I’m part of a small gang singing the praises of Rattle Records. I’m sure they label wants that group to group to grow. I sure did which is why if they keep putting out great product I’ll keep singing their praises.
The latest to catch my eye and ear is an archival release from Kiwi classical guitarist Matthew Marshall. Marshall has been at the forefront of classical guitar as a recording artist and teacher across the last quarter century. And then some.
Fragments, a series of short pieces composed for classical guitar by Kiwi composers from the 1950s through to the early 90s was recorded in three separate sessions back in 1993 and 1995 at RNZ’s Broadcasting House. And there it sat.
Now we get to hear it.
Exquisite playing from Marshall, of course. His knowledge of Bream and Towner and all points between. Wonderful pieces from Douglas Lilburn (his “Seventeen Pieces” broken up into three tracks featuring parts 1-6, 7-13 and 14-17 accounts for around a quarter of the album’s run time) and a gorgeous cover image from Washington-based print-maker and artist Kim Van Someren, replete with thoughtful contextualising liner notes make this a perfect entry-point package.
Here are Spanish-styled guitar rags (Harry’s Rag) and deep classical pieces (John Ritchie’s Full Fathom Five, Tell Me Where Is Fancy Bred? and Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind all derived from Shakespeare plays). The spirit of the bullfighter sits deep inside a piece by David Farquhar, Anthony Ritchie’s knotted fretwork (Melancholia) makes for an intoxicating listen and there’s sombre reflection and melancholy in Kenneth Young’s Three Sad Waltzes.
Marshall is expert at conveying, translating and delivering these moods and shifting through modes.
This is an album to leave on in the background as you read, to open the day with – serve breakfast and get the team ready for school and work; an album to close out the night, you wind down with your tea or tipple of choice, you sit with the candles lit and dream away the end of the day. This is an album to return to and learn from – there’s so much compositional history here and such beautiful playing.
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