Women of non-European origin remain underrepresented in the classical guitar world. Among those helping change the situation are guitarists and teachers Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallett, who together comprise Duo Noire. Not that they are on a crusade, they just want the best new music by the best composers. In the works they’ve commissioned here, those composers are women from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and the music really is terrific: original, colourful, exciting and taking advantage of everything two guitars have to offer in the way of technique, tone and timbre. It helps that the music also has such talented advocates, who embrace opportunities to improvise and embellish with style and gusto.

The three movement Hocus Pocus, by Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad – sister of the famous guitar-playing Assad Brothers – is magical in more ways than one, as fun as it is virtuosic. By contrast, Armenian-American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Byblos evokes the ancient history of that Lebanese city, while New Orleans composer and pianist Courtney Bryan’s Soli Deo Gloria takes us into a different sonic world filled with spirituals, hymns and jazz.

The influence of Persian music is heard in suites by two composers originally hailing from Tehran – Golfam Khayam’s Night Triptych and Gity Razaz’s Four Haikus – before San Francisco composer Gabriella Smith’s sparkling, sometimes plain crazy Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain ends this marvellous recital.


Composer: Assad, Bryan
Performer: Duo Noire g
Catalogue Number: New Focus Recordings FCR210

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine