UT Orpheus CH 353
I have never come across Venicio Palumbo before. The back cover tells us he is a lutenist as well as a guitarist who has played in theatre and along with ancient music groups. He certainly knows his way around the guitar.
This is the 1st of 3 volumes of Characteristic pieces, these all grouped together under the theme of emotions.
Some are solemn and dark, stylistic and above all – distinctive. This is a refreshing new voice speaking to us and some of his ideas leap off the page as sparklingly inventive. You add to this the fact that he writes beautifully idiomatically, and you nearly have a very good collection of ten pieces.
But the word ‘nearly’ reveals that they are, in my view, compositional near – misses. Time and again he commences with an uplifting idea, creating a wonderful atmosphere. But often he lets it slip.
It slips because he cannot maintain its lovely ‘un-triadic’ harmonic stature. His guitaristic instincts win over the compositional ones and he will sacrifice the development of a sound-world he is exploring for a chord texture he likes. That world is a deeply attractive texture of 9ths and adjacent-string 2nds… but it’s foreign to his original idea, and it’s a sound-world we know all too well and have played ourselves a hundred times.
I was disappointed, because he displays so much promise as a writer. If he was truer to his compositional ideas and did not follow his fingers, these could have been fabulous. As they are, they are fine miniatures, often with A-B-A structures, which reveal a meticulous guitarist and individual voice.
The similarly-textured pieces are perhaps Grade 6-ish and would be a welcome diversion to some of the regular Grade 6 fayre that teachers use. I would say this book is worth getting for students who have yet to discover these well-trodden sonorities, which we know well, but may be new to them.
Younger players may we wowed by these pieces. I came close.
Colin Tommis, September 2021