WALLACE: Sketches

WALLACE Sketches • Frank Wallace (gtr) • GYRE 10052 (71:08)

This recent release was sent to me for review, although it falls somewhat outside my usual purview. I am not especially fond of classical guitar music; hence I am not terribly knowledgeable about it. I was on the verge of simply discarding the disc, when my compulsive conscience coerced me to give it a fair listening. I must say I found it quite enjoyable, so I decided to bring it to your attention, with the explicit disclaimer that I presume no expertise in this area of the repertoire.

Frank Wallace is a versatile figure: Now in his mid 50s, he was born in Houston, and studied at the San Francisco Conservatory. In addition to composing and playing the guitar (and lute), he also sings, functioning as half of what is known as Duo LiveOak. The other half is his wife, the soprano and poet Nancy Knowles, and they make their music available on the Gyre label (www.gyremusic.com). 

Sketches comprises nearly 50 tiny pieces, collected into some nine different groupings based on fairly casual linkages. The music was composed between 1996 and 2004, and reflects the diverse influences of Medieval and Renaissance lute music, and an array of ethnic styles ranging from Spanish and gypsy music to some vernacular American flavors. What appeals to me about the disc is how well these influences are integrated into a varied and fairly eloquent language free of jarring incongruities, how consistently it displays an authentic expressive voice, and how high a standard of musical interest is maintained throughout the entire program. Furthermore, Wallace is clearly a master of this genre, and each selection demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the techniques and usages that show the guitar to best advantage. Wallace performs these pieces with flawless technical proficiency. My only reservation—and for me this is the limitation of the entire genre: Despite its high aesthetic standards and expert execution, the music seems so inevitably destined to serve as aural wallpaper, i.e., its impact remains unalterably in the background. But I am aware that fanciers of guitar music feel otherwise. Highly recommended to aficionados of the genre.