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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Louis Valentine Johnson, Peace, with the Dos Almas String Quartet

Classical guitarist Louis Valentine Johnson teams up with the Dos Almas String Quartet for Peace (Dos Almas DA 2019), a collection of some timeless music mostly contemporary yet in the tradition of the Spanish guitar legacy. Three works get idiomatic, warm treatment--"The Peace Concerto" by Johnson himself, "Toccata, Evocation, & Fandango" by Mark A. Radice (arranged by Philip Rothman) and "Allegretto in B Minor, Opus 35, Number 22" by Fernando Sor (arranged by Johnson).

The highly sonorous possibilities of classical guitar and string quartet see three happy realizations that spring forward with lyrical consonances in the wider Spanish tradition.

Johnson's own "Peace Concerto" has a post-Aranquez beauty in its middle "Song of Peace" and elaborate interactions on the closing movement "The Question." The opening "Portraits" has a rugged thematic character. It is all quite pleasing and well worth the ear time.

The program  opener "Toccata, Evocation & Fandango" by Mark A Radice has a complementary Spanish-Neo-Classical  meditative air to it that the Fandango conclusion stirs up with a spirit that paints the guitar in the center of an expressive flourish that the quartet seconds nicely.

Sor's "Allegretto in B Minor" holds forth in short and sweet fashion to bring a palate cleanser of sorts before the centerpiece Concerto of Johnson's.

This is not music meant to stand on a contemporary cutting edge but it is memorable and that is what matters. Anyone who revels in the classical guitar will find in this program much to like, I think. The "Peace Concerto" will likely stay in your mind as the central linchpin, but regardless the music and performances hang together as one continually unified stylistic gesture. Johnson and company wax eloquently. In tough times like these the music helps brighten the mood and we do need that now very much. Kudos.

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