Expressive performance breathes fresh air into an old favourite.
Entering his fifth decade of performing, it would be natural to expect John Williams to take a creative step back. Instead, it seems that he has undergone a creative resurgence, beginning to publish his own compositions on his own website, and now making recordings himself, too. In the last year, he’s recorded a new CD of solo guitar works, but Williams here turns to concerto repertoire.
This stylistically varied recording begins with a re-visiting of Williams’ collaboration with Chilean group Inti-Illimani. Danza’s Peregrinas is re-worked material from Inti-Illimani’s repertoire, expanded for three soloists and orchestra. The orchestrations here are rather lush, and it’s difficult to resist the rhythmic precision and playfulness of these danzas.
Williams has been a notable supporter of Australian composers, so it’s appropriate that he includes a home-grown work (originally written for him in the 90’s) on this recording with Ross Edwards’ Arafura Dances. Utilising Edwards’ familiar maninyas, the work is an exploration of virtuosic rhythms.
Stephen Goss’s music has been gaining popularity, having been added to the repertoire of some of the major names in the guitar world such as young virtuoso Xuefei Yang. I’ve not yet been converted, finding his works laboured. His style is reminiscent of tonal modern composers for the guitar such as Leo Brouwer, and yet I don’t hear the easy melodicism that Brouwer has. The second movement Homage to Elgar skirts dangerously close to daytime TV cheesiness. Despite Williams’ backing, I can’t see the work becoming part of the standard repertoire for guitar concertos.
The performances are all superb as you’d expect from someone as accomplished as John Williams, but the CD isn’t entirely successful – the three works are so disparate that it feels like a hodgepodge of styles. Still, it’ll be interesting to see where Williams’ multi-faceted career turns next.