In 2011 Brilliant Classics issued a CD that included Angelo Gilardino’s Concerto di Oliena but with a synthesised orchestra. Byzantion reviewed the disc and Brilliant withdrew it.
Here in handsome recompense to composer and listeners are three guitar concertos by this composer from northern Italy. They are atmospheric, romantic, steely, delicate and unsentimental. The composer strikes a skilful balance between the need for the guitar to be heard and the compulsion to intensify and enhance the ideas through the orchestra. Gilardino’s writing, especially for woodwind, often reminds me of the mysterious earlier panels in The Rite of Spring.
The Concertino di Hykkara is a spikily romantic guitar concerto in three movements seemingly inspired by the ancient Sicilian world. Its overall dissonant ‘signature’ lies with the orchestra. This is often soloistic, surreal in nature and open in texture. It is never congested. The composer resorts to chamber, micro-clockwork textures while the guitar inhabits a romantic role amid the orchestra’s sinister activity. The middle movement muses darkly before the dry and motoric insistence of the finale. The guitar part is virtuoso but is not called on to produce outlandish effects at odds with the instrument’s nature.
The Concertino del falco like the Hykkara is warm and Mediterranean in nature. It too is a stranger to big gestures. The music is redolent of the fine lacy complexity of Henze; even more so than in the Hykkara. Persistent motivic cells dominate the texture and are traded between the soloist and the orchestral principals and sections. It was written in memory of anti-Nazi writer Ernst Weichert who was imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp. The ‘falco’ of the title is a reference to the free-ranging falcon. Something of the horror of the writer’s experience is picked up by the gaunt ‘fanfares’ of the final bars.
I would not have blinked had Gilardino called these two works Concerto rather than Concertino. The only difference appears to be duration.
For the last guitar concertante work here we come to the Concerto di Oliena - also in the three movements and this time approaching 30 minutes duration. Again engaging rhythmic chatter and insistent note-cells characterise the outer movements. The central Adagio - a marking common to all three works - is slow-pulsed, mesmeric and dreamy and not in a comfortable way. We hear the same soloist as appeared ‘with’ the electronically synthesised orchestra on the 2011 release.
All three guitarists appear more than equal to Gilardino’s technical and emotional demands and the recordings strike an equable balance between the soloist and orchestra. The notes are better than decent and are in English only.
This is a treat for adventurous pursuers of the guitar concerto on the look-out for refreshing and distinctive contemporary additions to the repertoire.