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This is a dazzling compendium of modern guitar technique at an advanced level in the form of excellently conceived and executed etudes, each with an exotic name. It is fully tonal music with powerful rhythmic drive and clear melodic elements, even though the tunes often remain submerged in the guitar texture in order to make an effect. Roland Dyens, a Frenchman born in Tunisia (1955), is one of the leading players, composers, and teachers of the guitar and is a faculty member of the famous Paris Conservatoire. His own recording of this suite of etudes won the Charles Cros Academy Grand Prize for recording. He is also a winner of the Villa-Lobos Special Prize of the Allessandrina (Italy) Competition. The great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959) included, among the thousands of works in his voluminous output, some of the most important solo, ensemble, and concerto works in the guitar repertoire. Among them are his etudes, which dealt with most technical issues known to guitarists of his time in highly musical and communicative ways. Dyens pays homage to the master composer in this four-movement set. It also shows how guitar technique has advanced in the half century between the composition of Villa-Lobos' set and the time Dyens wrote this suite. Its four movements are:
1. 'Climazonie'. This is an etude in repeated notes, played with dazzling rapidity. After an exciting opening with fast melodic flourishes, the repeated note texture begins, establishing an effect like a drone. The melody that first emerges in the mid-range has inflections like Middle Eastern or Indian improvisation. Soon, scraps of Spanish melodic patterns appear. Dyens carefully and effectively times moments where the shimmering fast notes momentarily fade out, but they remain the dominant element before trailing off for good to end the movement.
2. 'Danse caractérielle et Bachianinha'. This whimsical title contains a reference to the most popular series of composition by Villa-Lobos, his series of nine Bachianas Brasileiras. (A Bachianinha would be a 'little Bachiana'). This nicely paced movement is the longest of the 11-minute set at nearly four minutes. It starts off in a marked dance rhythm in a fast tempo, clearly Brazilian in origin. About halfway through, it starts to relax, moving into the mood of the more lyrical movements in the series of Bachianas. After this intensifies the Brazilian spirit of the movement, elements of the opening dance return, married to the 'Bachianinha', before the music fades out.
3. 'Andantinostalgie'. Although rapid guitar figurations remain evident, the melodic and harmonic motion is relaxed, creating a mood that the hybrid title suggests: moderately slow and nostalgic. A popular song element comes more and more to dominate the texture.
4. Tuhú'. This is a dazzling toccata by way of conclusion. It contains, at the end, brilliant use of harmonics and different applications of touch on the strings. The rapid, driving music imitates train sound, as Villa-Lobos did sometimes in his music, and often did vocally as a little boy (that's why his childhood nickname was 'Tuhú').