Several years ago, I reviewed a CD (Catgut Flambo) in Fanfare that Harris Becker recorded with his friend and fellow guitarist Pasquale Bianculli. I liked what I heard, and when Mr. Becker recently asked me if I would review this solo CD, I readily agreed. Both discs contain a healthy mix of older and more recent music, arranged into a varied program one can enjoy from start to finish without the need for an intermission. On this disc, three of the works – Pleskow's Quatrain (tiny, delicate, and mysterious), Rovics "Three Concert Pieces (abstract and aphoristic), and Savage's Passing Through (elegiac, but not too sweet) – were composed for Becker and are recorded here for the first time. These are attractive works, and I will assume that Becker's recordings are definitive unless someone gives me a reason to believe otherwise!
In the waltzes by Lauro, I like Becker's flexible rhythms – not that these are waltzes in the Viennese style, but it is seldom correct to play a waltz metronomically, and Becker's use of hesitations here and anticipations there makes the music come alive. In the Bach (originally written for Lautenwercke, a harpsichord-like instrument), Becker is more straightforward, even dignified. Even so, his playing has a lightness that chases away monotony. Peter Sculthorpe's From Kakadu, at 9:34, is the longest stretch of music on this CD. Sculthorpe composed it for guitarist John Williams in 1994, and since then it has become a favorite among guitarists, and has been recorded several times. Becker's performance of this demanding work – a depiction of one of Australia's national parks – is lyrical and imaginative. In the three works written for him, Becker displays another aspect of his flexibility, and that is his sympathy for what might be called "extended guitar techniques." The third of Rovics's Three Concert Pieces, for example, uses harmonics and multiphonics, as well as an alternate tuning.
Becker wrote his own booklet notes. They are helpful but they needed an editor. (Bach was not a "Kappelmeister in Leipzeg.") Otherwise the packaging is first class. I especially liked Glen Weisberg's cover painting, which is in the style of Magritte.
This CD is available from cdbaby.com for $15. It is well worth considering.
Copyright © 2009, Raymond Tuttle