‘I’ve had the privilege of watching the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet transform over the years from a thrown-together student group at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester to a highly polished chamber ensemble consisting of mature, experienced and immensely talented players. This disc reveals their capacity to feel and shape music as one and it is a fantastic showcase for their incredible virtuosity. Although tied together by a common geography, there is so much variety in this collection of works as to guarantee many, many hours of wonderful listening.’ So Craig Ogden has written on the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet.
This young group was formed at the Royal Northern College of Music under the guidance of Craig Ogden and Gordon Crosskey. The Quartet has earned a reputation as a dynamic and innovative ensemble, captivating audiences with eclectic repertoire and spell-binding performances. Since its formation it has performed extensively across the UK and abroad to critical acclaim. The two founding members, Vasilis Bessas and Michael Baker, are joined by Rory Russell and by James Jervis who has arranged two of the pieces performed on this recording.
This rarely recorded repertoire is linked by Brazil. The group expands on this: ‘Both as soloists and as a group, all four of us have been inspired by the music of Brazil. Far from being just the national property of Spain, the guitar is integral to the music and culture of Brazil and in this record we have endeavoured to represent a breadth of music, from the classical discipline of Villa-Lobos to the improvisational qualities of Gismonti.’ The result is a collection of pieces not currently available on any other recording; Clarice Assad’s Danças Nativas is even recorded here for the first time.
Of particular significance to the group is the work of Clarice and Sérgio Assad. The music of Clarice Assad was first introduced to the group through her father, Sérgio. The Quartet had the honour of premiering Clarice Assad’s Bluezilian in 2006, and Danças Nativas was written for the ensemble. Sérgio Assad’s own Uarekena is also included on the disc. Villa-Lobos is among the most influential South-American composers, and the guitar is inseparable from his œuvre. The haunting aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 is performed in an arrangement for guitar quartet; the ‘Brincadeira’ originated in the composer’s String Quartet No. 1. The transcription of Gismonti’s Palhaço is by James Jervis, one of the members of the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet.
This disc is certain to increase the profile of the ensemble and draw attention to the wide-ranging and colourful repertoire available for guitar quartet.