“Portrait I”, the CGQ’s debut CD, is “…quite impressive. Their tight ensemble and group virtuosity make them competitive with the best quartets” (American Record Guide). “One cannot imagine better ensemble playing”, wrote Robert McColley of Fanfare magazine. “Real musical depth”, said Richard Todd of the Ottawa Citizen.
Since its debut in 1999, the Canadian Guitar Quartet has toured extensively in Europe, North and South America, from one standing ovation to the next, establishing a reputation as one of the finest guitar ensembles in the world. The CGQ also performed with orchestras all over Canada and released three critically acclaimed recordings.
In this, their first CD, the Canadian Guitar Quartet offers insight into what makes it so special. The recording presents a well-balanced mix of arrangements of little- and well-known works from the vast chamber music repertory, as well as original pieces by Patrick Roux that have already received critical acclaim.
Among the better-known works featured here are excerpts from Johannes Brahms's waltzes and Hungarian dances, and Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in E-Flat Major BWV 1031, whose slow middle movement (a Sicilienne) was made universally famous by Wilhelm Kempf's celebrated transcription for piano solo.
Lesser-known compositions, such as Johann Rosenmüller's Sonata, represent the Canadian Guitar Quartet's aim to explore often-neglected musical works from the earlier repertory, so rich in small treasures waiting to be uncovered. Rosenmüller belonged, with Schmelzer and Biber, to a generation of German composers who prepared the way for Bach, Händel, and Telemann, the great geniuses of the Baroque era. They were also the first to introduce into Germany the trio sonata (for two violins and continuo), a genre developed by Corelli and enriched by the German school both harmonically and contrapuntally. The second in a collection of twelve sonatas published in 1682, the sonata da chiesa ("church" sonata) on this recording follows the model of a suite of eight or nine contrasting movements. Slow homophonic passages that emphasize rich and dissonant harmonies alternate in this work with faster, more contrapuntal sections exploiting the players' virtuosity in fugal imitation.
Patrick Roux's compositions give the Canadian Guitar Quartet its authentically unique dimension. "Alla Piazzolla" in t three contrasting movements marked "Ritmato, Tranquillo, and Fugato" constitutes, as the title indicates, a homage to the great master of the Tango, Astor Piazzolla. The three "Scènes de quartier" effectively recreate the atmosphere of a large Latin American city. Two lively movements of contrasting nature precede and end the triptych: "Carnaval" exudes the flavor of a typical Latin American celebration, complete with frenetic dance rhythms and replete with vivid colours and the sheer joy of living. At the other end of the spectrum, "Les rues mal-famées" probes the mysterious, anguish-filled atmosphere of the ghettos and favelas. As for the middle movement, entitled "Le vieux carrousel", it recounts the story of an old man revisiting an amusement park from his childhood where an abandoned an rust-eaten merry-go-round he used to play on elicits memories of the various stages of his life. The same sentiment is echoed in the poem, "The Old Man and the Sun", by 1977 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Vicente Aleixande y Merio (1898-1984).