist Krawiec (b. 1980) has assembled a musical journey from Spain to Poland in order to reveal the extraordinary range of colors of which his instrument is capable. The Tarrega variations show off the guitar in luscious sound, with all kinds of strumming and dinging effects, including some wicked glissandi and harmonics. The minute we cross the border in France, the music of Kleynjans takes us into the world called At Dawn of the Last Day (1980), a musical tonepoem depicting a prisoner in his cell who awaits execution by the guillotine, only a step away from Ravel’s Le Gibet in Gaspard de la Nuit. Rife with the sound of ticking and tolling bells mental and physical, this music is Kafka for guitar. Nuccio D’Angelo (b. 1955) composed his Due canzone lidie in 1984. The two pieces employ modal harmonies and ostinati patterns from which arise elusive melodies and delicate colors suggestive of the Balinese gamelan. Krawiec writes that the piece describes a stranger in a primitive world.
The Henze three pieces explore guitar textures based on atonality, utilizing free-flowing melodies which contrast strongly with the aggressive middle section. Each of the pieces is short, in the manner of guitar etudes by an acolyte of Webern. Hungarian composer Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856) is a romantic contemporary of Chopin and Schumann. His Elegie proves a colorful nocturne-ballade of disarming power, quite anticipatory of Albeniz or Granados. Polish composer Sylwester Laskowski (b. 1973) offers six Reminiscencje or miniatures celebrating important women in his life, one of whom is his present wife. The second of these plays as an antique gavotte. The third is a wistful, simple song. Didn’t some poet say that every woman is worthy of an opus number? Krawiec concludes his strong program with music by Jan Nepomucen Bubonic (1805-1881), whom Liszt called “the Chopin of the guitar.” His variations on the much-exploited duet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni retain the original key and then provide six dextrous, original variants to the piece, the first of which sounds a bit like “The Minstrel Boy.” We have rapid runs and scales, dancing arpeggios, duets on two strings, and some very soft, dynamics and meditative episodes, along with brilliant, cascading fioritura. This is a highly individual program by a serious artist, captured in vivid sound. A virtuoso out to make a difference, I’d say.