Out of the proverbial blue I got a package from this young Australian-born, New York-based musician. “Would I consider…”, wrote he, reviewing on my blog his CD, Fantasias (www.LittleMysteryRecords.com) (LMR103).
Last night I put it on to play and it was well past midnight that, after twice listening to the album’s 19 tracks, I emailed the artist and assured him I would indeed review his CD.
Let me “cut to the chase”, if I may, and state the obvious in a few words: “Guitarist Rupert Boyd is a great musician.” There, I said it and now we can move on to details.
With impeccable technical skills, keen musicianship, and heartfelt musicality, Rupert Boyd takes the listener on a five-century, ten-nation musical journey, displaying all throughout a formidable ability to find a variety of individual colors for each composition.
In Otoño Porteño from Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons, Boyd achieves the perfect tone of autumnal, urban melancholy the composer demands from whoever takes on his Argentine homage to Vivaldi. In an arrangement by D. Russell of Four Celtic Songs Boyd attains a plain and plangent tone just perfect for this kind of music. Two wonderful songs by fellow Australian Phillip Houghton are hauntingly played by Boyd. Falla’s Pantomima and Miller’s Dance from The Three-cornered Hat are given here in arrangements for the solo guitar that retain the orchestral intricacy of the originals. Boyd plays them with lots of Spanish salero.
Fantasie – originally a John Dowland piece for lute, serves to display Boyd’s impressive mastery of the Late-Renaissance-Early Baroque style of the English master. The unfairly lesser-known Cuban composer Leo Brower provides with his Tres Apuntes three modestly-titled though complex sketches that range from the “zapateado” rhythms of Del Homenaje a Falla to a gentle lullaby, to an agile Cuban take on a Bulgarian folk song, all three of which Boyd takes in stride. Byron Yasui’s Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullabye is played with delicate wistfulness by the artist.
As it often happens with the vast repertory of music for guitar, there is much to be discovered as long as an enterprising artist does the searching for hidden treasures. Thus, Boyd treats the listener to his elegant playing of a Fantasia by the Italian Early Romanticist, Luigi Legnani, an obscure late Romantic Prelude by the Swiss composer, Aloÿs Fornerod, another Etude by the Brazilian Heitor Villalobos, and El Noi de la Mare (The Child of the Sea), a Catalan folk song that in its haunting simplicity becomes one of the gems of this collection.
I wanted the album to end right there but there was one more track waiting to be played: a Fantasia on Verdi’s La traviata by the 19th century Spanish composer, Julián Arcas in which Rupert Boyd’s guitar succeeds in variously sounding like a soprano and an orchestra. For myself I am more than satisfied with the up-close and intimate engineering and by the CD’s neat packaging and Boyd’s scholarly notes. But it is the playing that which causes me to entreat all lovers of guitar music to buy a copy of this gem of an album by a major artist.
Rafael de Acha