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Review by Raymond Tuttle

SIMONNE DRAPER Espanola 1 . Canzonetta dell’Aria 2 . Legenda Lila 3 . Canzonetta dell’Alba 4 . Canzonetta del Sonno 5 . Finesa 6 . La Danza dei Ritmi 7 . Nostalgitana 8 . Canzonetta dell’Acqua 9 . Dolorosa 10 . La Danza dei Bassi 11 Simonne Draper, 3,6,8 Patrik Henel, 10,11 Helena Slavíková (gtr); 10,11 Jirí Zmek (perc) MSR 1719 (40:17)

For me, this CD, entitled Portraits in Guitar, occupies that ill-defined territory between classical music and music intended for “easy listening.” These are not developed “pieces” or “works” in the classical sense as much as they are wordless songs—but of course there are plenty of wordless classical songs out there, so as soon as you stick a label on something, someone else might come along and peel it off. The other challenge I faced, related to this release, was the use of an “electronic orchestra” in seven of the 11 tracks. Over the years, I have asked to not review a handful of CDs simply because I could not get past the ersatz quality of such orchestras. However, composer-guitarist Simonne Draper, who is credited with playing (is that the right word?) the electronic orchestra here, has done so with taste and discretion, and after all, it is her guitar, and her melodic inventiveness, that are the stars on this CD, not the accompaniments.

According to the materials that come with this CD, Draper was born in the former Czechoslovakia, raised in Moravia, and influenced by the music of Dvořák, Smetana, and Janáček, as well as by rock music and pop. After studying law in her homeland, she spent time in England, but returned home in 2008 and and devoted herself at that time to music composition. She is also a fine visual artist, and you can see several of her paintings on the Saatchi Art website.

This is not an important CD, in the global sense, but I found it extremely enjoyable. Draper plays the guitar beautifully, in a classical style that is lyrical and clean. Her comfort with the Spanish style of guitar playing can be heard in tracks such as the opening Espanola. What I like even better, though, is the music itself. As I have already suggested, this is not emotionally or intellectually challenging music (although compared to contemporary pop music in the United States, Draper is practically the Three Bs rolled into one), but it is melodically satisfying, extremely well put-together, and, eminently memorable. The tunes get stuck in one’s ear. I was particularly entertained by the aforementioned Espanola and a track titled Nostalgitana. This is music to enjoy toward the mellow end of a sunny day. The second guitarists, who are heard on five of the tracks, add to the music’s richness, and the percussionist adds a little rhythmic interest without beating us, or the music, over the head with it.

All in all, while Portraits in Guitar is not a life-changing epiphany, it is smooth and very easy to like. Spend an evening listening to it by yourself, or slip it on the stereo when you have guests over. I would be surprised if they do not make appreciative comments and ask you where you found this music. So be a trend-setter, or simply do yourself a favor by spending time with a composer-performer whose musical talents make me glad that she did not pursue law further. The world needs more beauty like this; it does not need more lawyers! Raymond Tuttle

 

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