SERGIO ASSAD Chamber Works for Guitar and Strings
“Mikis” Concerto Fantasia
for Guitar & Strings
(world premiere recording)
- Allegro (7.54)
- Andante (12.01)
- Vivace (7.27)
“5 World Dances”
for Guitar & String Quartet
- Middle-Eastern (5.56)
- Celtic (5.21)
- African (3.01)
- Balkan (5.28)
- Latin American (5.03)
CD available from www.clearnote.net
Thanos Mitsalas (guitar)
Simos Papanas (violin)
David Bogorad (violin)
Hara Seira (viola)
Angelos Liakakis (cello)
Yiannis Hatzis (double-bass)
Recorded: August 2010 – Cue Productions (Thessaloniki-Greece)
Music production/Mixing & Mastering: Dimitris Karakantas
Sound Engineering: Dimitris Karakantas, Yiannis Mavridis
Design: Clear Note – www.clearnote.net
About the disc:
In today’s world, where CDs are so easy to produce, very few recordings stand out above the vast sea of CD’s released every year. It is my great pleasure to introduce one of these very special recordings featuring chamber works for guitar and strings. This extremely well produced CD was recorded and engineered in Thessaloniki, Greece. The artists involved are of the highest caliber with a profound knowledge and understanding of chamber music. The exquisite classical guitarist from Greece Thanos Mitsalas surrounded himself with top Greek string players and recorded this full album dedicated to some of the chamber music that I wrote over the years.
You will find here the first recording of the Concerto Fantasia for guitar and strings based on the music of our beloved Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Written in 1999, it was commissioned by Costas Cotsiolis and premiered by this great guitarist in Athens with the Athenian String Orchestra. The concerto is written after a collection of pieces that Theodorakis composed under the title Lorca. To create Lorca, a set of songs for guitar, contralto, choir and orchestra, he used a collection of poems written by Federico Garcia Lorca called Romancero Gitano. This work became one his most known pieces and was popularized by the recording of John Williams and Maria Farantouri.
The Concerto Fantasia presented in this CD uses Theodorakis’ themes and gives a special role to the guitar part treated in a stylistic concertante way. Formally, the piece is presented as a traditional concerto in three movements each movement using a pair of Theodorakis songs in a total of six. Making an echo to Theodorakis title, Lorca, the concerto fantasia was named Mikis, after the composer’s first name, in a pure and humble homage to his music.
The 5 World Dances were commissioned by the Bath International Music Festival in 2001 and were my first pieces for guitar and string quartet. It comprises a set of 5 pieces each one featuring an idiomatic style of music from a different part of the globe. The subtitles reflect those regions: 1)Middle Eastern, 2)Celtic, 3)African, 4)Balkan and 5)Latin American.
It is a true honor to have my music so well presented here in this excellent recording!!
REVIEWS FOR ΤΗΕ 2016 CD RELEASE : SERGIO ASSAD - “MIKIS” CONCERTO FANTASIA (Works for Guitar & Strings – ClearNote 2016)
Sergio Assad’s reputation as one of the contemporary world’s most generous composers for guitar, his own instrument, is pretty much unchallenged. He lends his equally generous written imprimatur to this recording in which he praises Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas and his string colleagues for the recording of two of his chamber works.
Mikis, the Concerto Fantasia for guitar and strings was composed in 1999 and based on music by Mikis Theodorakis called Lorca, a setting for guitar, contralto voice, choir and orchestra. It’s the guitar’s concertante role that Assad has especially turned to, employing pairings of Theodorakis’ songs in each of the three movements. The music has a wealth of beguiling charm and, given the downward sonic extension of the double-bass added to the string quartet; it’s vested with a bigger-than-expected sonority. There are rich Iberian rhythms, expressive breadth and plenty of alluring refinement. The longest movement is the central Andante, its wistful nostalgic lyricism balanced by faster contrastive runs, the product of elastic long-breathed writing rich in romance. Occasional fiesta-like moments of happiness and the occasional mordant incident widen the music’s expressive compass. The finale is not pressed too hard but unfolds with a natural sense of buoyancy. A cadenza is deftly played by the splendid soloist.
The Five World Dances for guitar and string quartet was Assad’s first work for this combination in 2002. The movements cover Middle-Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan and Latin American. Each is sharply characterised, from the swaying aura of the opener, through the wistful lyric romance of the Celtic twilight, to the resonant drama of the Balkans. Still, perhaps it’s the succulent tristesse of the Latin-American panel that most engages the listener, the music’s tempi full of giddy and heady excitement. Once again Mitsalas and his excellent string colleagues prove equal to the music’s demands, vesting it with rich sonority and technical address.
This isn’t a new disc; it was recorded back in 2010. It’s presented in card gatefold style with some colour photographs of the performers and composer and booklet recollections of a clearly very happy and satisfying recording. It certainly sounds like it from this delightful disc.
Jonathan Woolf – September 2018 (MusicWeb International)
Composer Assad gets top billing on this 52-minute program, which contains two long chamber works for guitar and four or five strings (two violins, viola, cello, double-bass). First up is “Mikis”: Concerto Fantasia for Guitar & Strings, a world premiere recording of a piece Assad wrote in 1999 in tribute to and based on the music of the great Greek composer Mikis Theordorakis, specifically on a collection of pieces Theodorakis wrote inspired by some poems by Federico Garcia Lorca. It’s a sumptuous work, filled with great, sweeping melodies, a few angular modern touches, and a number of lovely guitar passages, all of which are handled deftly by the superb Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas. The integration of the guitar and the strings is masterful. The second piece, a collection of five “world dances,” delivers what the subtitled sections promise and much more: “Middle Eastern” is appropriately charged and hypnotic, “Celtic” starts with a lilting Irish ballad feel and then jumps into a complex jig, etc. But leave it an imaginative composer like Assad to never fall into the cliches of the various genres, but instead use the rudiments of those musical languages as jumping-off points for his own extrapolations. Again, Mitsalas works well in every style and he and his bowed-strings compatriots are always right in the groove together. A truly wonderful album!
Blair Jackson –September 2017 (Classical Guitar Magazine)
I have reviewed Mr Mitsalas before, in a recording of Assad’s solos (M/J 2012) and in acollection called The Italian Tradition (S/O2012). A third collection, Contemplation, was also well received. I was impressed with each release, and I am strongly impressed with this. First of all, the music isreally wonderful. Mikis has a subtitle, ‘Concerto Fantasia for Guitar and Strings’, and was intended to beperformed with a string orchestra. Here we hear one to a part, a string quartet with a double bass. It is based on the music of Mikis Theodorakis, specifically his Lorca, a work for guitar, contralto, chorus, and orchestra based on his cycle Romancero Gitano. I’ve never heard that work, though I assume the text is the same as Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s setting for guitar and chorus. I do know the music is lyrically beautiful, even in the most exciting, virtuosic passages. 5 World Dances is for guitar and string quartet. Unlike Mikis, this is a fully integrated chamber work—the guitar is not dominant, though he has plenty to play. Each movement reflects a specific tradition: Middle Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan, and Latin American. The Celtic could be a traditional Scotch folk song, and the Balkan is in what Bartok called Bulgarian rhythms, 9/8, grouped 2+2+2+3. Assad’s early music was strongly in the Latin American tradition—reflecting his Brazilian roots—but his mature work has transcended those roots. His music is no longer Latin— unless he intends it to be—and has become increasingly sophisticated. He is certainly among the finest composers the guitar world has in an increasingly crowded field. Mitsalas performs with the same high level of musicianship and virtuosity he has always delivered: gorgeous tone, absolutely fluent playing no matter how technically demanding the music becomes, and he always gets to the heart of whatever he’s playing. The strings, all fellow Greeks, play with perfect ensemble, intonation, and expression. A treasurable recording.
Ken Keaton - Sep/Oct 2016 (American Record Guide)
Anyone conversant in the classical guitar world knows the name of Sergio Assad, one half of the dynamic duo with his brother Odair. The Assads have long thrilled and inspired audiences the world over for their artistry, near perfect playing, and creative pushing of the repertoire for the classical guitar. In recent years, Sergio has composed for the guitar and ensembles (listen to his work with his brother and the brilliant Paquito D'Riveira), and this CD, Chamber Works for Guitar and Strings, is one such project, leaving the guitar playing duties in the capable hands of Thanos Mitsalas. The disc is really six works. The opening piece is "Concerto Fantasia," based on the music of Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Many themes of his music weave in and out of this three movement work. The Allegro carries us forward in bright, pulsing rhythms, while the Andante is often a gentle whisper, punctuated by restless passages with minor key tensions. The Vivace caps the piece, strings rushing at us, only to be supplanted by Mitsalas' driving, yet lyrical, guitar playing, Assad says in the liner notes that the 5 World Dances are his first pieces for guitar and string quartet. Each dance highlights the musical legacy of different cultures Middle Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan, and Latin American. They are wonderful studies in melody and harmony. "Celtic" actually brings to mind in some passages the music of Appalachia in America, which makes sense, since that area was a melting pot of Old World musical traditions gaining their own voice in the New World. "Balkan" throbs with the whirling rhythms of Eastern Europe. The Quartet works seamlessly with Mitsalas in creating just the right aural textures and color. This is a brilliant disc of new paths in guitar and ensemble music, and one hopes Mr. Assad will continue to gift us with more efforts like this.
Kirk Albrecht - Minor 7th (July-August 2016)