Oswald: 12 Divertimentis for the Guitar

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COMPOSERS: Oswald
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: 12 Divertimentis for the Guitar
PERFORMER: Rob MacKillop (guittar)
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 221
Rob MacKillop is a passionate advocate of the guitar, and of his 18th-century fellow Scot, James Oswald. His enthusiasm shines through his admirably informative programme note – Oswald is not a household name, nor the ‘guittar’ in its 18th-century English guise a familiar instrument. MacKillop’s is ‘the ugliest, most beat-up old guittar [he has] ever played’ (perhaps reflecting that pristine instruments have often been consigned to glass cases because they lack tonal distinction).

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The Divertimentis (sic), suites of three or four lightweight movements, have a winning melodic charm though a sustained hour of the complete collection may induce lightweight listening – they are best sampled. The guittar’s tuning, a single major chord, creates a static C major resonance behind the shifting harmony, limited in span and constantly hanging in inverted chords on a instrument lacking the bass strings of its weightier contemporaries like the lute. MacKillop constantly searches for imaginative variety of colour and dynamics. He identifies some special techniques – cross-string shakes, a wide range of plucking positions to achieve extremes of tone and dynamics and downward arpeggiations of chords – enriching the simple galant appeal of the music. He has chosen close recording, complete with clicks and scrapes from fast-moving fingers on wire strings to convey the intimacy of domestic entertainment. George Pratt