Kara Toprak (Black Earth) Domeniconi
Schnee in Istanbul Vali
Gozaar (Calligraphy No.5) Drozd
Triptych, Op. 102
Adagio, Op. 44 Schneider
Danza del Altiplano Eister
Fantasia on a Traditional Persian Song Neydavood
Morgh-eh-Sahar (Bird of Dawn) Bustamante
Lily Afshar (classical guitar & seh-tar)
Lily Afshar - Hemispheres
Monday, August 21, 2006 ARCHER RECORDS AAR 31926
Reviewed by William Yeoman
A melange of the exotic and the slightly-twisted-askew familiar awaits the listener of Tehran-born head of the University of Memphis guitar program Lily Afshars latest recording Hemispheres, with Orient and Occident dancing together in complete accord.
Ms Afshar begins her programme with an instrumental arrangement (by guitarist/composer Ricardo Moyano) of Anatolian Asik (minstrel) Asik Veysels nature song Kara Toprak (Black Earth), easing us via a taqsim (improvisatory prelude) into a hypnotic sound world where the simple melody played over a dominant-tonic progression becomes increasingly ecstatic. Italian composer Carlo Domeniconis wistful Schnee in Istanbul (Snow in Istanbul) follows, Afshars full, sweet tone emphasising this gentle portrait, before the quiet mood is shattered by the colourful and intense Gozaar by Reza Vali, the Persian mode of which necessitates the use of extra frets inserted into the fretboard to accomodate the quarter-tones.
Gerard Drozds Triptych, written for Ms. Afshar and here receiving its premiere recording, forms a tightly-organised suite, with a toccata-like Prelude reminiscent of Ponces psuedo-baroque writing leading to the dreamy Eternal Song before the capricious and whimsical Dreams of a Clown brings the work to its close. The next three pieces also look back to baroque forms, with John Schneiders Prelude and Fugato (their complex part-writing displaying Ms. Afshars ability in delineating multiple voices through the use of tone colour and dynamics) being followed by Drozds homage to Bach with his Adagio in the style of an Italianate concerto movement.
Danza del Altiplano by Leo Brouwer pays homage a sort as well, being based on a Peruvian folk tune Viva Jujury; here Ms. Afshar relishes the chiaroscuro offered up by the dark harmonies and jaunty rhythms before entering the entirely different sound world of another world premiere recording, Garry Eisters Fantasia on a Traditional Persian Song. Its rich resonance and improvisatory character is directly inspired by the improvisations of the Seh-tar (a traditional Persian instrument with a long, thin neck, small body and four strings) masters, and just how close Eister manages to get to the spirit of this music is demonstrated by the next work, (the melody of which is directly quoted by Eister), Morteza Neydavoodd Morgh-eh-Sahar (Bird of Dawn), which Ms. Afshar plays on a Seh-tar. The programme is then brought to a festive conclusion with Fernando Bustamantes Misionera, an Argentinean work for harp and guitars or piano and arranged for solo guitar by Jorge Morel
Ms. Afshars considerable technique and good taste (none of the works is ever over-sold) is equalled by excellent booklet notes and a warm, if slightly close, recorded sound. Lovers of guitar music should derive much pleasure from this undemanding yet superbly crafted repertoire especially with such an advocate as Lily Afshar to hand.