RSNO - Beaser: Guitar Concerto - BBC Music Magazine

Performance: 4 stars

Recording: 5 stars 

Rodrigo's Aranjuez dominates the guitar concerto repertoire like a fast-food chain – one website lists over 120 recordings. So new alternative works are always welcome, such as this dashing concerto by US composer Robert Beaser. The orchestral sound is big (although the orchestra itself isn't large), confident and film-score vivid, and demands extraordinarily virtuosic playing from American master Eliot Fisk. The first movement uses the guitar almost as a tuned-percussion instrument, with relentlessly busy soaring and plunging runs, strummed fusillades and tamboras. The elegiac second is the heart of the work with its emotionally piercing, memorable melodic line: a lutelike, improvisatory dialogues edgily with the stately orchestral lines. The third has more fast solo work, with cascades in the style of Domeniconi's Koyunbaba, more 'Middle Eastern' than 'Spanish'. Fisk's tone throughout is snappy and metallic, wholly appropriate to the corruscating guitar figures. (There's even hints of rock-guitar 'shredding').

The solo piece Notes … is melodically more elusive but uses some smart, unusual sonorities. Two rich orchestral pieces round off the disc, but the star is the concerto. The second movement's instantly likeable soundtrack-style nobility in particular deserves to be a classical radio favourite.

BBC Music Magazine
01 August 2017