Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Ulrich Hermann
The New Listener, October 2015

…This CD on the Naxos label … hits the bull’s eye. Especially so because with guitarist Gunter Herbig, finally a true musician plays the guitar who not only shows dexterity or brings youthful insouciance and temperament into play, but brings to life the pieces of Lilburn and Farquhar in all their depth and musical structure in a singing way.

It has been a long time that I have encountered a classical guitarist as convincing as Gunter Herbig. His phenomenological understanding of the melodic and harmonic sequences, rhythmic and tonal nuances is remarkable.

The magic of the guitar, which has always been the key aspect of this instrument, comes to full fruition with Gunter Herbig, but apart from the mere instrumental, real music arises in all its richness.

With Gunter Herbig and the new CD of these two New Zealand composers, a singularly convincing musical vision has taken shape, which—and I am a singer and guitarist myself—has appealed to me and excited me enormously. © 2015 The New Listener

Ian Dando
New Zealand Listener, November 2009

Gunter Herbig’s fretwork and expressivity are outstanding © 2009 New Zealand Listener

Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, July 2009

Classical guitar music can be a dreary exercise, too often relegated to bittersweet Mediterranean holiday soundtrack, but this disc of works by two of New Zealand’s most famous composers is indeed compelling. Expertly performed by Brazil-born New Zealand-based guitarist Gunter Herbig, much of this set retains hints of the refreshing air of Segovia’s Spanish favourites whilst injecting enough modernist kinks to keep things interesting.

As a student of Vaughan-Williams, one might assume Douglas’s music to be docile, but while these works for guitar are certainly easy to enjoy passively, they’re far from being placid revisionist tonal exercises. Rather, he approaches these short works as exploratory sketches, etudes of sorts for the contemporary guitarist. Of the ‘Seventeen Pieces for Guitar’ of 1963, 1969 and 1970, his only published music for guitar, few contain key signatures, titles or time signatures, so they function more as free-floating patterns for the performer to interpret, this notion reinforced by frequent notations of ‘…with freedom’ in the score. There’s a languid, open quality which allows them to drift by like flowing water, forking off in novel but rarely shocking paths. The ‘Canzona: Semplice, con moto’ seems to recall the contemporary British folk techniques of Fairport Convention and co., while ‘No. 4’ updates Bach-like patterns into a modern framework. His unpublished work takes greater risks in it’s even looser stance, with ‘Unpublished Piece No. 3’ for instance slowed to a crawl, notes dropping like rain.

David Farquhar was a student of Lilburne’s and his guitar music is more aggressive, more fond of dissonance and sharp angles. His ‘Suite’ of 1966, dedicated to English painter and guitarist Ronald Burt who apparently popularised the instrument in New Zealand, employs frequent changes in time signature, harmonics and extra-instrumental attack, akin to much of today’s post-Fahey free-folk guitarists. 1995’s ‘Prospero Dreaming’ reaches further, exploring the guitar’s entire range, scrapes, whacks and pinging tones accompanying aggressive fingerwork, and frequent riffs left intentionally suspended. This engaging set of rarely-heard music deserves much wider recognition.

William Dart
The New Zealand Herald, July 2009

Gunter Herbig is one of our finest guitarists, as adept at an allemande from an early lutenist as he is with the music that New Zealand composers have written for him. Brazilian-born, he also has a special gift for the Latin-American repertoire and inevitably imbues other music with some of its fire.

The essential character of much of the music on this CD comes from its sounding as if it might have been improvised on the spot. That Herbig has conveyed this impression, with no sacrifice of tonal beauty or structural logic, is a mark of his artistry. © 2009 The New Zealand Herald

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

Though guitar playing is blossoming in New Zealand, its origins go no further back than the 1950s when the English painter and guitarist, Ronald Burt, migrated there to set up a guitar school. Such was his impact that major New Zealand composers, including Douglas Lilburn and David Farquhar, dedicated works to him. Today the soloist on this disc, the Brazilian-born, Gunter Herbig, enlarges on Burt’s original work as a teacher at the School of Music in Auckland. Douglas Lilburn, whose symphonic works I have so much enjoyed on two previous Naxos discs [Lilburn Orchestral Works 8.557697 and Lilburn Symphonies Nos 1–3, 8.555862], is here represented by his Seventeen Pieces, each one a short cameo, many of them left to the player’s discretion on tempo, but seemingly intended to form a work of contrasts. It is certainly not a flashy piece, much of it well within the scope of an early student, though its modern harmonic shifts will titillate the ear. Two short Unpublished Pieces follow in similar mood, the final four tracks of Lilburn being taken from incidental music he has composed for plays, the two Hamlet pieces being particularly atmospheric. David Farquhar had been a student of Lilburn before studying in the UK. His 1966 Suite was dedicated to Burt. His Prospero Dreaming takes its theme from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, at that point where you will find the words We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and seeks to awaken New Zealand’s empathy with Prospero’s Enchanted Island. There is nothing here, as with the remainder of the disc, to challenge the player’s technique, but Herbig produces a nice sound, at times conjuring up a dreamy peacefulness. The engineering is good.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group