Gunter Herbig: Flower of the Sea (Rattle/bandcamp)

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Dream (by John Cage)
Gunter Herbig: Flower of the Sea (Rattle/bandcamp)

While it doubtless expanded understanding, it wasn't necessary have any prior knowledge of the music of the philosopher Gurdjieff to enjoy the interpretations of his songs by electric guitarist Gunter Herbig on his previous album Ex Oriente.

Similarly this new programme of pieces by John Cage, Isaac Albeniz, Carlo Domeniconi, Peter Sculthorpe and Douglas Lilburn.

The Cage opener In a Landscape is a piece of refined delicacy and played with such empathy – the individual notes hovering harp-like – that it might have come from the Chinese classic tradition and played on pipa, or even the Korean gayageum.

In its gentle and spacious repetition, it is the perfect, restful introduction to an album which circles back to Cage's Dream near the end, another piece written for solo piano but which again in the guitarist's hands becomes a mesmerising interpretation.

There are other more vigorous transcriptions between those two points: Albeniz' Spanish folkloric and lute-like Mallorca comes with Mediterranean humidity and an understated romantic passion, and many will recognise the final piece on the album also by Albeniz, the more dramatic Asturias.

The centrepiece is the four-part suite Koyunbaba by the contemporary Italian guitarist Domenico which extends Albeniz' Mediterranean reverie to Turkey in a piece which bridges the exotic and the mystic (the Cantabile section is especially moving).

The three Lilburn Canzona pieces have a kind of wistful quality where Herbig allows long delay to let the mood hang suspended.

This is a lovely, thoughtful album with an intelligent arc which takes the listener into the generous spaces left, as important as the notes played.

You can hear and buy this album through Rattle at bandcamp here


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