“...through which the past shines…”Nils Vigeland/Reiko Füting/Daniel Lippel/John Popham


"…through which the past shines…" is a collection of the current complete works for guitar, both solo and in ensemble, by composers Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting. The music is emblematic of both composers' sophisticated voices, grounded in the tradition while forward looking in nuanced and elegantly integrated ways. All the performances on this recording of music by Vigeland and Füting by guitarist Daniel Lippel, cellist John Popham, and Vigeland himself on piano are the byproduct of close working relationships developed over the last 17 years.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 86:08
01Two Variations: I. Double
Two Variations: I. Double
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:10
02“...through which the past shines…”
“...through which the past shines…”
Daniel Lippel, guitar, John Popham, cello, Nils Vigeland, piano21:27
03wand-uhr: infinite shadows
wand-uhr: infinite shadows
Daniel Lippel, guitar6:29
04Hine ma Tov (arrangement of trad.)
Hine ma Tov (arrangement of trad.)
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:18
05Red Wall
Red Wall
Daniel Lippel, guitar11:03

La Folia Variants

Nils Vigeland (b. 1950)
06I. Cadenza
I. Cadenza
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:35
07II. Sonata
II. Sonata
Daniel Lippel, guitar5:29
08III. Dances
III. Dances
Daniel Lippel, guitar7:11


Nils Vigeland (b. 1950)
09I. Freshman Year
I. Freshman Year
Daniel Lippel, guitar, John Popham, cello2:50
10II. Sophomore and Junior Year
II. Sophomore and Junior Year
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:59
11III. Senior Year
III. Senior Year
Daniel Lippel, guitar5:57
12Two Variations: II. Distant Serenade
Two Variations: II. Distant Serenade
Daniel Lippel, guitar3:31
13Hine ma Tov - Digital Bonus Track (arrangements of trad.)
Hine ma Tov - Digital Bonus Track (arrangements of trad.)
Daniel Lippel, guitar8:09

Among the challenges facing a contemporary artist is how to negotiate a balance between the impulse to progress with the desire to preserve. In contemporary music, much activity aligns itself with one or the other, but not always with both at the same time. The composers featured on this recording, Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting, unselfconsciously strike an equilibrium between the richness of our literature and the forward looking directions of the day. This project is a compilation of their music for guitar, both in solo and ensemble contexts, as well as a celebration of the values running through their work. Guitarist Daniel Lippel and cellist John Popham have cultivated a long standing relationship with both composers reflected in the care invested in their interpretations, and Nils Vigeland makes a special appearance as well, performing as pianist on the title track. Both composers draw connections with older repertoire through quotation and integration of pre-existing themes, whether it be Vigeland’s setting of the “folia” theme in his three movement variations work, La Folia Variants, or his shrouded quotations of Beatles songs in Quodlibet.

Vigeland and Füting take divergent approaches to arrangement in their settings of Hine ma Tov, a traditional Hebrew melody also heard in arrangements on a bonus track by a student of Füting’s, Halldór Smárason, and in a version by Lippel. The Füting pieces are written in an alternate tuning, relishing the subtle discrepancies between the overtone based intonation of harmonics and the equal tempered world of fretted pitches. In the austere, Alps inspired Red Wall, fragile, high register trills and tremolos contrast descending plunges to forte low notes, evoking the rarefied air on a mountaintop and the dramatic, gravitational precipice leading down to its base. Wand-uhr: infinite shadows contains the most expanded timbral language on the recording, integrating percussive techniques, syllabic vocalizing, and foot stomps into the fabric of a rippling texture of arpeggios, glissandi, and repetitive cells. The title work, a wide ranging Ivesian trio for piano, cello, and guitar, releases a torrent of musical information. The introduction introduces independent material heard simultaneously in the three parts, but the bulk of the work is precisely coordinated in a flood of contrapuntal passagework, generated a rhythmically coordinated meta-instrument as the music unfolds.

None of the works on this recording identifies itself monolithically with one unusual or novel element, instead they incorporate new components into a multi-dimensional context. Neither do they shine a spotlight on the use of one traditional compositional technique – technical craft is presented with subtlety and often even disguised. Perhaps it is this cultivated balance between inherited wisdom and contemporary sensibility that allows for present music through which the past shines.

– D. Lippel


Executive Producers: Daniel Lippel, Nils Vigeland

Recording Engineer: Peter Gilbert (#6-8 only), Ryan Streber (all other tracks)

Session Producers: Reiko Füting (#3-4), Nils Vigeland (#9-11), Ryan Streber (#1, 5, 12, 13a and c), Peter Gilbert and Daniel Lippel (#6-8), Ryan Streber/Nils Vigeland/John Popham/Daniel Lippel (#2), Halldór Smárason (#13b)

Editing producers: Nils Vigeland/Daniel Lippel/John Popham (#2), Daniel Lippel (all other tracks)

Digital editing, Mixing, and Mastering: Ryan Streber - Oktaven Audio oktavenaudio.com

Recording Locations and Dates: Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, N.Y. (#2 -- 9.20.2016 and 10.4.2016; #3 -- 9.19.2017) Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, N.Y. (#1, 12 -- 2.1.14; #4, 13 -- 11.8.2013, #9-11 -- 4.6.2012), Southcrest Studio, Huntington, NY (#5 -- 7.15.2007), Harvard University Music Department Electronic Music Studio (#6-8 -- 1.10.2004)
La Folia Variants was digitally re-edited/remastered by Ryan Streber on 12.13.2017

Design and CD layout: Jessica Slaven

This recording was made possible through support from the Recording Program of the Aaron Copland Fund for New Music and the Manhattan School of Music Faculty Development Fund.

Daniel Lippel

Guitarist Dan Lippel, called a "modern guitar polymath (Guitar Review)" and an "exciting soloist" (NY Times) is active as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist. He has been the guitarist for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) since 2005 and new music quartet Flexible Music since 2003. Recent performance highlights include recitals at Sinus Ton Festival (Germany), University of Texas at San Antonio, MOCA Cleveland, Center for New Music in San Francisco, and chamber performances at the Macau Music Festival (China), Sibelius Academy (Finland), Cologne's Acht Brücken Festival (Germany), and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. He has appeared as a guest with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and New York New Music Ensemble, among others, and recorded for Kairos, Bridge, Albany, Starkland, Centaur, and Fat Cat.


Nils Vigeland

Nils Vigeland was born in Buffalo in 1950 and made his professional debut as a pianist in 1969 with The Buffalo Philharmonic, Lukas Foss, conductor. He later studied with Foss at Harvard College and with Morton Feldman at The University at Buffalo. He has been active as a composer, pianist and teacher in NYC for forty years, retiring as Chair of the Composition Department at Manhattan School of Music in 2013. His music is available on CDs from Lovely Music, Mode, Naxos and New Focus releases. With Eberhard Blum and Jan Williams he has recorded on Hat Art the complete extended length works for flute, percussion and piano of Morton Feldman. Further information is available on the website nilsvigeland.com


John Popham

Cellist John Popham is a chamber musician and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. His playing has been described as “brilliant” and “virtuosic” (Kronen Zeitung), “warm but variegated”, and “finely polished” (The New York Times).

Currently a member of Either/Or Ensemble and LONGLEASH, Mr. Popham has performed internationally with groups including Klangforum Wien, Talea Ensemble, and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. He has appeared as soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, the Red Light Ensemble, and the Kunstuniversität Graz Chorus.

Recent festival appearances include Brücken (Austria), Open Musik (Austria), IMPULS (Austria), the Vermont Mozart Festival, USINESONORE (Switzerland), Bay Chamber (Maine), the Contemporary Classical Music Festival (Peru), Lucerne Festival, and Klangspuren (Austria).

Dedicated to new music performance, Mr. Popham has worked with composers including Pierre Boulez, Tristan Murail, Steve Reich, Nils Vigeland, and Reiko Füting. The recipient of a Fulbright research grant, Mr. Popham spent the 2013/2014 academic year in Austria, where he studied the performance practice of Klangforum Wien and worked with leading figures in contemporary Austrian music: Beat Furrer, Georg Friedrich Haas, Klaus Lang, and Pierluigi Billone.

Mr. Popham is currently cello faculty of the Extension Division of Rutgers University. He received his BM and MM from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of David Geber and David Soyer and was awarded the Manhattan School of Music Full Scholarship. He has recorded for Tzadik, Carrier, New Focus, Albany, and Arte Nova records.


Reiko Füting

Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen in the German Democratic Republic. Füting has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, ensembles, and orchestras, with a special interest in vocal ensembles and ensembles performing on period instruments. His compositions are primarily released on the New Focus Recordings label in New York City and exclusively published by Verlag Neue Musik Berlin.

Since 2000, Füting has taught composition and theory at Manhattan School of Music, where he currently serves as Dean of Academic Core and Head of Composition. He has also taught vocal accompanying at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock and has served as a guest faculty and lecturer at universities and music conservatories throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Füting studied composition and piano at the Hochschule für Musik Dresden, Rice University in Houston, Manhattan School of Music in New York City, and Seoul National University. Some of his most influential teachers have been composers Jörg Herchet and Nils Vigeland, and pianist Winfried Apel.

“With my music, I aim to explore the psychological nature of memory, as it is projected onto the compositional device of musical quotation. By realizing this device in the entire musical spectrum of assimilation and dissimilation, integration, disintegration, and segregation, while moving freely between clear borders and gradual transitions, quotation and memory may function as a means to reflect upon contemporary artistic, cultural, social, and political phenomena.”


Halldór Smárason

Halldór Smárason (1989) earned his B.A. degree at Iceland Arts in 2012 and graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with a master’s degree in 2014, as a Fulbright-grantee. Through the years his main teachers include composers Dr. Reiko Füting, Atli Ingólfsson and Beat Furrer, and pianist Sigríður Ragnarsdóttir. Among others, Halldór has worked with Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Psappha, TAK and Oslo Sinfonietta, and holds a Manhattan Prize award. Additionally, he has participated in various festivals, including Manifeste and Podium. Halldór also performs and records actively as a pianist. halldorsmarason.com

10 Dec, 2018

New Focus Titles on 2018 Year End Lists

We're always honored to see our albums make it onto year-end best of lists, and we'll compile all of them on this page as they come in. Sequenza21 - Best Instrumental and Recital CDs of 2018: Jacob Greenberg's "Hanging Gardens" with Tony Arnold and Josh Modney's "Engage" both made the list 5 Against 4 - Best Albums of 2018: Christopher Trapani's "Waterlines" made the list at #33 National …

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21 Oct, 2018

New Focus titles on the 2018 Grammy Ballot

Several New Focus releases are listed under various categories on the 2018 Grammy's ballot. Voting for the first round is open now, and goes until October 31st. If you are a voting member, thank you for considering these recordings: TUN011: Du Yun: Dinosaur Scar Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: #88 Best Contemporary Composition: #49 for Air …

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05 Apr, 2018

4.25 CD release event for "...through which the past shines..." Works for guitar by Nils Vigeland and Reiko Fueting

Spectrum will host a CD release event on 4.25 at 8:30pm celebrating the release of "...through which the past shines...", officially coming out on 5.4. The album is a culmination of a 15 year collaboration between composers Nils Vigeland, Reiko Fueting, guitarist Dan Lippel and cellist John Popham. The concert will include performances of music on the recording as well as Longleash playing …

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Gapplegate Classical Modern Music Review

A sleeper is always a welcome thing. For it is something you put on knowing nothing of what to expect and in time it hits you as something quite important. That right now for me is the album entitled "...through which the past shines..." Works by Nils Vigeland and Reiko Futing (New Focus Recordings FCR204P). It is a series of chamber works for solo guitar plus guitar and cello, and one longer work for guitar, cello and piano.

The first thing that hit me and what is important to note straight off is the remarkable classical guitar performances by Daniel Lippel. He has a very beautiful tone, righteous phrasings and a kind of transcendent way of sounding his parts. I sometimes while listening forget it is even a guitar, it is so musically right, the technique so solidly put in the service of the music itself.

So Daniel is on guitar, solo for six of the works, joined by John Popham on cello for two of the eight works. Popham convinces in his interactions both for his adhesion to an ensemble sound and the poignant beauty of his playing. Then composer Nils Vigeland joins the two for a ravishing trio on the title cut. He is eloquent in his role as pianist.

And as for the compositions, five by Nils Vigeland, two by Reiko Futing plus an arrangement of an old song by Reiko, they have a very modern, tonal and expanded tonal naturalness to them. There is a fundamental foundational quality to it all. It is as if we finally as listeners and music makers have become so conversant with the combination of avant and post-avant idioms that a fluent and knowing musical conversation is now further opened up and very possible for those who can speak it and those who can listen. That is very so with this program.

The music could be improvisational in its spontaneity, yet it all shows a tightening in execution and a rarified sort of discursiveness that most group improvisations cannot quite get to, as beautiful as they might be. It is the projective staging of the music that stands forward in the mind's eye. The music is at once Modern but also timeless. It is not noisily extroverted in its insistence (and nothing wrong with that to my mind), but it nevertheless insists, make no mistake.

In the end the more you put this one on, the greater the riches it yields. It is a fortuitous and by that a critical meeting of compositions and players covering works from 1990 through to 2017, performing what surely is a music of right now.

It may not have occurred to you that you need to hear this. After all there are so many other things by established big names and the music of the enshrined dead. With any luck this album might be looked back upon as a highlight of what is going on today. So be on the ground floor of that and get inside this music. I think you will glad you did.

— Grego Applegate Edwards, 5.23.2018, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review


Midwest Record

Who are we kidding? We don’t know anything about the players or composers on this set. What we do know is that this puts us in the mind of early on ECM cool school guitar sets as well as great recordings by contemporary classical guitar pros like Chris Parkening, John Williams, Julian Bream, Liona Boyd and others. It might be a case of we don’t know what we’re talking about but we know what we like. Covering a lot of ground from composed to experimental, it all comes together in a glorious whole that’s just a gasser. Hot stuff throughout.

— Chris Spector, Midwest Record, 6.5.2018


Avant Music News

This fine recording collects new and recent works for guitar by American composer Nils Vigeland (b. 1950) and composer Reiko Füting (1970), who was born in what was then East Germany and has since resided in America and South Korea. Vigeland, who studied with Lukas Foss and Morton Feldman, is also a pianist and appears here as such on the title track along with cellist John Popham. The guitarist on all pieces is Daniel Lippel, a major voice in interpreting contemporary composed music.

Vigeland’s Two Variations (1992) for solo guitar bookends the album—one to open and one to close. Vigeland wrote the piece with the intention of wringing as much resonance as possible from the acoustic nylon-string guitar, an instrument of relatively short sustain; he does that with an onrush of single notes and arpeggios overlapping in time. With a turn to a more lyrical sound, his Quodlibet (2011) for guitar and cello is a three-part suite that alludes, largely quite obliquely, to The Beatles’ "Hey Jude" and "Good Day Sunshine". Little is recognizable of the songs outside of some phrases on guitar that seem to mimic the prosody of some of the lyrics, but the piece stands independently as song, once removed.

Vigeland’s major work here is the nearly twenty-two minute-long “…through which the past shines…” of 2017, named for a line from Nabokov’s novel Transparent Things. The piece, which alternates between pointillistic fragments and contrapuntal lines, seems to capture the irregular rhythms of the emotions that accompany recollection, in particular the cycles of agitation and reflection that supervene on the coalescence and dissolution of specific memories. The writing is especially effective in the color tensions it produces through the separation and combination of instrumental voices.

Füting’s three contributions include two original compositions for solo guitar—the energetic, perpetual motion of wand-uhr (2013/2016) and Red Wall (2006), along with his 2009 arrangement of the traditional Jewish hymn Hine ma Tov. Red Wall is the most intriguing of the three; it abandons linear development in favor of an irregular sequence of juxtaposed, non-contingent events which draw out a rich, if subtle, range of colors from the guitar. Lippel’s performance is particularly compelling as he makes explicit the timbral implications of Füting’s stable and unstable chords, harmonics, single note runs and trills, volatile dynamics, and leaps of register. Here as everywhere else on the recording, Lippel plays with a characteristically pristine tone and precise voicings.

— Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News, 6.11.2018


Minor 7th

Guitarist Daniel Lippel's "…though which the past shines…" is a collection of solo and ensemble works by contemporary composers Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting. Lippel holds a doctoral degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and has performed at festivals across the globe from the Macau Modern Music Festival to the Teatro Amazonas in Brazil. The recording is a tribute to the progressive and innovative music of the Manhattan School [sic], conceived by Vigeland and Füting, which had a profound influence on the guitarist. The album begins with the deliberate "I. Double" presenting edgy melodic sequences flanked by delicate interludes featuring lush harmonics. On the ambitious title track composer Nils Vigeland makes a special guest appearance on piano. Along with cellist John Popham they pay homage to the modernist music of their formative years and at the same time valiantly progress towards the future. The use of silence, delicate interplay, and dissonant harmonies allows the trio to create sonic vignettes that challenge and inspire the listener. The track "wand-uhr: infinite shadows" contains lavish cascading arpeggios, sparse persuasive sections, foot stomping and wordless vocals. The Beatles inspired "Quodlibet" finds the cellist and guitarist meandering through spacious and sonorous valleys of post-modernistic landscapes. Popham's masterful cello intuitively complements the guitarist's diverse and brilliantly executed passages. The album ends with "Hine Ma Tov" an introspective and reflective deconstruction of a traditional Jewish hymn. Dan Lippel's " . . .through which the past shines . . ." shows a deep understanding of the historical lineage of contemporary music while boldly redefining the future of the genre. Although challenging, the recording offers numerous rewards for adventurous listeners. The album should also help bring the inventive and influential compositions of Vigeland and Füting to a wider audience. This release is highly recommended for aficionados of contemporary music or for those wanting to expand their musical horizons.

© James Scott, Minor 7th, July/August 2018


Vital Weekly

‘Through which the past shines’ presents works by Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting, which is
performed by Daniel Lippel (piano), John Popham (cello) and Nils Vigeland on piano. Vigeland
studied with Lukas Foss and Morton Feldman. Füting grew up in the former German Democratic
Republic, where he received his first educations. Later he studied composition with Vigeland
and nowadays he is teaching composition himself at the Manhattan School of Music. Lippel is a
reputed performer of solo and chamber music, and a very sensitive player as this recording shows.
Lippel is playing on all compositions that are presented here. What makes this release
especially interesting for lovers of acoustic guitar in modern composed music [sic]. The title piece is
by far the most lengthy composition - about 21 minutes - and also one of the most intriguing. Small
clear defined gestures and patterns are contrasted with one other, resulting in a fresh and
pronounced work.
-- DM, Vital Weekly, August 2018



Daniel Lippel's records are curious. They have the oblique ability to never be the same. The sound maybe yes. Sound intended as a style, as an imprinter of the interpreter, as a mental and physical elaboration, as a personal contribution of the performer to the composer's creative work. As an encounter, fusion, grafting of two creative minds, as the appropriation and continuation of a work begun by another creative mind. In this CD we have the composers Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting who offer us these compositions, mostly recent, created between 1989 and 2011, for solo guitar, for duo guitar and cello and, in one case, in trio with piano, played by Vigeland himself.

Nils Vigeland was born in Buffalo, NY in 1950, the son of musicians. He made his professional debut as a pianist in 1969 with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Lukas Foss, conductor. He later studied composition with Foss at Harvard College, graduating with a B.A. in 1972. He earned his Ph.D at The University at Buffalo where he studied composition with Morton Feldman and piano with Yvar Mikhashoff. His own work appears on CDs from Mode, EMF, New Focus Recordings, Lovely Music, and Naxos. His choral music is published by Boosey and Hawkes.

Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen, just outside of Berlin in the former East Germany. He studied composition and piano at the Academy of Music Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden before moving to the United States to pursue graduate degrees at Rice University and Manhattan School of Music. Füting's primary teachers include Jörg Herchet and Nils Vigeland (composition) and Winfried Apel (piano). Füting has been a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music since 2000.

In the booklet that accompanies the CD Daniel Lippel cites the tension of these music suspended in balance between the security offered by the past and the tension towards the future. It's a complex balance. The risk is yet another neoclassicism. The risk is in self-referentiality, the fall in a vicious circle in which the music reassures because it sounds as already listen to before and at the same time bores as derivative. Excess? The lack of communication of languages. The rejection of a shared expression.

This risk or rather these two risky possibilities seem to me excluded from the music in this cd. They are not pretentiously unlistenable, they don't sound boringly as already listen to before. They express contemporaneity, express a social, economic, cultural reality that has gone beyond post-modernism, which plays with all styles, and in which the only apparent limit is the imagination and courage of those who compose and perform. This record is a masterpiece.

-- Andrea Aguzzi, Neuguitars, 10.2018


The Art Music Lounge

This unusual album of modern guitar music features the work of American composer Nils Vigeland and German composer Reiko Füting, both of whom were faculty members at the Manhattan School of Music at the time when guitarist Daniel Lippel also studied there. As the notes point out, both composers like to quote and integrate themes from older music into their work, which are then mutated into their own work. Füting also liked using an alternate tuning for the guitar, made around the overtone series of low D, going up to A-C-F#-B-E, working around the pitch discrepancies between the fretted notes on the guitar and its natural harmonics. Vigeland uses a similar approach in the La Folia Variants.

Normally, I shy away from reviewing guitar discs because I am not a fan of the soft, wimpy, uninflected playing of most classical guitarists, but Lippel, who also played jazz even while he was studying classical guitar (he told me he was a big fan of Wes Montgomery), plays with more vigor than normal and uses a wide range of dynamics, which give his music plenty of color. We start our journey with Vigeland’s Two Variations, which are essentially tonal although the tonality used mostly avoids the home key (to my ears, Ab). The score is very well attuned to the guitar’s natural sound, exploring its themes with an progression of eighth-note figures which are interspersed with soft, half-note chords. Interestingly, the two variations are split up in sequence on this CD, the first of them opening the disc and the second coming in the 12th track, near the end. The first Vigeland variant is followed by the quirky, atonal trio for piano, guitar and cello, …through which the past shines…, tuned and played in such a way that the cello almost sounds like an electronic instrument! Yet after the almost shocking introductory passage, the music relaxes into a lyrical section, and in this the cello is freed at one point to play lyrically while the other two instruments plink and plunk around it. This leads into a fairly rhythmic section in which all three instruments play in counterpoint to each other, creating an interesting web of sound. Although the music is not at all jazz-based, I can see why it appealed to former jazzman Lippel, as it is reminiscent of some of the crossover musical experiments of the 1960s such as the classical-influenced works of Ornette Coleman. Oddly, a bit of tonal grounding seems to pop up here and there in the music, particularly in the cello part, although the music seldom stays there.

Next we hear Füting’s wand-uhr: infinite shadows, which despite the tuning described above “sounds” to the naked ear like a standard guitar piece with unusual “slides” and pitches tossed in here and there. It is a softer piece than the previous two works, comprised mostly of short, rapid figures played in an almost perpetuum mobile fashion. Towards the end, he also slaps the body of the guitar, sometimes playing notes (and whispering) at the same time.

The odd tuning of the guitar is much more noticeable in Red Wall (after the arrangement of the folk song Hine ma Tov), where Lippel plays with extraordinary facility and, again, a light touch. To my ears, however, the music in this piece meanders a bit too much and says very little.

Vigeland’s La Folia Variants are also quiet pieces in a similar vein, but for me much more interesting music. The second movement, “Sonata,” is particularly interesting, and here Lippel plays with the kind of rhythmic verve and excellent use of dynamics that one heard from Julian Bream (my all-time favorite classical guitarist-lutenist). In the third movement (“Dances”), Lippel plays quirky rhythmic figures in bitonal harmony. As the movement progresses, the rhythm straightens out and becomes a bit livelier, with Lippel alternating single-note and chorded figures with deft precision (and a good beat). Towards the end, as the tempo slows down, he hits the body of his guitar with what sounds like the heel of his hand.

Quodlibet is an unusual duo for guitar and cello, the latter playing initially very deep in its range, almost like a bowed bass while Lippel picks soft figures around him. A bit later, in the second movement, cellist John Popham plays a few notes very high up in his range, then moves down to the middle as the music eventually becomes faster and more complex. The third movement is rather dark and sinister-sounding, the music more out-of-tonality than previously, as Popham sustains a very high F# for some time as Lippel continues on his merry way. Eventually, they set up a neat chorus in counterpoint to each other, followed by Popham playing lyrically while Lippel plays rapid downward pizzicato figures on the guitar. Neat stuff!

The second Vigeland variation is a nice little piece, rather lyrical, with a few out-of-tonality passages. Lippel also displays some very nice picking in certain passages. The CD ends with a triple arrangement of Hine ma Tov by Vigeland, Halldor Smarason and Lippel himself, which I found to be not only more complex but more varied and interesting than Füting’s (sorry about that). All in all, however, this is an excellent disc of new guitar music, nice conceived and stunningly played.

—© 4.11.2018 Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge


An Earful

"A truism in the nonprofit world is that "people give to people," meaning that donors are more likely to support an organization when they are asked personally, usually by someone to whom they have a connection. But people also listen to people and I think one of the reasons it's taken me so long to write about this excellent album is that it has a bit of an identity crisis. WHO will we be hearing from and WHAT will they be playing? The title is a mouthful, for one thing. If I were marketing the album, I might have titled it Recent Guitar Masterpieces (admittedly cheesy!) so curious listeners might have at least some idea of the wonders that lie within. I also would have reserved the largest font on the cover for the name Dan Lippel, for it is his virtuosic and deeply musical guitar playing that defines the experience of listening to the album. Fortunately, you have me to explain it all to you.

What we have here are seven pieces, five of them world-premiere recordings, of exquisite solo and chamber music focusing on the acoustic guitar. If you are a fan of the instrument, you need read no more than that before laying cold hard cash down for this record. Four of the pieces are by Nils Vigeland, an American composer, performer and teacher who seems to have a true sensitivity for the guitar. His La Folia Variants from 1996 was recorded over a decade ago by Lippel and included on his album Resonances [sic]. Its three lovely, Renaissance-inspired movements should be standard practice at guitar recitals worldwide. Vigeland's Two Variations, from 1990, bookends the album, instilling a sense of absolute peace as you begin and end your journey. The title track, from 2017 and the most recent work here, is also the longest. On it, Lippel is joined by Vigeland on piano and John Popham, of Either/Or and Longleash, on cello, and its sparkling interactions make a stunning case for these forces working together. The final work by Vigeland on the album is Quodlibet from 2011, three movements for guitar and cello based on The Beatles' Hey Jude and Good Day Sunshine, which avoids feeling like a pastiche thanks to the composer's structural skills and depth of invention.

Reiko Füting is a German-born composer and educator who studied around the world, including with Vigeland. His wand-uhr: infinite shadows (2013/16) takes inspiration from a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff but my ears picked out sonorities and techniques that reminded me of Davy Graham's jazz-inspired folk guitar solos. It's even easy to imagine Jimmy Page interpolating some of this into his Black Mountain Side, were he to grace a stage with his presence ever again. Füting's Red Wall (2006), uses dissonance and a broad dynamic range in tribute to the natural beauty of The Alps. Füting's arrangement of the traditional Jewish song Hine ma Tov is also included, using an almost Cubist approach to deconstruct the familiar melody. A digital-only bonus track contains three further variations by Vigeland, a young Icelandic composer named Halidór Smárason, and Lippel himself, a fine dessert after the sonic feast of the album proper. Along with Duo Noire's "Night Triptych", this is the best classical guitar album of 2018. Maybe that should have been the title!"
- Jeremy Shatan, An Earful, 11/17/18

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