Vida Guitar Quartet
BGS RECORDS 121 (51:27)
Rhapsody in Blue.
The members of the Vida Guitar Quartet are Mark Eden, Christopher Stell, Mark Ashford, and Helen Sanderson. Each is well known as a soloist. Eden and Stell also perform as a duo. On this recording, which they call
they play guitar arrangements of works written for orchestra along with one work written especially for the quartet, David Crittenden’s
. The first piece on the disc is George Gershwin’s
Rhapsody in Blue
, which adapts to the guitar better than I imagined it would. Gershwin, who combined jazz with classical music in his
originally wrote the work for two pianos, but for its first performance it was arranged for piano and band by Ferde Grofé at the behest of bandleader Paul Whiteman. Christopher Stell’s astute arrangement for guitar quartet captures almost all of the sonorities you hear in the original. Of course, the sound is quite different when played by plucked strings, but you don’t feel that you have missed any of the music when you listen to it here. Stell’s version also shows off the virtuosity of all four of these excellent players. Each guitar plays a separate part that demands serious virtuosity. Thus, on the rare occasions when they play in unison it commands your attention. It’s an extremely well played, fascinating version of the piece and I recommend it to everyone interested in guitar music.
Malcolm Arnold wrote his first set of
for orchestra in 1951 and the second set, which is heard on this disc, a year later. Each set of four dances is inspired by, but not based on, English folk tunes. The
Allegro Non Troppo
heard first here was once the theme music for the British television program
What the Papers Say
. Arnold’s dances have proved to be quite popular and they have been arranged for many different groups of instruments. The Mark Ashford version is the first for guitar quartet. His arrangement brings out the melodies of the dances and the first of them seems to invite the listener to join in the revelry. The second dance is quintessentially English and evokes bucolic pictures of the countryside. The third, marked
, is stately and courtly, while the last forms a fittingly brilliant finale for this quartet of fine classical guitarists. David Crittenden’s
is the only piece on this disc composed specifically for guitar quartet and although it was written for a different group of players, the Vida Quartet plays it with great finesse. Adam Gorb’s
were originally written for wind band. In Mark Eden’s arrangement, they conclude the disc with a great deal of fun. Lovers of klezmer music might miss the clarinet here, but playing these dances on the guitar brings out their Eastern roots. It’s great background music for a party with Jewish food. The sound on this disc is clear and each guitar can easily be heard playing its part. I think lovers of guitar music will want this one.