Michael Carenbauer's "Music for Guitar and Strings" is a groundbreaking recording that presents 2 major works for guitar and string quartet and Carenbauer's own "Sextet for Guitar, Zheng and String Quartet." The Quapaw Quartet of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra accompanies Carenbauer in his transcription of J. S. Bach's "Concerto in E major for Violin and String Orchestra", BWV 1042. They are joined by Chinese zheng, (a traditional Chinese plucked string instrument), artist Connie Ng for Carenbauer's "Sextet for Guitar, Zheng and String Quartet." This composition in 3 movements includes elements from the European classical tradition, American popular and jazz styles, and Oriental themes. The performance successfully unites musicians with diverse backgrounds in an accessible and satisfying manner. Carenbauer is joined by the Arts Partners Quartet of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in a rare performance of Cuban composer Leo Brouwer's "Quintetto for Guitar and String Quartet." This important work is full of the rhythmic vitality and simple beauty that has made Brouwer one of the most popular composers of music for guitar. Carenbauer's performance of this was recently featured on NPR's "Classical Guitar Alive", the only internationally broadcast radio program devoted to classical guitar in the world.
A few notes from the composer about the Sextet follows:
"The "Sextet for Guitar, Zheng and String Quartet" reflects my eclectic musical interests and elicits the interaction of musicians with diverse backgrounds. This unusual instrumental combination presented a unique set of challenges and opportunities. I became interested in the zheng after a meeting with Connie Ng after a performance of mine in Hong Kong some years ago. I discovered that the zheng, or guzheng, has has much in common with the guitar, albeit from a different musical perspective. Both instruments produce sound by plucking a string and have a rapid decay. Both have the ability to play in between the 12 pitches associated with the western intonation system. The zheng is tuned to the pentatonic scale, a universally popular pattern which is the predominant melodic component of much of blues and American popular music. The zheng and guitar have primarily been thought of as solo instruments in their respective classical traditions. I thought it would be interesting to present them in a chamber music setting and combine the sounds of the zheng and guitar with the richness of the string quartet.
The first movement of this work is divided into 3 sections. Mountain Meditation recalls the Chinese visual landscape tradition and programmatic musical emphasis. A brief exchange, (like drops of rain), between the guitar and zheng is followed by an ostinato figure and held notes in the strings. The arpeggiated figure of the guitar provides a harmonic foundation that changes the aural landscape much as the morning light may change a mountain scene. A transitional Rain Dance section is followed by an Appalachian-like theme, Cabin Creek, and an improvisatory exchange between the guitar and zheng.
Kam Tin Song features the zheng in a childlike melody that embraces the sentimental and nostalgic side of Chinese music. The harmonic support and accompaniment supplied by the guitar and strings is very much in the American popular music style,
as is the overall song form and use of 4 bar phrases throughout.
The Finale is loosely based on a Chinese folk song. The primary theme is introduced at the start by the zheng with a guitar counterpoint. The harmonic basis of the counterpoint becomes the ground for the syncopated violin figures when the melody reappears with the cello. The theme and accompaniment are reintroduced in retrograde and inversion subsequent to a rousing finale. "
Connie Ng has performed to critical acclaim in Hong Kong, Hawaii, Portugal, Japan, Taiwan and Moscow. Her CD "The Butterfly Lovers" with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Folk Orchestra was one of the best selling CDs in Asia. She currently is the soloist of the Hong Kong City Chinese Orchestra and teaches for the Provisional Urban Council, Provisional Regional Council Music Office of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Chinese University.
Tradition and technology happily coexist in the music of guitarist Michael Carenbauer. His repertoire ranges from Bach to contemporary American music. He began playing guitar at age 19 while attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He received a performance degree in Jazz Guitar from Berklee College in Boston, where he studied with jazz great Pat Metheny, and a Masters of Music in Classical Guitar from the University of South Florida. He is currently Professor of Music and director of Guitar Studies at the University of Arkansas/Little Rock. Michael has performed internationally in Italy, France, Austria, Mexico, Canada, and Hong Kong. His original compositions and arrangements for the guitar and guitar synthesizer were featured at the Chitarra 98 Festival in Montreal.
He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards for music performance, composition, and education, including a Faculty Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Arkansas/Little Rock and a Fellowship for Music Composition from the Arkansas Arts Council. His progressive use of technology in teaching was acknowledged with the first place award in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's first Teaching with Technology fair and will be the subject of a presentation he will make for the American String Teacher's national convention in 2003. He recently established a duo with acclaimed cellist Felice Farrell, former principal soloist of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He is available for performances and workshops through the Arkansas Arts Council "Arts on Tour" program.