The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet celebrates its 40th anniversary with a new album
Today’s GRAMMY Award Winner Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) released their 14th commercial album, Opalescent, marking the band’s 40th anniversary as a touring ensemble. Dedicated to the memory of the brilliant Australian composer Phillip Houghton, it presents his pieces Opals and Wave Radiance, exploring the synesthetic intertwining of light and sound. Other works include Andrew YorkHidden Realm of Light by Kevin Callahan, Alki Point by Kevin Callahan, arrangement by Matt Greif Michael Hedges‘ Aerial Boundaries, Frederic Hand’s Chorale, Robert Beaser’s Chaconne and Tilman Hoppstock’s Suite Transcendent. Steve Rodby, Grammy-winning producer and band bassist Pat Metheny Group, produced this version, and it was dynamically recorded by Grammy-winning engineer Rich Breen. The liner notes were written by William Kanengiser and the 3D opals featured in the album cover were created by his daughter, graphic designer Camille Kanengiser.
Commenting on the album, William Kanengiser says: “Seen through the colorful lens of the guitar, Opalescent’s tracks reflect the composers’ unique sonic visions, saturated with light. We hope their music brings you as much comfort and joy as it has brought you. we.”
Andrew York (b. 1958) was a member of LAGQ from 1990 to 2006, and he created a rich repertoire for guitar quartet to accompany his extensive catalog of works for solo guitar. Hidden Realm of Light shows off his genius as a musical colorist, with flashes of brilliant tones over muted pizzicato accompaniment, call-and-response textures, and African-inspired harmonics.
Kevin Callahan (b. 1958) is a Seattle-based composer and guitarist who freely informs his classical guitar tracks with rock, jazz, and folk elements. Alki Point is a melancholic portrait of the historic settler point on Seattle’s west coast, now home to a vibrant artists’ colony. Opening with a plaintive melody over a polyrhythmic ostinato, the piece diverges into an insistent section over a pulsating bass rhythm, vaguely quoting a Wes Montgomery aria, and ends with a distinctly jazzy coda.
Michael Hedges (1953-1997) created a revolution in steel-string guitar playing with his innovative tapping and open-tuning designs. He took the world by storm with his breakthrough 1984 recording, Aerial Boundaries, and Matthew Greif’s arrangement of the title track presents it faithfully, offering a brief 12/8 excursion before returning to the ethereal tune of Hedge. .
Phillip Houghton (1954-2018) expressed a distinctly Australian aesthetic, reflecting the country’s vast landscapes and mystical Aboriginal “dreamtime” legends. He was known to be a synesthete, associating specific colors with particular musical tones and timbres. Opals (1993, rev. 2014) is a three-movement work for guitar quartet, capturing the reflections and sparkles emanating from Australia’s national gemstone. The score contains detailed references to the specific colors of black opal, water opal and white opal, which are reflected in the 3D digital images created for the design of this recording.
Frederic Hand (b. 1947) Chorale transforms the guitar quartet into a plucked version of an a capella vocal group; the apparent simplicity of the piece belies the difficulty of four guitars moving with the freedom and space of a choir. Hand writes of his piece: “Based on a simple theme of three notes rising in whole steps, Chorale is inspired by the choral music of the Renaissance and Baroque that I listened to in my youth, even though I incorporated some of my favorite jazz harmonies and rhythms too.”
About his Chaconne, the composer Robert Beaser (b. 1954) says: “Built on a bass passacaglia, itself a trope on Purcell’s emblematic ‘Thy hand, Belinda’, the piece consists of an ensemble of nine variations using harmonic progressions and expressive inflections that alternate in character and morph over time…Each variation contains the same musical DNA so listeners can relate to its form at all times, but most grand voyage eventually culminates in a world far removed from where it began.” Chaconne was commissioned by the Boston Classical Guitar Society and LAGQ in 2017.
Tilman Hoppstock (b. 1961) is a virtuoso guitarist, arranger and renowned Bach scholar, and he developed a career as a composer under the pseudonym of the entirely invented English composer Allan Willcocks (1869-1956). Composed for LAGQ in 2015, Suite Transcendent is a suite of five pieces inspired by an imaginary exhibition of impressionist paintings. Hoppstock writes, “Adopting the persona of Allan Willcocks freed me to create music that displayed influences from French and English Impressionism and reflected a musical personality completely distinct from my own.”
The recording ends with another work by Phillip Houghton, his Wave Radiance (2002, rev. 2005), with the subtitle ‘Colour: the Skin of Resonance’. Vibrant with layered patterns of repeated notes and arpeggios, it captures the essence of light wave spectra, in tune with subtle shifts in texture and harmony, finally receding into delicate high harmonics.
About the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
For more than four decades on the concert scene, the Grammy® Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) (John Dearman, Matthew Greif, William Kanengiser and Scott Tennant) have consistently set the standard of expression and virtuosity among guitar ensembles, while constantly redefining themselves in their musical explorations. As one of today’s most charismatic bands, LAGQ’s critically acclaimed transcriptions of concert masterpieces offer a fresh look at the music of the past, while their interpretations of contemporary realms and world music are continually innovating.
LAGQ recordings appear on the Telarc, SONY, Delos, GHA and LAGQ labels. Recent albums include the Grammy® nominated collaboration with Conspirare, The Singing Guitar (Delos 2020), featuring Nico Muhlythe groundbreaking work of How Little You Are, and Pat Metheny‘s Road to the Sun (Modern Recordings/BMG 2021). Named after the monumental title track Metheny wrote for LAGQ, Road to the Sun topped the classic Apple Music charts in the spring of 2021.
Recently inducted into the Guitar Foundation of America Hall of Fame, LAGQ’s ensemble excellence and creative innovation have inspired generations of guitarists around the world. A favorite of classic radio stations, their accessible yet adventurous repertoire runs the gamut from Renaissance to rock, Bach to bluegrass and gamelan to jazz. With their latest album Opalescent, LAGQ continues to forge new musical paths, brilliantly revealing the interplay between sound and color.
Formed in 1980 as the USC Guitar Quartet under Maestro Pepe Romero, they began their professional career as LAGQ in 1982. To learn more, visit www.lagq.com.