Canberra-born classical guitarist Callum Henshaw’s latest recording is a fitting follow-up to his impressive 2016 release, Echo and Response, and again features an intelligently curated mix of contemporary Australian works and music from other times and countries. This time we find ourselves in the company of Australian composers Phillip Houghton and Graeme Koehne, as well as Agustín Barrios Mangoré (Paraguay), Miguel Llobet (Spain), Leo Brouwer (Cuba) and Niel Gow (UK). In themselves, these little symphonies – if that is not too heavy a burden to place upon music of less exalted ambitions – are richly evocative of worlds real and imagined. What connects them, as Henshaw recognises, are “the ideas of storytelling, lament and mythology”.
Barrios’ fragrant, flowing Un Sueño en la Floresta, which gives the recording its title, opens the program with a romantic flourish. But we remain in this forest of dreams for the rest of the recording. We encounter crisp images of the classical world and its Mediterranean centre in Houghton’s Stéle. Romantic tales of bandits and lovers in Llobet’s Four Catalan Folk Songs. Elegiac whispers in Koehne’s A Closed World of Fine Feelings. Wild profusions of undergrowth in Brouwer’s Sonata del Decamerón. Finally, a simple expression of grief in Niel Gow’s Lament.
One impression is of Henshaw as guide, pointing out the shape of a phrase here, the colour of a chord there, encouraging us to hear those underlying connections. The other is of Henshaw alone with his guitar at journey’s end. Just dreaming.
Composer: Koehne, Houghton, Llobet
Composition: Guitar music
Performer: Callum Henshaw g
Catalogue Number: Callum Henshaw or callumhenshaw.com/music