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Smaro Gregoriadou's 'A Healing Fire' is an enjoyable anthology, beautifully played and handsomely recorded / theartsdesk

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One interesting aspect of Greek guitarist Smaro Greoriadou's playing is her willingness to experiment technically, the tunings and instruments chosen to suit the musical requirements of each work. So, her transcription of Bach's Violin Sonata No. 2 follows the composer's own keyboard version in switching from A minor to D minor, Gregoriadou using a guitar tuned a major third higher than usual. Her choice pays off, the instrument's leaner, crisper timbre closer to that of the harpsichord. There's an intensity and tautness to the sound which heightens the music's expressivity. Every flourish in Bach's opening "Grave" tells, followed by a cogent, elegant fugue. And I like the steely power of the final movement, music described by Gregoriadou as "smooth but assertive". For the rest of the disc we slip back down to conventional tuning, both instruments fitted with pedal mechanisms allowing the sound to be modified by the player. The one familiar work is Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, a sequence of variations based on Dowland's "Come, heavy sleep", the theme only appearing at the very end. This is thorny, late Britten, the spare textures easily offset by the warmth of Gregoriadou's playing, the arrival of the Dowland melody an effective coup de théâtre.

Sofia Gubaidulina's Serenade dates from 1960, three minutes of arresting but pained musing, ending suddenly and serenely with a G major chord. Rarer still is the Op. 41 Suite by French-Canadian composer Jacques Hétu. He described himself in 1996 as "a rather solitary hiker", a follower of Dutilleux rather than Boulez. This five-movement work is an accessible treat, Hétu's language alluding to conventional tonality while remaining distinct and fresh. As with Hindemith, thickets of thorny dissonance have a habit of resolving, magically, onto consonant chords. An enjoyable anthology, beautifully played and handsomely recorded, Gregoriadou's stated objective to "offer encouragement and hope against today's dystopia and chaos" accomplished with ease.

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