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Album Review

Lou Harrison has not written much for the guitar, a shame. For Serenado, David Tanenbaum has rounded up about every guitar piece in his book and transcribed a few more for harp and piano to come up with a delightful program of 50-so minutes. Writing for the instrument, Harrison favored simplicity and conciseness (many tracks clock in at under three minutes), developing gripping melodies in unusual modes and tunings. The set includes one work previously unrecorded, "Scenes From Nek Chand," written in 2001-2002 for a custom-made microtonal National Steel Guitar. The long sustain of the instrument and Harrison's fondness for Asian melodies make the piece sound like it was written for a Chinese pipa. Its beauties are more difficult to decipher than those of the "Serenade for Guitar" (1978), a piece that may very well appeal to guitarists with no prior contact with contemporary music. The six harp pieces, presented first in the track list, are more spacious. Their mannered grace seems to be borrowed once again from Asian ceremonial music. The presence of simple percussion accompaniment in some of them (by William Winant, Scott Evans, and Joel Davel) adds a flavor reminiscent of Harry Partch's later works (even though they were much more percussive than that). What strikes in Serenado is how easy it is to listen to and how easy Tanenbaum makes the scores appear. Some may consider this part of Harrison's oeuvre to be too light, but for the newcomer it makes a very gentle and enjoyable point of entry. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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