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Limelight, December 2011

2011 Limelight classical gift guide

Any teens turned off by the apparent geekiness of classical music will have to rethink their position after listening to Ingwe. In this hour-long electric guitar solo by Australian composer Georges Lentz, shrieking amplified sound clashes with the vast emptiness of the Australian desert. It’s like Jimi Hendrix out in the wilderness playing to the stars. And Zane gives Jimi a run for his money. © 2011 Limelight See complete list

Andrew Morris
MusicWeb International, November 2011

An hour-long work for solo electric guitar might not sound like the best idea in the world, but in the hands of composer Georges Lentz it’s an hour of startling power. Lentz was born in Luxembourg but lives in Australia, and has spent two decades composing music for a monumental series of works: Caeli enarrant… (The Heavens are Telling (Psalm XIX)). Ingwe means ‘night’ in the indigenous Australian language of Aranda, and it’s a very dark night of the soul exposed in this episode from the larger sub-cycle Mysterium, the seventh segment of Caeli enarrant.

Ingwe conjures visions of sand-blasted expanses in its depiction of the vast barrenness of the Australian outback, which itself serves as a metaphor for the spiritual vacuum contemplated by Lentz as he ponders the uncaring void of the universe. There’s no text here expounding Lentz’s point of view, but it’s amply communicated by the wailing intensity of Zane Bank’s electric guitar which is rich in imagery and suggestion. At moments, we are enveloped by unyielding storms of sound—or maybe wind and sand—while another moment seems to depict the passing of a giant freight train which melts into the distance. Slices of silence punctuate the wall of noise, while the work’s conclusion is the most violent episode of all; a series of cataclysmic bassy strokes that grow and grow in volume, bringing to my mind an image of bombs being dropped on an already dead city.

If all this sounds rather one-note, there are many episodes of quiet reflection to counter the charge and, in the seventh of the eight continuous sections, an unexpected moment of clarity in the form of a soulful and tender melody picked out on the guitar. This begins with chords emerging intermittently only as the guitar’s volume is turned up, producing gripping gulfs between the rise and fade of the sound. Throughout the work, the variety of timbre and technique that Lentz and Banks draw from the guitar is fascinating and makes this a genuinely involving hour that passes much faster than it feels it might at the outset.

Ingwe is Naxos’s second disc of Lentz’s music and features excellent notes from Richard Toop who gives a valuable guide through to the work. The earlier disc (8.557019) includes further segments of Mysterium, and we can only hope that Naxos bring us more slices of Lentz’s continuing cycle.

Paulino GarcĂ­a Blanco
Ritmo, November 2011

This recording, an electric guitar solo of an hour’s duration, could be included in that category that usually belongs to “rarities”.

However, for its author, Luxembourg-born Australian composer Georges Lentz, Ingwe is seventh stage of a vast project, an open work yet to be concluded, a work of strong introspection, inspired in a certain way by the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ by St John of the Cross.

The impressive array of effects, tensions, subtleties and gut-wrenching chords that hold together Ingwe (“night” in aboriginal language) is really amazing. Its passages with saturated or distorted pedal remind without shame the great progressive rock guitarists of the 70’s, but let’s not be fooled, this great solo is no dreamlike improvisation for an electric guitar virtuoso but, on the contrary, all the material follows a rigid structure that folds to a strict structure of tempo relationships in which guitarist Zane Banks expresses the possibilities of his Fender Stratocaster to the point of making believable material that translates into sighs, cry, scream or serene contemplation.

For open minds that want to check out the expressive charge of this instrument.

See original review in Spanish

Steve Moffatt
Wenthworth Courier, September 2011

You might not expect a contemporary classical composer’s work to appear alongside recordings by rock legend Jimi Hendrix in your music shop, but then Georges Lentz is no ordinary musician.

Making his daily, or rather, nightly bread and butter in the first violin section of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Luxembourg-born Sydney composer has been using his spare time creating an extraordinary body of work.

For more than 20 years he has been working on his cycle Caeli enarrant (The heavens are telling), inspired by the Hubble telescope’s images of outer space, interwoven with aspects of Aboriginal culture and man’s spirituality.

Each work takes years to prepare and they are written for a combination of instruments, including some for full orchestra.

But the latest in the cycle is very different, even by Lentz’s standards. Called Ingwe, and released on the budget Naxos label (8.572483), it features a single electric guitar, played by Zane Banks, who studied both classical and jazz guitar at Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Ingwe means night, but this night is not so much the brilliant Outback sky that has inspired so many of Lentz’s other works as “the dark night of the soul”, or spiritual crisis in the search for God.

“I see the desolation of the Outback as a metaphor for the spiritual changes I have been going through in recent years and of which my music must be a reflection,” Lentz says in the liner notes.

This is an uncompromising hour-long work, a shout of black despair to the heavens which have been so silent, Lentz says.

Although not a tribute to Hendrix, Lentz nevertheless recognises that the American guitar genius was able to infuse his music with anger, violence and great beauty.

Limelight, September 2011

The electric guitar has long been the bogeyman of classical music. Despite the best efforts of composers from Tippett through to Reich, it often remains a suspicious visitor from a far more raucous culture. Zane Banks, a spirited young guitarist from Sydney, is determined to challenge such a view, beginning with this outstanding debut.

Ingwe is a seriously ambitious work that, at an hour’s length, may well be the longest contemporary classical composition yet written for the instrument. Australian Georges Lentz is a deeply honest composer for whom every note has personal meaning and for whom the world is a mysterious and at times sorrowful place. His massive cycle Caeli enarrant…, drawing in the bulk of his oeuvre since 1989, has become for Lentz a sort of “downward cycle” that reflects his growing disillusionment with the idea of God, a painful prognosis for a spiritually sensitive artist.

He wrote the first fragments of Ingwe late one night in his car after hearing the haunted tunings of a guitarist in an outback pub and completed the first draft years later in a Benedictine monastery in Luxembourg. Unlike many works for electric guitar Ingwe eschews rock clichés, instead building an original and at times quite frightening psychological landscape.

Banks gives a masterful interpretation of this dark yet compelling work, subtly twisting the shapes through tonal shifts and chiaroscuro. Naxos has slowly morphed from a simple budget label into a default site for interesting and progressive recordings, and this powerful disc is no exception.

Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide, September 2011

The title of this work means “night” in the Aranda language. Tempos are fluid…we’ve got bent notes, feedback, screaming scales, low-register dissonances, and power chords…Softer passages use tapping effects…We also hear harmonics and passages that play with the volume control to eliminate the initial attack and produce the illusion of sustained sounds. There are passages of extreme crescendos, created by the amplification. The close of the work is a series of pounding notes on the lowest string, which is gradually lowered in its tuning until it ceases to vibrate and only rattles.

The structure of the work is coherent, and if you find the concept interesting, you may want to hear this. Guitarist Zane Banks performs like an expert. He is trained in classical and jazz guitar and is active in the new music scene (not pop) in Australia.

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

cybermusic, July 2011

What an amazing work! Not sure—is it classical, is it rock? There are a few other classical works for solo electric guitar now, including Vampyr by Tristan Murail and TV Trash Trance by Fausto Romitelli (another great composer BTW), but nothing on anywhere near this scale. Where some of these other works can at times seem a little gimmicky, going through one technique / rock cliche after another, Ingwe is never gratuitiously effect-driven (although it does contain many unusual sounds and techniques, revealed progressively over the course of its long span). I admire the great seriousness of it all, so unfashionable these days…Great pacing too—justifies the length, as it somehow always feels right and never gets boring for a second—very organic, like breathing. Warning though—this is pretty dark and confronting stuff ; but then art often does confront the darker side of our nature doesn’t it (speaks to me very powerfully of many things, some of which may or may not have been intended by the composer—like personal grief, the violence of the world out there, the sorry state of good old Mother Earth…)

Very polished performance by a talented young Australian guitarist, Zane Banks. Quie a feat to have such a long virtuoso piece under your belt, and Banks does it with bravura. Someone to watch out for [BTW you can see him talk about the work in an interesting if somewhat rambling 5 part YouTube doco about Ingwe—type in “Georges Lentz Ingwe”.

Georges Lentz is a composer who writes slowly and deliberately, but when he does have something new, it always seems to be MASTERPIECE, so definitely worth the wait. One of the really great composers writing today, and one of his most important works. Very highly recommended.

Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog, June 2011

With the advent of the fully cranked metal guitar as played by various luminaries from Hendrix to Van Halen and beyond, with the help of their handmaidens the electrical engineers who developed amplifier, stomp box, and guitar electronic technology to where it is today, it was inevitable that the sonic arsenal such players could unleash be utilized for forms of music beyond rock. Of course jazz fusion incorporated the sound possibilities early on, and people such as Terje Rypdal pioneered the use of highly sustained sound in works of a classical nature.

And so we live in a time when the release of Georges Lentz’s Ingwe (Naxos 8.572483) not only does not shock, it seems quite natural. What we have is a recording of a full length piece for solo electric guitar, played with a bit of dash and flair by Zane Banks. It is, as you have gathered, a work that makes full use of the sounds and techniques of heavy metal guitarcraft.

There are sections of relative quiet; there are sections of bravadosian crank; there are passages somewhere in between. I am not entirely sure that what we have here is a masterpiece, but it does make excellent use of the shred style for a long formed piece of great atmosphere. It should appeal to those who hear the idea and say to themselves, “what a cool thing to do!” If your reaction to the concept is something other than that you may find yourself better looking elsewhere for some musical stimulation. Kudos for Lentz and Banks!

Qobuz, May 2011

A classical work of one hour, in one go, for solo electric guitar? The “normal” music lover might think that this is stretching it a bit. And it might be, but the experience is worth it, so we listened to Caeli enarrant from beginning to end. It is true that the electric guitar sound itself will inevitably evoke the wildest moments of Jimi Hendrix’s or Led Zeppelin’s rock, with their outrageous and diabolically inventive solos, but those musicians were improvising, whereas Georges Lentz’s work is completely written out, although a couple of passages leave some freedom to the performer. One discovers the infinite wealth of sounds of this instrument which, one has to admit, does not need to be envious of IRCAM’s computers or the tapes of the Donaueschingen/Darmstadt avantgarde.

The wildness of certain sonorities is opposed to the infinite gentleness of other techniques which offer barely audible sounds, shadows of far-away ghosts, echos of transparent reverberations; and Lentz’s construction (he was born in Luxembourg but has long been living in Australia) is rigorously classic/contemporary. Try this without preconceived ideas—your ears won’t believe it.

See original review in French

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2011

Born in Luxembourg and now resident in Australia, Georges Lentz, positions himself among the avant garde of progressive composers, Ingwe a work for electric guitar lasting around one hour. Let me say from the outset that this is not a score for those who have advanced no further than Stockhausen, and even they will have a culture shock. It takes its inspiration from the late sixties and the era of the solo improvisations from the likes of Hendrix and Page when they were taking the instrument to the edge of sound and virtuosity. Here it screams, objects and assails the ear, the score presently in six sections, though it is an ongoing experiment. ‘In this sense, Ingwe is a tormented, almost demonic meditation about God’s silence and the impossibility of praying, a desperate shout to the heavens, a vision of blackness’, writes the composer. I can well believe it. From therein it will be a matter of personal taste, the recording just about squeezing in the excesses of a massive dynamic range. Certainly an odd choice for Naxos, the Australian classically trained Zane Banks being the virtuoso soloist.

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