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Recital Media Review Print

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Guitar Recital!

December 18, 2015 - Easthampton, MA:

Open Sky. Augustín Barrios: “Julia Florida," “Las Abejas," “Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios," & Vals Nos 3 and 4; Dušan Bogdanoviċ: “Mysterious Habitats"; William Bolcom: “Graceful Ghost Rag"; Leo Brouwer: “Berceuse" & “Ojos Brujos"; François Couperin: “Les Barricades mystérieuses"; Erik Satie: “Gnossiennes" Nos 1 and 3; Domenico Scarlatti: Sonatas K.32 and K.435; & Quique Sinesi: “Open Sky." Justin Hoke, guitar; 888295362269, TT, © 2015, $ 11.99 (CD + download; $10.00, download only), available from the artist at  www.justinhokeguitar.com. (Listing is alphabetical, not in performance order.)

Although this appears to be marketed like a pop-music recital CD, none of the music is by the artist; all is by other composers. Only the works by Barrios, Bogdanoviċ, Brouwer, and Sinesi were written for guitar. Hoke has put together a well thought-out program, combining these 20th century works with others from the 18th and 20th centuries written for keyboard, all of those being arranged by the performer. For these reasons, I have prepared its listing by composer, treating it like a classical music one.

Two of the works, the Couperin and the Satie, have no bar lines. They are in the tradition of the prelude non-mesuré that originates with François Couperin's uncle Louis Couperin in late 17th century France and which derives directly from the Renaissance and Baroque lute tradition. (See my piece among these pages about the French clavecinistes.) Music scores without bar lines are much older, having originated in Medieval or even Classical Greek and Roman chants, but those were sung – not instrumental works. Hoke is here taking the tradition full circle for performance of these works on a modern guitar.

Performance order is based on the principle of successive pairs of contrasting, similar, or related works placed between the opener, the piece that lends its title to the CD, and the closing Bolcom – perhaps his most famous keyboard work, and fitting in this position in the recorded program because he frequently plays it as an encore in his recitals. The Brouwer is up second, counterbalanced by the Barrios group, which precedes the Bolcom. The Satie and the Scarlatti follow the Brouwer and are in turn followed by the Couperin and the Bogdanoviċ, which is inspired by the Couperin.

The product packaging is attractive. It is a folding cardboard sleeve with a plastic CD holder glued to the inside of the right half when open, with the liner notes, consisting of short descriptions of the individual works in performance order on the facing left half. The cover photo of the artist, holding his guitar resting on his left foot and standing on the seashore looking to his left at the waves, spreads across the outside of both halves, with the track listing (without timings; TT is not printed either) superimposed on the far left end of the wave. A different photo of the artist looking out to the wave with his guitar in its case strapped on his back like a back pack is under the plastic disk holder.

Missing also is a bio of the artist. Since 2013, he teaches guitar and music theory at UNC-Wilmington, where he completed his BM in 2007. He holds a doctorate (2013) from Florida State University, and is a member of the NC Guitar Quartet.

This is a very pleasing and satisfying recital, with more substance and variety than the standard one that generally features crowd-pleasing exuberant and showy Spanish and Latin-American chestnuts. All the transcriptions of keyboard works are very successful, suiting the guitar well. It is enjoyable listening and superbly played. It would be a more professional product if timings were given and more pieces were offered: there is room for 20 minutes worth. Very highly recommended.