Fanfare

All the composers on this compilation ably uphold the English plucked-string tradition…….Richards’ contribution is in the form of a clutch of lovingly crafted musical miniatures, harmonically satisfying distillates that take one deeply into the fundamental elements of music. I found the third of Richards’ Mini-Preludes particularly satisfying in its Duartian subtlety. These are tiny aphoristic pieces that make Villa-Lobos’ guitar preludes semm like extended essays. Listening to them, I am reminded of Gorky’s characterisation of the early works of Chekhov each as a Lilliputian bottle holding a quite special, private and precious scent. If Gorky were Mahler, he might have continued the rest of his statement thus: “Next to [Richards’] music, mine sounds as if it were written with a log rather than a pen”. The same can be said for Terence Croucher’s Six Preludes, the longest of which clocks in at 57 seconds. Gilbert Biberian’s two contributions are, as their titles imply, patently haiku-inspired and harmonically delicious. The only extended pieces on this compilation are John Tavener’s 11-minute Chant, Alan Rawsthorne’s 9-minute Elegy and Terence Croucher’s 6-minute piece by the same title. Each demonstrates Jonathan Richards’s ability to sustain a long line far beyond what should be its breaking point. Jonathan Richards and friends are, by the evidence presented, beguiling composers. Richards’s technical ability is faultless and always squarely at the service of the music at hand. This all adds up to a quite special 65 minutes that are at once an eloquent homage to the guitar and that transcend considerations of time, place and genre.

—William Zagorsky