RSNO - Beaser: Guitar Concerto - Classical Guitar Magazine

This fascinating disc of works by American composer Robert Beaser (b.1954) is dominated by album premieres of two works for guitar (one a concerto, the other solo), both written for Beaser’s former Yale classmate (and friend of more than 40 years), Eliot Fisk. On the 28-minute Guitar Concerto (written in 2010) Fisk fronts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by the prolific and much-honored (45 Grammy nominations!) José Serebrier. This multi-textured three-movement work is full of bold, exciting, even jarring turns, as well as many quieter passages, and some extraordinarily difficult guitar runs, which Fisk somehow manages to handle with apparent ease. As the noted composer John Corigliano writes in the lead essay in the CD’s informative booklet, Beaser’s concerto “is symphonic in scale with virtuoso passages that only a master could write”; adding, “Beaser is one of the only composers I know that really understands how to use harmony in unique and unpredictably beautiful ways.” Fisk himself says the concerto “demands of the soloist a demonic intensity, a polished elegance, and dramatic sweep that push the capacities of the guitar into a new dimension.” It will be interesting to see if this concerto starts to pop up in more symphony programs (though there better be a great guitarist available to play it!). The other piece featuring Fisk is a 1980 solo guitar work called “Notes on a Southern Sky,” which Beaser says was influenced by Latin American (particularly Venezuelan) folk music; it offers an amazing range of tempi and tonal colors over the course of around 12 minutes. Again, Fisk is right on it every second.

The remaining two pieces are orchestral works sans guitar with the finale particularly moving: Ground O (that’s “O” not “zero,” for some reason) was inspired by and written very shortly after the 9/11 tragedy in New York. (It would make an emotional companion piece to John Adams’ brilliant meditation on that event, On the Transmigration of Souls.)

Classical Guitar Magazine
13 June 2017