Reviews in Classical Guitar Magazine Summer 2006
by Chris Dumigan
QUINTET for guitar, cello, violin, bass and clarinet
by Theo Radic
Score and separate parts (28, 10, 9, 7, 8, 6 pp respectively)
This three-movement work is written for an interesting line up: guitar, a wind instrument and a string trio. The opening Allegro ma non troppo begins where the various instruments enter one by one; the clarinet plays a sorrowful little theme in A minor; the violin dancing in shorter notes, the cello playing offbeat quavers and the bass holding long notes. Then at bar 25 the guitar finally enters with the violins dancing theme answered by the cello. The music gradually becomes more animated and for a while everyone catches the spirit of the violin's melody before the ideas begin to fragment again and the movement recedes to a final bass note.
The middle Larghetto begins on guitar chords with plucked bass notes underneath a long-breathed clarinet line. Again the parts gradually get busier and the violin takes over the clarinet's melody before new ideas come in which everybody takes a share in playing. After a return to the opening the coda consists of the guitar's accompaniment chords against pizzicato strings ending on an altered D major guitar chord.
The final Allegretto begins in 4/4 with the guitar playing a single note rhythm the main idea of which is a triplet of quavers on beat 2, and sounds very marchlike. Then suddenly it continues in 3/4 time with a new brief idea from the clarinet and the cello before returning to 4/4 and the opening section, now varied slightly. [Composer’s note: There was a definite reason for this little diversion, which is in fact a quotation and elaboration of nine measures of Ravel’s “Bolero”.] Over the next few pages the quaver line begins to take over and a more forward movement is gradually established until at the climax when the parts die away again leaving the solo guitar to end the work in A major artificial harmonics. Tonal in content, this work would interest any like minded group of players as the difficulty factor is only moderate and one doesn't need to be an expert player to make this piece work. Altogether a nicely judged composition which manages to entertain and yet remain playable by the modest musician.
VARIATIONS ON NATIVE CALIFORNIAN THEMES
by Theo Radic
Syukhtun Editions. 24pp.
This Swedish company often produces works of great interest, largely based on the music of the Slavic peoples. Here their attention turns to music of the American Indian, and consists of variations of themes originally collected from the native Californian Indians and written down or recorded onto wax cylinders in the 19th century. There is a fascinatingly detailed five-page introduction, telling you the background to the pieces used in this volume.
So what has Radic done with these hauntingly ancient melodies? He has taken eight themes from seven different sources and basically let his imagination do the rest. The theme is usually heard first and then the rest of the work consists of almost a fantasia woven around the theme. It is never a strict theme and variations as we often understand it to be. Hence in Song of the Mountains (Variation on a Luiseno Theme) one finds the theme first stated in natural harmonics then harmonised sparsely in thirds and fourths with open bass strings after which the theme expands and the music continues very much in the same antique style but only hinting at the theme occasionally. There was, incidentally a number of misprints e.g. a 12th harmonic at the bottom of page eight notated as a C instead, one assumes as a B.
Similarly in Gambling Chant there were a number of untidy clusters of notes; for example, on page 10, line 5, second bar where a 4/4 piece had a misalignment of quavers and semiquavers that judging by the bass notes, must have been a mistake. All this is easily corrected of course by the player but is enough to stop you in your tracks at first and something that ought to have been spotted before printing!
That notwithstanding the music is largely worth the effort. The themes are evocative of a long gone age and the music generally reflects that and by and large keeps in the original spirit. This is nicely written music but with a few glaring misprints that could have been avoided.
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