I completely agree with Jonathan Richards when he says in the liner-notes that this album is a collection of pieces that deserve to become popular. Actually, one of them already is: Greensleeves. There is nothing revolutionary about the arrangement by Jorge Morel - the tune is the tune, but a delicate play with harmony gives it a real XX century feeling. Still, this piece stands out of the line a bit, and I wonder whether the album would be more coherent without it.
The other pieces are numerous and very different, but none of them is dull. You'll find fun, even cheekiness, you'll find nostalgia and romance, tenderness and melancholy, and love. Just look at the titles: Idyl, Rhapsodie, Sympathy, Song, Romance, Serenade - you can feel how much emotion is there. But it's not too sweet! The melodies by Robin Pearson and Terence Croucher are instantly memorable, Liten Serenad by Dag Wirén is mysterious, full of harmonic surprises, Transylvanian Song and Rhapsodie are guitar tours de force, Andrew Shiels' Sonatina is just simply beautiful. But saying only this would be unfair to other works. They all, indeed, deserve to be popular. Terry Usher's Suite is a look back to older times, and the guitar is lute-like. Finally, the last five works show Jonathan Richards as a talented composer.
In solo guitar pieces, Richards brings out the singular beauty of the guitar's voice: this long ringing after-sound, metallic but soft, resonant, gently fading. He offers to us each sound on a plate - listening to it, to the aura it creates, to the superposition of these sonic fields. There is not a single "dirty" sound, but plenty of moments of blissful resonance.
And then comes the flute of Andrea Edmondson, and the two voices blend flawlessly. In this duet, the guitar often assumes the accompanying role, which is natural. Sometimes this accompaniment is rather straightforward, as in Festivo, where I wish the guitar part was subtler. But this is rare. More often I had the vision of the flute as a ball or a bird rising into the sky, and of the guitar as the hand that holds it, and throws it high, and catches it safely again. Andrea Edmondson's flute is played beautifully, without any excess airiness. There is none of the diva attitude that the "solo" instruments sometimes indulge in when playing with "background" instruments like piano or guitar. This is a perfect duo of equals. And they are very well recorded.
Subsequent listenings bring the feeling of visiting old friends: Hi, Ragtime! How is it going, Whittrig? And Robin Pearson's Festivo has the catchiest tune ever! This disc is a friend to make.