American Record Guide

Welsh composer David Braid (b 1970) specializes in writing for (and playing) the archtop guitar, a steel-stringed instrument with a rounded top, similar to a violin. The archtop has more volume than a classical guitar, mellower tone than a standard steel-string. It is involved as solo or ensemble instrument in five of the nine works on this album.

Archtop guitar is the sole instrument, composer Braid the soloist, in Four Intimate Pieces (2014) and Two Solos (2015). All of these slow, meditative, non-metric pieces sound like improvisations. Braid teams with Sergei Podobedov in a 3-movement, 11-minute Sonata (2013) for archtop guitar and piano. Here 1 and 2 have that same slow, improvisational character, but 3 is faster, more linear, and imitative.

Braid’s archtop guitar seems ideal to accompany mezzo soprano Emily Gray in Songs of Contrasting Subjects (2015), poetry by Shakespeare and John Bunyan. He and pianist Podobedov accompany the rich-voiced Ms Gray in the album opener, ‘Upon Silver Trees’ (2014), a lovely setting of a Walter de la Mare poem about a moonlit scene.

Other instruments are heard in the rest of the program. Flutist Claire Overbury and classical guitarist Elena Zucchini are heard in a lovely ‘Invocation and Continuum’ (2014). Clarinetist Peter Ciglaris and pianist Rossitza Stoycheva give the six-minute Invention and Fugue (2014) a fine reading. And Ms Stoycheva is soloist in the 3-movement, 14-minute Piano Sonata 1 (2012), a work with Braid’s signature quasi-improvised style but a little more dissonance than the other pieces.

—Barry Kilpatrick