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“Adam Levin: 21st Century Spanish Guitar, Volume 4”
Eduardo Morales-Caso: Concierto de La Herradura [1]
Leonardo Balada: Caprichos n° 14 [2]
Jorge Muñiz: Portraits from the Heartland [2]
José Luis Turina: Arboretum [2]
Salvador Brotons: Sonata Sefardita, opus 143 [2]

Adam Levin (guitar), Orquesta de Extremadura [1]
Recording: Palacio de Congresos, Badajoz, Spain (January 10, 2020 [1]) and Futura Productions, Roslindale, Boston, Massachusetts (December 2020 – March 2021 [2]) – 111’42
Frameworks Records 93888 – Booklet in English

After picking up the violin at an early age, Adam Levin decided to make a grand change of strings: turn to the guitar and a passion for expressing the unique compositions penned by Spanish composers from the 21st century. Compositionally-speaking, the album is interesting.

In a broad blush, a few of the œuvres turn to original compositions of 20th century composers that act as a launching pad into the the 21st century. With no well-delineated boundaries, the music comes across as “impromptu”, or, perhaps, hinting at a solo “jamming” session. This is evidenced in Muñiz’s Portraits from the Heartland. Even though the elaborations gyrate widely (such as in the “Calmo”), the melody line occasionally and obliquely pops of out of nowhere. Adam Levin is that free-willed guitarist, as if to say he’s almost managing the piece based upon his “mood at the time”...inevitably, this creates a unique ombre over the music. “Bluegrass” begins with a recognizable anchor, but it quickly morphs into something widely jarring.

Leonardo Balada described his Caprichos n° 14 an “abstraction” of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, and that comment is correct. Aside from the familiar chords from the “Allegro con spirito” Balada keeps transmogrifying, and the notes digress more broadly into his own orbit of guitarist nomenclature. Rodrigo’s framework is thin and shallow, which makes the piece a firmly original composition. The notes allow M. Levin wider berth for own personal touches, and much of his stylization reminisces to legendary Andrés Segovia.

In an assortment of verdant arboreal delight, José Luis Turina’s Arboretum is the antithesis of a more orderly, segmented Pictures at an Exhibition. [The grandson of Joaquín Turina, the Arboretum hardly resembles the elder’s La procesión del Rocío!] And while the composer mulls over trees in a broad canopy, the guitarist conveys his own fractioned and, occasionally, quixotic sequences.

Those savoring music with a cleaner edge will be enticed by the last two movements from Brotons’ Sonata Sefardita. The music has more equilibrium and pleasant cadences, and this gives strong evidence to how articulate this guitarist can be.

As a detraction, Javier Suárez-Pajares’ forward is poorly written and tedious (perhaps due to Mlle Dawson’s translation). Sentence structures are incorrect (along with endless run on sentences) which, unfortunately, hamper the overall comprehension and foundation of the music presented.

To Adam Levin’s credit, his imagination and introspection are well-integrated. Listeners desiring more “open-mindedness” will be glued. If a sense of endless drifting freezes the ear, this music may need a re-think.

Christie Grimstad




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