Collection: 20th-Century British Guitar Music

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LABELS: The Divine Art
WORKS: Prelude No. 5; Elegy
PERFORMER: Jonathan Richards (guitar)


The Irish guitarist John Feeley gets his recital off to an excellent start, with the mesmeric opening of Ciaran Farrell’s Shannon Suite. The compelling figurations demand virtuosity in the service of poetry, and the atmospheric, somewhat larger than life, recording contributes to the effect. This sets the standard for the whole disc. Sometimes one feels a tendency towards effect for its own sake, as in de Bromhead’s Gemini and O’Leary’s Four Pieces, but the music is never dull and the recording vivid.

Above all the achievement is Feeley’s, his commanding technique placed at the service of talented young composers. Jonathan Richards is a talented player too, and his recording is less ‘up front’, more tasteful than Feeley’s. He plays a good deal of his own music, whose style is hardly at the cutting edge. The best pieces are probably the most lively rhythmically, such as the Prelude No. 5.


The various other miniatures are pleasant enough, but the pieces by John Tavener and Alan Rawsthorne demand our attention. Tavener’s Chant, his only guitar composition, atmospherically evokes ‘a Greek landscape’. Rawsthorne’s Elegy was commissioned (and in the event, completed) by Julian Bream, and Richards performs it with remarkable concentration, maintaining the tragic mood. Terry Barfoot