CD Review


THE LEGEND OF HAGOROMO,

The Legend of Hagoromo is the latest of guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan’s CD offerings to showcase his eclectic repertoire, impressive interpretive skills, and all-around musicality.

The Hagoromo legend dates back at least to eighth century Japan and has put its stamp on a variety of artistic creations over the centuries – with perhaps the latest this wonderful 1992 guitar work by Japanese guitarist and composer Keigo Fujii.

Everything about this album is Japanese – in one way or another. Each of the nine tracks was written by a Japanese, arranged by a Japanese, or dedicated to a Japanese. If you are a Japonophile as I am, you'll love it. What I found a particularly special treat was the final two tracks – Two Japanese Idylls by Martin Max Schreiner. These pieces skillfully quote instantly recognizable classical Japanese musical idioms on classical guitar - in a way that's sure to delight. And why not? You normally hear these excerpts as parts of larger pieces played on the koto, another plucked instrument - and one which has long been central to Japanese music.

One of the things Mr. Larget-Caplan has done in this album is prove himself a worthy advocate and performer of contemporary guitar music. It’s obvious he loves it, has the necessary skill to make it come to life, and does not play this music merely to demonstrate he can do more than play the standard guitar repertoire of the past.

Hagoromo is a particularly difficult guitar piece, but you never think about that listening to this guitarist grab onto the music and surely wring out everything it has to offer. Which is a lot. The composer himself is a guitarist and knows well the capabilities of his instrument. In this piece you will find most of the guitar’s wonderful range of possibilities, from Mr. Larget-Caplan's crystalline harmonics to the flamenco rasgueado of Spanish guitar. It's also worth noting that the guitarist does a whole lot with the instrument's dynamic and coloristic possibilities.

The album’s title piece starts out with an air of mystery quickly enhanced by Mr. Larget-Caplan's gossamer-like brushing over the guitar strings. Soon you’re confronted by a bass line dramatically sculpted as a counterpoint to the quieter action on the higher strings. It's quickly evident that the guitarist owns this piece, obviously having worked through it's nuance opportunities.

Those unfamiliar with the more modern classical guitar repertoire may not know the composer and arranger Toru Takemitsu. But if you're a fan of the Great American Songbook you’ll really appreciate what he was able to do with Harold Arlen’s Over the Rainbow, and George Gershwin’s Summertime. (I suspect Arlen and Gershwin would have appreciated it too). Needless to say, Larget-Caplan does an outstanding job with both arrangements.

This album deserves five stars not only because of the wonderful things Mr. Larget-Caplan was able to do with this technically challenging music, but also because of his willingness to do more than his fair share in bringing the classical guitar into the contemporary music arena.