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La Guitarre Royalle - Classical Guitar Magazine

06 June 2005
Classical Guitar Magazine
Stephen Kenyon

A few months ago I reviewed a CD of this repertoire from Lex Eisenhardt (VERbena CDR2003-01) and it is very interesting to find another of the same composer and musical source, albeit with not a single actual musical duplication. Carter is best known as part of the excellent Palladian Ensemble and this is his first solo release. Compared with Eisenhardt, Carter comes across as approaching the baroque guitar more from a lutenist's angle, with a more finger-pad sound: otherwise in many respects the two recordings are of similar very-high-quality and interest.

Carter's choice from this collection starts with some strange sounds, and listening to the opening tracks prior to prising the booklet out of its case, a prelude making up track four immediately had the reviewer's mental sketch-pad racing to hyperbole such as 'unprecedented' as this track unfolded as a deeply Moorish-Spanish composition. Well, the booklet makes plain that this is in fact a piece made up by Carter as an introduction to the ensuing Folia, the reasoning being that Corbetta is thought to have written a set of 'Spanish' pieces. Unfortunately the only surviving copy is held by a private collector and not available to the world: the sort of rank selfishness that people who actually love the music might find rather hard to understand.

This isn't the only peculiarity: the very first track is a confection of various chaconnes assembled by Carter into a 10-minute structure. And provided this sort of thing is made plain and open, I think it is actually rather fine to take a creative approach to this repertoire. We don't have to be more precious and protective of it than its composer was.

There is another complicating factor though that relates back to the Eisenhardt release, a matter which, for the sake of simplicity was not actually mentioned in that review. This music is known for its strange unprepared, unresolved dissonances found especially in strummed passages. Eisenhardt argues in his note (actually a long essay present on the CD as a CD-ROM file) that these notated dissonances should be approached editorially by the player and resolved into a proper musical discourse by, basically, leaving out the strange notes. Carter refers to the odd sounds ("almost impressionistic in their effect, with many strange and unresolved dissonances") but plays them literally and without any other comment. Many of the pieces do not have them, and really it is only those with important strummed passages (Carter's batterie is very impressive) where to some it may become a bit of a problem: certainly there was a certain amount of nose-wrinkling at some of it.

So there are many things arguing strongly in favour of this recording, and I do not want the aforementioned issue to seem overly negative. It is certainly the case that there are many things in this area where we cannot be certain and the main thing is to jump in and do one's best, which Carter has done, and leave the listener to make up their own mind, which the reader is invited to do.

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