Kernis: Concierto de ‘Dance Hits’; Before Sleep and Dreams; Soliloquy; Piazzolla: Double Concerto ‘Hommage à Liège’; R Sierra: Pequeño Concierto
David Tanenbaum (guitar), Lisa Lee (violin), Coco Trivisonno (bandoneon); New Century Chamber Orchestra/Aaron Jay Kernis et al
Naxos 8.574298 56:38 mins
David Tanenbaum is one of today’s most distinguished guitarists, whose aptitude for contemporary music has won him plaudits from composers as diverse as Henze and Riley. This personal and highly personable album turns to the tango-inflected Americas, presenting recording premieres of two concertos, a duo and solo each written for him, alongside Piazzolla’s Double Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon (1985). Contrasting sentimental string swoops with dark, sultry textures and snappy rhythms, the latter has an easy elegance which pervades the album in different forms thanks to Tanenbaum’s distinctive artistry, supported by spirited co-soloist Coco Trivisonno and strings of the New Century Chamber Orchestra.
A European connection, too, extends beyond the concerto’s ‘Hommage à Liège’ to the grittier modernism of Puerto Rican Roberto Sierra; a sometime Ligeti pupil whose Pequeño Concierto (1998) may be ‘small’ as its title suggests, but is packed with quirky invention, nimbly handled by Tanenbaum and a stripped-back orchestra under conductor Thomas Derthick.
But it’s Aaron Jay Kernis who provides the main compositional focus. Taking the baton for his own Concierto de ‘Dance Hits’(1998), he sets a pop-classical mood that’s sophisticated as well as fun in exploring the guitar’s cross-cultural heritage. Alternately spicy and lyrical with hints of cinematic glamour and big-band groove, it’s an engaging listen, complemented by his more intimate Lullaby (1987, heard here with duo partner Lisa Lee in a 2014 version for violin and guitar) and solo Soliloquy (2016), composed for Tanenbaum’s 60th birthday.