Collection - Images - Rob MacDonald COLLECTION - IMAGES - Rob MacDonald (Guitar) - Madawaska String Quartet - Peter Pavlovsky (Double Bass) - Canadian Music Centre RM2010

This new CD of works for guitar with various combinations of string instruments, consisting of world première recordings, is like a reconnaissance mission into unknown territory. It's an adventurous foray into musical compositions that defy the usual stereotype associated with the combination of guitar and strings. The guitar, skillfully played by Rob MacDonald, is never really the centre of attention in these pieces, except of course in the piece Full Circle by Andrew Staniland, written for solo guitar in 2005. All other works were written in such a way that the guitar becomes an intrinsic part of the musical fabric, of the sonic textures, of the music at hand.

The Nocturne, for guitar, viola and cello, written in 1994 by Omar Daniel, is a nightmarish exploration of the dark side of night, thumping and clicking noises included. It leads to moments of panic induced fears that demand so much intense finger work from the players that blisters must ensue, interspersed with quiet moments of eerie stillness. It is definitely one of the strong works on the CD which demands the most from Anna Redekop on viola, Amber Ghent on cello and Rob MacDonald.

The following piece, the emotional centre of the disc, could not be any more different. A string sextet for guitar, double bass and string quartet written in 1997 by Peter Sculthorpe entitled Love Song, blends the strings and guitar sounds to create an evocative and melodic flow that never strays very far from its deep-seated beauty and serenity. Peter Pavlovsky and the Madawaska String Quartet match the guitar's romantic role in this wonderful little gem that saw the guitarist John Williams perform its world première the year it was written.

The title work Images, for guitar and string quartet, composed in 2005 by Christopher William Pierce, is the longest piece on offer here and is divided into seven movements, that alternate constantly between repose and nervous energy. The liner notes, written by Kenton Kroker, mention things like pitch shift, palindromic structure, artifice and phenomenological meditation. This is the adventurous hero of the group, the one that dares take that reconnaissance mission into unknown territory and impresses the most for it.

The subtitle for this recording is New Music for Guitar and Strings, and as the word 'new' suggests and the dark foliage on the cover image foreshadows, it is a step into the darkness of the unknown that nonetheless is worth the risk. It can be obtained at, the Canadian Music Centre website.

Jean-Yves Duperron