Berliner Skizzen/Berlin Sketches. Vol.2. for guitar. Hagen Barz. Edition Dohr. 18923
Hagen Barz is unfamiliar to this reviewer so I was curious to open the pages of this yellow easy-to-play book. I was presented with Volume Two ; I have no idea if this is a progression from a Volume One.
Anyone who has attempted to write engaging music for the elementary guitarist knows how hard it is. The requirement to “keep it simple” and yet explore the melodic and harmonic resources of the instrument have tripped up many.
Not so Hagen. He says these are mostly right hand exercises and he finds pleasing sonorities with p/i combinations, interesting upper and lower lines, thumb studies, off-beat & catchy 4th string tunes, and generally a pretty sound-world which I think might delight youthful ears.
This is intelligent writing ; when exploring upper and lower entries, he tends to alternate rather than superimpose them, so that counterpoint is more intimated than executed. The player will need good control of the dreaded open strings, lest they ring through and persist across bar lines when unwelcome.
I thought I started to get to ‘know’ Hagen musically by the end, although one piece called ‘Nach dem Regen’ didn’t work for me ; I found it a bit weird and incoherent. But that was an exception. I also found myself wanting to re-write one bar of his ‘Nebelschweigen’ when he pushed the harmonic implications where I did not want them to go, and was I working with this piece as a teacher, I might present the student with the alternative!
If I had to criticise it compositionally, I might notice an over-reliance on the D.S. al Coda structure, which honestly began to grate a little. But it is unlikely a student would play the twelve included pieces consecutively, so that irritation will not bother most.
The standard is perhaps Grade 2 or 3-ish and such students will find much to enjoy in Hagen’s imaginative writing. He needs to be congratulated for adding to the repertoire for the early player.