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Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide, March 2011

…challenging and sometimes bracing music in excellent performances, this is for you.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, February 2010

Of Gibraltarian and Andalusian lineage, Ohana spent his childhood in Morocco, Spain and the Basque region. Throughout his life he researched various aspects of flamenco as well as of African and medieval music. All of these strands are to be found in his music. His music for guitar is no exception since this instrument is often associated with Spain and Spanish composers. Ohana went far beyond the superficial aspects of Spanish music, so that his music is free from any stereotypical Iberian clichés.

His earliest work for guitar is the short Tiento that now features in many a guitarist’s repertoire. The music alludes to the Spanish tradition with hints of La Folia, of habanera as well as of De Falla’s Homenaje and Harpsichord Concerto, the whole successfully woven into this very fine work.

The rest of Ohana’s output for guitar lies in two substantial cycles Si le jour paraît…and Cadran lunaire. Composed for Narciso Yepes’ ten-string guitar, as was the guitar concerto Tres Graficos, Si le jour paraît…is a substantial suite in seven contrasting movements. These may at times be compared to Debussy’s Preludes in that most of them serve as short tone poems. The opening Temple is an introduction to the cycle or a ‘tuning-up’. The second movement Enueg (“complaint”) is percussive whereas the following Maya-Marsya is also rather tense alternating fast episodes and slower, more reflective ones. The next movement 20 avril (Planh) commemorates the execution on 20th April 1962 of a political prisoner by the Franco regime. The subtitle Planh (“plaint”) again refers to the world of medieval troubadours. This movement is quite impressive in spite of its concision. La chevelure de Bérénice (“Berenice’s Hair”) is clearly in the form of a tone poem referring both to the constellation known as Coma Berenices and to the classical story of the hair of Berenice II. The title of the next movement Jeu des quatre vents (“Game of the Four Winds”) clearly hints at what the music is about—a brilliant Scherzo. The cycle ends with an evocative Alba (“Dawn”).

Cadran lunaire is another substantial suite in four movements. The title is enigmatic since there is no such instrument as a moon dial. It may nevertheless suggest nocturnal or darker moods. Saturnal evokes the ancient Roman festival celebrating Saturn. Calmer episodes are interspersed with short-lived outbursts and short dance-like sections. The predominant mood is reflective. Jondo refers to canto jondo, music of celebration and lament. Sylva suggests forests, fields and the world of Pan. The final movement Candil (from the Latin ‘candere’ meaning ‘to shine or be white hot’) is a brilliant Toccata rounding-off the suite in a virtuosic and assertive way.

Ohana’s works for guitar are few in number but the quality and imagination of the music are of the highest order. The composer explored the guitar’s technical and expressive potential to the full without ever resorting to any extravagant playing technique. This does not mean that the music is easy to play. As far as I can judge, Graham Anthony Devine clearly loves this music and delivers superb readings in which technique and musicality make the best of these impressive works. They would definitely be heard more often were it not for the many demands they put on performers. The recording is very fine indeed and one of the best guitar sounds that I have ever heard. Ohana’s music may be quite demanding but it definitely repays repeated hearings. This is a very fine release.

Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, December 2009

This display of technique and instrumental potential is never an end in itself, taking place within a clearly defined structure, each element a clear and refined statement. British guitarist Graham Anthony Devine handles these details expertly, his performance of these fantastic works truly impressive.

Gapplegate Music, November 2009

Maurice Ohana (1913–1992) has not been given his due, at least in the States. His compositions reflect the modernism of his age, yet they have a quality all their own, nowhere more so than in his “Music for 10-String Guitar” (Naxos), as performed with great skill and expressiveness by Graham Anthony Devine.

The 10-String guitar in question is a classical guitar with four additional strings, none of which seem to be stranded in octaves like the standard 12-string guitar or the mandolin. Ohana makes good use of the extended number of easily accessed intervallic relationships and simultaneously sounded notes. There is a kind of quasi-Spanish bravura to the music but also an exploratory, quiet meditativeness.

These pieces must be quite a challenge to play and Maestro Devine handles the technical end with results that sound effortless, but most assuredly aren’t. He tackles the individual works with a larger sense of the overall trajectory and musical thrust of the composer’s intentions with great sensitivity.

This is not “Malaguena.” These are thoroughly modern studies for guitar that are also quite idiomatically guitaristic. They require repeated careful listenings to fully absorb. I know of no other works in the guitar repertory that are quite like these. Devine’s recital is a welcome addition to the catalog of Ohana on disk and also to modern guitar literature.

WRUV Reviews, November 2009

North-African born of Andalusian heritage, Ohana’s works for guitar have a Spanish flavor but are entirely modern, abstract and somber. Play any!

On An Overgrown Path, October 2009

Beauty in flight comes only after the fight

‘…Ohana’s imagination created a unique, complex and highly intense musical language which makes immense demands on both player and listener.’

Naxos deserve two very big thank yous. The first for treading where other major labels fear to go and releasing this outstanding CD of the guitar music of Maurice Ohana (1913–1992), complete with dazzling playing by Graham Anthony Devine and first rate sound from the St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Canada.

The second big thank you is for having the courage to put the words above on the CD sleeve. Naxos are famous for swimming against the tide. But, in an age where the increasingly frantic search for accessibilty makes it almost obligatory to remove any demands on the listener, it still takes courage to tell customers that they are in for a difficult listen [to] this challenging and immensely rewarding new CD…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2009

Music from the North African born, Maurice Ohana, takes the ten-string guitar far beyond the instrument we normally hear in the concert repertoire. Born in 1913 and of a Spanish background, he responded to the instrument made for the distinguished Spanish virtuoso, Narciso Yepes, with a series of innovative compositions. I don’t share the sleeve note’s comment that the works make immense demands on both the player and the listener, as this exploration into the instrument’s sound colours is totally fascinating. With Si le jour parait…taking its inspiration from Debussy’s Préludes will give you its starting point, its seven movements in the form of descriptive cameo tone poems. Try track 3, the work’s mischievous and at times bad-tempered nature extending our notions of the guitar’s possibility. Much does, of course, depend on the performer being able to meet Ohana’s demands, and in the British guitarist, Graham Anthony Devine, it has a exponent of staggering technique. The following score, Cadran lunaire—which translates to an improbable moon-dial—shows that not everything at night is peaceful. That is made clear in the evocation of a frenzied dance from a Roman festival in tribute to Saturn which forms the opening movement. The disc is completed by a short Tiento, a Spanish form of toccata. Throughout the detail, dynamic range and brilliance of Devine’s playing is arresting, the Canadian sound engineers producing another sonic masterpiece.

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