CONCERTO ANTICO I. Alborada - concerto for guitar and small orchestra


composed by- Richard Harvey (ex band member of rock band Gryphon) performed by John Williams with the London Symphony Orchestra This is my impression of this piece: the moment of CREATION. Trust me, this is such an under rated concerto, it's very very good. REVIEW: Although Richard Harvey is now most known for his part as a conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra and for his film scoring, he started his musical career in a progressive rock outfit called Gryphon, made up of a group of his classmates from the Royal College of Music. The sound of the group was based not so much on the electric guitar and bass as on the bassoon and various other strange instruments. The medieval dance measures used in their music at that time must have seemed as if from another planet. They made several beautiful if unusual records, including the highly polished and well produced Red Queen to Gryphon Three. The record has highly acclaimed by critics but as an instrumental recording with no easy tunes it was inevitably destined to relative pop obscurity. At around that time John Williams came into the scene as a member of another similar outfit, that besides him on the guitar included among others the former leader of Curved Air, Francis Monkmann, and pianist Steve Gray, with guest appearances by Rick Wakeman from Yes and Nicky Hopkins, who had played in a great number of groups including the early Steve Miller Band, the Rolling Stones and Quicksilver Messenger Service. In the late eighties, John Williams commissioned Harvey and Gray to write two concertos for the guitar and the results were recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and released in 1996. This is one of the riskier works of John Williams: two concertos not by some relatively well known baroque composer but by two modern relatively unknown musicians and, indeed, two concertos for the guitar. The market for such music is very small at best and that is unfortunate as these two concertos are both very beautiful as well as modern. Harvey's Concerto Antico is in fact a masterpiece on a par with Rodrigo's efforts. The opening movement seems indeed to be a tribute to Rodrigo's concertos and no less beautiful than they were. But Harvey then moves onto a new level and truly excels by his blending of a variety of rhythms and instruments. The movements are loosely based around medieval dances and two of them especially (Contredanse and Forlana) resemble strongly Gryphon's music. In the liner notes Richard Harvey notes ... "Technically this piece is not really a Forlana, which ought to be a Northern Italian dance in 6/8 time. This oscillates between 7/8 and 4/4 and was written in Surrey". This appears to be the mark of Harvey, a mix of Englishness with unusual measures and strong rhythms. The various instruments are interleaved in a composition in which the guitar has a prominent place but interacts with the other instruments in a way that each one adds something to the whole. Gray's concerto is very different, more straightforwardly classical in a 20th century vein. The guitar tends to be well separated from the orchestra and playing almost its own independent tune, often despite the orchestra or just when the orchestra has exhausted itself and fallen silent. There is another strong contrast between the two efforts: Gray's sombre concerto is much less driven by rhythm than Harvey's dancelike movements. Needless to say, John Williams is faultless and very much at his best. The recording is well produced with 20-bit high definition sound and deserves to become much better known. If you love classical guitar, this is as good as it gets this side of heaven.

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