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John Greene, February 2002

"John Duarte always composed for the most purist reason there is--the sheer love of it. Beginning in his teens as an amateur jazz guitarist, he soon began writing more classically inspired works primarily based on improvisation. Just before his 50th birthday, Duarte's 'increasingly rewarding hobby' (as he puts it in the notes) made him decide to retire professionally as a scientist and devote himself to composing. Since then, Duarte has established quite a reputation in guitar circles, receiving commissions from such luminaries as Andres Segovia and John Williams. Now an octogenarian, Duarte seems never to have lost sight of his original motive: making the appeal of his music simple. He writes completely unpretentious, accessible tunes arising from his own pleasure and offered for the pleasure of others.

While most of the selections here were composed with other guitarists in mind, Antigoni Goni's performances are thoroughly enjoyable and technically faultless. The opening Pastorale movement of the first selection, Suite Piemontese, features a lively dance riddled with counterpoint in the tradition of Tarrega (La Cartagenera instantly comes to mind). Goni's expert rendering of Duarte's triptych suite Birds is equally stunning with its sudden chromatic shifts and near-gymnastic fingering requirements. Less virtuosic though equally inspired is Duarte's Musikones, a five-movement suite featuring three Terpsichores that clearly give a melodic nod to Erik Satie's first three Gnossiennes. Here Duarte's improvisational brilliance transforms Satie's meditations into bizarre sinister dances.

As usual, Naxos' sound is excellent, with Goni's guitar amply detailed in a dry acoustic setting. Duarte's rather personable notes read like reflections, briefly outlining his life, the selections, and his overall raison d'etre. Naxos' ongoing Guitar Collection series has continued to offer many outstanding recitals of works by unjustly neglected composers. Adam Holzman's recent program of Antonio Lauro's Venezuelan Waltzes, as well as Richard Cobo's first volume in what eventually will be a complete cycle of Leo Brouwer's guitar works are cases in point and should not be missed. Nor should this outstanding, very pleasurable disc.

Steven Rings
American Record Guide, December 2001

"Since quitting his day job as a scientist in the 1960s in order to devote his attention entirely to the guitar, John Duarte has become something of an elder statesman on the international guitar scene. He has been active not only as a composer, but also as an influential teacher and critic. This career is quite remarkable when one considers that Duarte had no real formal music training. And while his works are rarely daring--they are firmly tonal with frequent jazz and folk inflections--they always exhibit solid craftsmanship. The present release includes eight of his works, all expertly played by Antigoni Goni.

An early association with some of the world's leading guitarists, including Andres Segovia and John Williams, gave an early boost to Duarte's career. It also supplied the stimulus for his two most famous works, both included here: the English Suite, dedicated to Segovia, and the Variations on a Catalan Folksong, written for Williams. Goni turns in a lively and articulate reading of the English Suite. One hears this work played so often by lesser guitarists that it is a real joy to hear such a commanding and carefully considered performance. The Variations are more musically ambitious and have never achieved quite the same level of popularity. Goni's performance is excellent and is a great opportunity to revisit the work, but it quickly becomes apparent why it never has really taken off among guitarists or audiences. Though it is tonally conservative, it is hard to follow; the variations obscure the theme so thoroughly that any sense of unity is tenuous at best. The overall effect is of a quirky attempt at modernism that simply refuses to settle in the ear.

The remaining works on the program are all also multi-movement pieces, mostly in three movements like the English Suite. Among these, Birds stands out as an inspired and original work, drawing on a nicely varied tonal palette to evoke different kinds of birds. Many of the remaining works are not quite so original. Some are deliberate pastiches, such as the three Venezuelan waltzes after Antonio Lauro, while others are somewhat pale imitations of the English Suite, like the Suite Piemontese, which dons Italian folk garb but fails to attain the immediacy of the better known work. Still others, like the Sonatinette bear Duarte's signature harmonies and gestures and would make more of an impression were they not part of an all-Duarte program. Still, those who are familiar with some of Duarte's works and want to hear more will want this release, as these pieces will rarely sound better than they do with Goni."

Marc-André Quinto
Journal de la société de guitare de Montréal, November 2001

"Voici un DC complet d'oeuvres guitaristiques du prolifique compositeur anglais John Duarte. Duarte a à son actif une liste impressionnante de dédicace, d'Andrès Segovia (English Suite) à John Williams (Variation sur un thème catalan) à Angelo Gilardino (suite piémontaise), pour ne nommer qu'eux. Ce que j'ai découvert, à l'aide de cet enregistrement, c'est la musique de grande qualité de Duarte, puisant dans les formes et les styles anciens en y ajoutant des éléments impressionnistes, quelques teintes de jazz jusqu'au style résolument plus moderne et eclectique des 'Musikones', probablement la plus grande surprise du DC. J'ai donc découvert qu'il y avait plus a Duarte que la fameuse Suite Anglaise. Le jeu brillant et sans faille de Antigoni Goni ainsi qu sa facilité parfois déconcertante à bien définir la structure des pièces font de cet enregistrement un 'must'. Les notes écrites par la main de Duarte ajoute à cet intérêt."

Duncan Druce
Gramophone, September 2001

"John Duarte, now in his eighties, has found a rich vein to explore over the years with the guitar miniature. From his background as a player comes the unfailingly idiomatic character of the music - it sounds as though it's extremely grateful to perform - and from his experience of jazz comes the freely varied melodic lines and the chromatic chords that mildly spice a fairly conventional idiom. Of the eight works here, six are small-scale three-movement suites, with very few movements lasting longer than three minutes.

"Some of the best music has been recorded before; the Greek-inspired Musikones, for instance, with its neat alternation of song and dance and interesting use of pentatonic and other modal formations, or the Variations on a Catalan Folksong, an effective showpiece written for John Williams, which accompanies the theme with a figure derived from Bach's Fourth Cello Suite and introduces a different tonality for each of the variations.

"The waltzes in homage to Antonio Lauro are written in a straightforward, old-fashioned romantic style, whilst some of the other music is more neo-classical, especially the Sonatinette with its harmony based on fourths. Taken as a whole, the disc is more like easy listening than a vital, compelling musical experience, but there's no doubting the commitment or artistry of Antigoni Goni's performances. Her full, rich tone is well reproduced, too."

Andy Daly
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"..John Duarte came to my attention when I bought what was then my first classical guitar record (Andres Segovia's "Il Supremo" MCA MUCS 107) that was some time in 1968. The programme for the most part was made up of mainly Baroque music Bach, Scarlatti, Handel and Purcell. So as you can imagine a work like Duarte's "English Suite" stood out simply because it was so different. Since then John Duarte's reputation as one of the foremost scholars of the guitar whose knowledge of the instrument, its music and players is assured. Added to this he is one of the finest composers for the guitar to emerge in the 20th century and most likely to continue into the next, anywhere in the world.

This release by Naxos shows the breadth of John Duarte's musical insights and influences. It is very much a disc of shifting moods and atmospheres. He takes us on an excursion into landscapes as diverse as Italy "Suite piemontese" Op.46 (is that a hint of Debussy's "Arabesque No.1 in there?); the myths of Greece tinged with tones of the Moorish Ud and Venezuela with "Homage to Antonio Lauro", Lauro being known for his guitar miniatures in waltz time. The composer gives us a view of the natural world with his observations of the characteristics and behaviour of swallows, the swan and sparrows in "Birds" Op.66, all of which are totally convincing.

The fact that John Duarte has written the inlay notes suggests that he must approve of this recording, and who else better qualified to provide a vista into these works than the composer himself.

To date this is Antigoni Goni's third recording for the Naxos label, the first being a recital by various composers, the second an all Agustin Barrios programme. Now with this disc she shows herself to be a player comfortable with the wide range of nuances that this music provides and although slight finger noises are present no way does this diminish the enjoyment.

The music on this disc should be enjoyed by most people, not only guitar aficionados."

Jed Distler

"John Duarte writes some of the most idiomatic and memorable guitar music to be found today, and what better way to introduce listeners to his oeuvre than through Antigoni Goni's sympathetic, exquisitely rendered interpretations? The composer speaks of Goni's attraction to music that is tonal, romantic, and clearly structured, and that's exactly what we get with the eight Duarte works chosen for this collection. What does the music sound like? The Canzone from Suite Piemontese begins with spare dyads, followed by a simple, folk-like tune with careful counterpoint providing a poignant foundation of harmony. The chords become more sophisticated and even a little jazzy as the piece develops, yet, like Bill Evans' piano voicings, they're never complex for their own sake. Sly polytonal twists spice up Duarte's textures in the way Virgil Thomson snuck deliberate "wrong notes" inside his "darn fool ditties" (the Toute en Ronde's three movements are good examples). The five-movement Musikones evoke a mini-world tour of ancient dances and modes as seen through the ears of an eager guitar.

"Holst and Grainger's ghosts smile benignly upon the delightful English Suite, while witty clusters and aphoristic sequences characterize a suite inspired by swallows, sparrows, and a lone swan. Duarte's three-movement homage to Antonio Lauro leads the time-honored tradition of guitar waltzes into new areas of accessibility. A touching Catalan folk song serves as the basis for a set of harmonically ingenuous variations that achieve maximum expressive variety within a steadfastly lyrical framework. I'll bet that Duarte is as pleased with this disc as I am, and hopefully you'll be too. Composers who describe their music in rambling, pretentious, self-promoting essays can learn from Duarte's clear, heartfelt annotations."

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