In my mind, Randy Hathaway’s “Classical Guitar In America” feels like an Opus. With a capitol “O”. An artistic work on a large scale. It’s serious, it’s broad, it meticulous. And it’s a joy to know that there are artists conducting work with this type of quality and vision.
The foundation of the album is classical guitar (hence the title), to which Hathaway adds additional guitars, vocalists, flute and viola as needed. The result is a variety of arrangements that keep you wondering what’s next.
As I listened to the tracks, three specific words came to mind.
This recording is “warm” in two senses:
Firstly, the compositions themselves have that organic sense of traditional melody which is so welcoming. This album is not a Duchamp, it is a Winslow Homer.
Secondly, the recording quality itself is very good. All instruments are acoustic, so the timbres of guitar, strings, flute, and voice come through richly.
The overall tone of the album is reflective. While the melodies are beautiful, they tend towards the thoughtful.
This is an album for a long drive – not for cleaning the house.
The compositions adhere to the famous design quote:
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Hathaway has encapsulated this principle in an austere musical form where every note, every instrument, every theme is carefully chosen. The result (at least for me), is that it draws me in. Like someone who speaks quietly and chooses their words carefully – you can’t help but lean forward and hang on every sentence.
And A Final Word…
Finally, I will say that the album is truly evocative. I was listening to one of the tracks and thought, “Hmm, this song feels exactly like autumn – I can almost feel the leaves falling and the brisk wind blowing.” I looked over at the album and, no kidding, the title of the song was “Autumn”.
Hathaway has managed to create compositions and arrangements that evoke landscapes and moods with remarkable clarity.
Take a listen.
Note: This album is not on all streaming services (as I’ve become so used to). Listen to previews on the website, which is extremely well done.
Classical Guitar In America by Randy Hathaway
Website | Released: 2017
From the Publisher:
Randy Hathaway’s debut 2 CD set, Classical Guitar In America, has been released Fifteen compositions are performed by eighteen musicians in various solo and ensemble configurations. Included within are thirteen guitarists, three vocalists, a flutist and violist.
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Randy’s compositions illustrate tonalities of North American, European and Latin origins. Depictions of 19th century American migrations, images of a cafe in Paris and themes in the Spanish spirit are exhibited. From substantial works of over 16 minutes to petite art songs, Randy’s style is recognizable throughout.
Over 3 years in production, this uniquely immense project celebrates the classical guitar in a variety of different settings. Along with this recording, all compositions have been rendered into sheet music with ten artists contributing images for the covers.
- American Sonata (6:01)
- Garden (02:23)
- Le Beau Tango (03:29)
- Autumn (07:19)
- Engage (07:32)
- Spring Overture (08:10)
- Psalms (07:32)
- Gypsy de Malaga (05:48)
- Exodus (16:59)
- Winter’s Arrival (06:25)
- Concord (08:07)
- Diurnal Summer (06:08)
- a Song of Songs (03:49)
- Song of the Ballerina (02:57)
- Farewell (03:33)