Review of Guitar Phases by Stefan Grasse, Xolo Music, 2014
The recording career of the German guitarist Stefan Grasse crosses the contemporary paths of the blog Neuguitars thanks to this double CD released in 2014, titled “Guitar Phases”, an irresistible title for a Steve Reich’s fan like me. The work of the American composer in fact crosses and guides the entire structure of the two CDs, the first one which is nothing but the reissue of the CD “Ripples – Minimal Music for Guitar”, released in 1996 with music by Steve Reich, Leo Brouwer, Edward McGuire and Nicky Hind. Grasse had performed Electric Counterpoint, in the classical guitar version, and as the CD had been conceived as a minimalist concept, he had moved in search of other music to accompany it. Music as “Ripple” by Nicky Hind, who was asked to produce the record before, and then to contribute with a piece created starting from some musical cells created by Grasse himself, reworked by the composer as patterns and transformed, filtered through the echo effects.
Pieces as “Dark Cloud” by Edward McGuire, composed in 1991, considered an answer to “Blue Sky and Smile” by Leo Brouwer and “built” with eight tracks for solo guitar. From Leo Brouwer we also find “Cuban Lansacape with Rain”, composed for a guitars’ quartet that presents in the introduction and final elements minimalist, but that I think doesn’t match very well, compared to the matrix of other minimalistic music. The second CD is the continuation of the first one and always presents Reich as a tutelary deity. In 1998 Grasse received the Nagoya Marimbas guitar’s version, renamed and arranged as Nagoya Guitars by David Tanenbaum, and began to organize a repertoire to continue the journey begun with “Ripples – Minimal Music for Guitar”.
The same Grasse composes “Windmill Breeze”, music born for the theater, in particular for “Dulcinea” by Ferruccio Cainero, and inspired by Eddie McGuire’s Dark Cloud. While “Ripples” inspired the two scores by Sebastian Weber, two contapuntal compositions linked to two ancient German folk themes: “Alla tedesca Ach bittrer Winter” and “Alla tedesca Ein Madchen wollt’zum Tanze gehen” .The most interesting part of this second CD are, for me, the transcriptions made by Grasse of Piano Phase and Violin Phase, a really excellent and precise work, which translates as its best the phase shifting adopted by Reich in the original versions. If you love minimalism, this double CD should not be missed by your listening. The music is pleasant, well arranged and Grasse’s guitar is precise, clean and at the same time knows how to move in time moving within the compositions, giving them a sense of movement and a really beautiful dynamic. Let yourself be captivated by “the process”.