Date: July 04 2012
The release of a new CD by guitarist brothers Slava and Leonard Grigoryan is always an eagerly awaited event and their latest recording, of a special arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Four Seasons, was released on June 29.
Movements from this work will form the first part of a concert at Canberra Southern Cross Club in Woden on July 19 and in the second segment the pair will play guitar music from Brazil and Argentina and other favourites from their extensive repertoire.
Both Grigoryans are always busy. At present Slava, as artistic director of the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, is hard at work gathering performers for four days of performance at the Adelaide Festival Centre from August 9-12. One performer there will be the Brazilian composer Paulo Bellinati.
''He's a fantastic composer,'' Slava says, ''and we've been playing a lot of his music. We always play some music from Brazil or Argentina but at the moment it's more from Brazil. It's a really huge repertoire to draw on.'' Pieces by Bellinati will be on the Southern Cross program.
Leonard has just recently returned from Norway where he recorded his first solo album at the renowned ECM studio in Oslo. Founded by the producer Manfred Eicher in 1969 the studio has put many musicians on the map. ''ECM specialises in both classical and jazz music,'' Leonard says. ''A lot of famous recordings were made there with the same sound engineer - a lot of Keith Jarrett stuff and Ralph Towner. That was the thing that made me want to go over there and try to record something.''
The brothers agree that it's great to play together.
''We're constantly thanking our stars that we get along so well,'' Slava says. ''We like the same music. We really plan the programs jointly. There are directions that I lean towards and my brother leans towards a few different areas. We try to mix the programs as evenly as possible.''
Leonard studied improvisation for a year at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. ''It's something that perhaps I'm a bit more seriously interested in,'' he says. ''We both do it and Slava's very good at it but I've perhaps delved a bit more deeply into understanding how it works. You never stop learning about it. There are infinite possibilities. I particularly like the direction that the two of us are headed in - we like to combine improvisation with existing material. That's quite a nice blend. If you're working on a thing to get it as perfect as possible there are no real surprises whereas with improvisation you have the option of taking some chances and trying to create something different. Sometimes it doesn't work so well but at others you feel that it really has worked, and in musical terms that's the feeling I like to get.''
Slava agrees. ''It's obviously a very instinctive way of making music,'' he says. ''And it doesn't always work but there's an incredible joy when you know that it's worked brilliantly - it's just happened that one time and the next time it's going to be totally different.''
The new CD will consist solely of the new arrangement of Tchaikovsky's The Seasons for two guitars. ''It's a project that we're very excited about,'' Slava says. ''It feels very strange that it's actually coming out because it's been on our family list for a really long time … our father did a solo guitar arrangement when I was still living in London and over the years I've played a few movements here and there. But it's quite dense piano music and some of the movements work brilliantly for one guitar but it's very hard to cover all the material. On two guitars it's perfect and dad didn't have to transpose any of the keys except one from the original, which is pretty good considering that the guitar's got a smaller range than the piano.
''It's wonderful to hear such iconic Russian music played on the guitar. There's a lot of music that was originally composed for the piano that's now in the guitar repertoire.''
Leonard adds: ''Dad's a stickler for keeping things exactly the same as the piano version. ''Basically you're just hearing it on two guitars rather than one piano and that's interesting as well - we don't have a melody and an accompaniment part - it's all very shared.''
So the Southern Cross concert will cover a diversity of music.
''We've got a few options,'' Leonard says. ''Generally we like to balance the program between something that's very classical, a few modern pieces, some Brazilian music and some improvisation. There's a piece that William Lovelady, a London friend of ours, has written for us and we'll most likely play that and there are a few others that we haven't decided on yet. We like to keep the second set a little bit free so that we can decide which pieces to play just before we go on stage.''
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