Brett Gunther

This Is Classical Guitar

Brett Gunther – An Idea
Album Info & Sales (iTunes, Spotify, Google, et al): brettgunther.com

Canadian guitarist Brett Gunther recently released a new album with sound production by Ralph Maier. Gunther is an excellent guitarist, educator, and organizer. He teaches at Mount Royal University & Conservatory in Calgary, Alberta, is artistic director of the Calgary Classical Guitar Society, and director of GuitarFest West over the summers. An Idea is Brett Gunther’s 2017 follow up to his debut album Guitar Music. Featured here is a selection of some of his favorite composers from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries featuring works by Schubert, Mertz, Legnani, Moreno-Torroba, Bach, Brouwer, and Giuliani. I particularly liked Gunther’s very musical touch on the Brouwer and his performance of the Torroba breathes new life into the work.

Exciting performances, thoughtful interpretations, and sensitive musicality make An Idea by Brett Gunther a welcomed addition to any music library.

Brett Gunther is a tireless advocate for the classical guitar, and the Calgary guitar community reaps the benefits. His knowledge, passion and enthusiasm are infectious. Whether playing concerts, teaching lessons or organizing events, Brett’s work inspires everyone around him into action!  

-Holly Blazina, Flamenco Guitarist and Instructor

http://www.hollyblazina.ca/

 

wilbeau.wordpress.com

Today is a guest post dealing with issues of bi-musicality with respect to the role it plays in the life of the marvelous guitarist from Calgary: Brett Gunther. I first met Brett when he was starting a Master’s program at University of Calgary, then sometime last year I began noticing him posting pictures from various pop music venues with bandmates. I started thinking about the relationship many of us classical guitarists have with popular music. Since I have never had the band experience it seemed natural to ask questions of someone who had. The questions I posed to him were:

1] what changes do you notice in your classical guitar practice [playing of teaching] that result from your experience  working in in another musical context i.e.  a pop music band?

and

2] in what ways has you classical background helped/hindered your growth as a popular musician?

The following is Brett’s response:

Both of these questions are difficult to answer: both styles have been a part of my life since I’ve been playing guitar.  In many ways I’ve found myself feeling almost embarrassed about my background as a popular musician when I’m performing in classical music circles and audiences, and I’ve had the exact same feeling playing in bands in bars and clubs trying to explain to people that I play, perform, and study classical music as well, trying to explain to them why it’s just as fascinating and exciting to me.

I think it's easier to understand my interest in both worlds by first considering myself as a music lover before ever considering myself a musician.  I hadn’t been playing guitar long, perhaps only a couple of years, before I started playing in band with friends.  At the same time I was already studying classical guitar quite seriously with a teacher.  Through playing with bands I was very quickly introduced to the “all ages” music scene in Calgary and exposed to non-mainstream music and musicians in these sort of sub culture scenes and venues that were very far removed from what was being played on radio and television.

As my interest in seeking out non-mainstream music was developing, I was getting exposed to classical guitar compositions that I quickly realized were a sub culture of classical music itself.  Going to a classical guitar concert was just as obscure and off the beaten path as going to see some independent punk or hardcore band.  The term DIY (do it yourself) was always thrown around in the punk rock scene, but when a performer is playing a concert with nothing but a guitar and a chair to and audience of 20 people in a rented out church…..how DIY can you get!?

I think my entire musical life has been really just looking for the next “fix” and everything I listen to sends me down another path wondering what else is out there.  Right now I have to say that I’m spending most of my time listening to Glenn Gould, and complete collections of orchestral compositions from figures such as Mahler conducted by Bernstein and Bruckner conducted by Karajan, and then trying to enrich my playing on our funny little instrument with this in my ear.  Will I ever find that feeling I got when I first heard the Serenade for Horn, Tenor, and Strings by Britten with Peter Pears’ voice, or the chills I got hearing Ives’ 2nd Piano Sonata?  What about the first time my dad put Led Zeppelin IV on the turn table or time I saw my first punk rock show with I-Spy?  Or how about the first time I heard Segovia play Ponce’s Sonata Romantica and Tarrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra?

I realize this is becoming a bit of a long answer, but I think it’s the only way I can really explain how both are part of my life.  I wish many more people would discover classical music for themselves, and I wish many more classical musicians could go a little out of their way to discover ‘popular music’ outside of the mainstream.  I certainly don’t mean to say that I’ve balanced both worlds or have all the answers, or even come close to listening to it all but I’ll certainly try, just like I’ll try to figure out how to play guitar one of these days!

So to answers both of these questions all I can say is that I firmly believe that both worlds have enriched my playing on either side of things.  I could say some long boring things about how one has improved my technique, while the other has improved my ear (could be either one by the way), and although maybe at times I’ve felt that I’ve needed to identify with one over the other I think I’ve settled on the fact that both are a part of my life.

I will be posing more questions to Brett in the future, and wish to thank him for his generous response.

This Is Classical Guitar

Brett Gunther – Guitar Music
Website: brettgunther.com
Listen to samples or Buy: Guitar Music (via Amazon)

For those of you who don’t know Brett Gunther, he is a great guitarist and educator on faculty over at Mount Royal University-Conservatory in Calgary, Alberta. He is also the artistic director of the Calgary Classical Guitar Society. I was just in Calgary last November adjudicating and stayed with Brett which was a treat. He kindly gave me a copy of his CD while I was there. Actually, I was curiously hovering over it at a concert as the cover photo is him sitting on the edge of the stage of the Alix Goolden Hall of the Victoria Conservatory where I teach!

This recording is from a few years ago (2012) so it’s not a new release, but hey, it’s my blog so I can review whatever I want right?

Repertoire:
Junto Al Generalife (Rodrigo)
Nocturnal (Britten)
Un Sueno En La Floresta (Barrios)
Song to the Mother (Moller)
Rito De Los Orishas (Brouwer)
Fantasia On Themes from Verdi’s La Traviata (Tarrega)
Koyunbaba (Domeniconi)

Gunther gives a solid performance on all the works but the highlights for me were the Brouwer and the Domeniconi. The Brouwer is a well known piece but not recorded as often as the other works on the album. This track impressed me due its combination of virtuosity and overall mood. With all the twists and turns, insistent motifs, and usual Brouwer “slur it up” extravaganzas it doesn’t come off as all frills. Brett’s performance gave me the chills and made this the most convincing work on the album (which, by the way, I would rarely say of any Brouwer). Fantastic work Brett.

Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70 by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was composed in 1963 for guitarist Julian Bream and is one of the guitar repertoire masterpieces. Here Brett’s solid playing is expanded with some nice atmospheric colours. In particular, the slower movements such as Musingly are perfectly paced. RestlessUneasy, and Dreaming also display a great sense of mood and musical direction.  I thought some of the faster movements could have benefitted from a quicker tempo or could have been more extroverted..something. Overall a good performance of this large set of reverse variations.

The other works offer more of the guitar canon. The Rodrigo has Spanish flare and Brett pulls it off nicely including some quick and beautiful tremolo moments, interweaving dark motifs, and impressive dance and scale work. The Barrios has some sweet and touching moments and a beautiful tremolo performance as well. The Tarrega is well played and phrased with all the Romantic bells and whistles.

The Domeniconi is wonderfully executed. I guess I should say it is the true highlight of the album because it’s so well played here. I hear it so often that I sometimes don’t want to write about it. Nevertheless the presto is blazing fast and super impressive. There are also some great rock-like shots in there. [Brett, we should exchange metal riffs next time I’m in Calgary!]

The recording quality is pretty ‘live’ sounding which I sometimes prefer over the studio close mic that beefs of up the bass. But it’s a touch bright on occasion. That said, it’s clear which is good. The colour variations in the Britten were well captured which is another plus.  This is the sound you can expect from your average debut album these days and it works just fine. Actually, on the Domeniconi I think the recording quality actually enhanced it, sounded like my old Ravi Shankar recordings.

As a debut recording this is a fantastic success. Gunther plays some of the guitar’s most beloved works and showcases his versatility as a skilled player. The Brouwer comes off as a refined artistic expression and listeners will be impressed with his musicality and sense of space and direction in the Britten, Moller, and Domeniconi. Guitarists out there will be interested to hear his solid performances of the Rodrigo, Barrios, and Tarrega. The Domeniconi is super impressive and provides all the flash and momentum one could want. This recording is from 2012 so I already know that the next recording will be a big step up from this one but Gunther can be proud of this enjoyable debut.

Brett Gunther is one of Western Canada’s finest guitarists and I eagerly await his next release.