Shapes of Sleep, James Boyd : CD review

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Praeludium
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Location: France, East.

Shapes of Sleep, James Boyd : CD review

Post by Praeludium » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:19 pm

I'm not sure this is a proper "review", but I love this CD so much (and I'm very difficult to satisfy haha) that I have to talk about it here.

On this CD there are :
Dowland, Fantasia (P72)
Michael Tippett, The Blue Guitar
Dowland, Fantasia (P7)
Dowland, Flow my tears (a transcription from mr Boyd, from the original lute-song)
Britten, Nocturnal

This alone is amazing. Those are only extremely rich, moving and deep pieces - here is the great repertoire of our instrument !.
There is a huge gap between the renaissance pieces by Dowland and the XXth century pieces by Tippett and Britten, and yet they are, in a way, similar. They have in common a mysterious, nocturnal darkness.
The name he gave to this CD, "Shapes of sleep", fits perfectly the program. The choice of pieces is well thought, and listening to the CD in one sitting is an experience as great as listening to one of the track - this isn't something very common, as far as I know.

It opens with a chromatic fantasy by Dowland. It's played very slowly, with a great richness of timbre and a very supple rhythm. The result is that every time I listen to it it gives me the impression of a great cathedral - the complex architecture of the piece is beautifully highlighted by James Boyd's playing, and I only want to get lost in this great edifice when I listen to it.

Tippett's The Blue Guitar is one of the masterpiece of the British guitar music of the XXth century. Despite being written in a definitely modern idiom, it's quite accessible. Here again, we have a magnificent piece played in a very intelligent and colorful way. The little world that is "The Blue Guitar", sometimes sweet and dreamlike (not unlike Takemitsu's music), sometimes violent rhythmic and hard - but never rough - is here brought to life.

The second Dowland fantasia is quite contrasting with the first one. Placed in the middle on the playing time of the CD, it's like a burst of light - sudden, unexpected (it takes place just after the third movement, "Dreaming", of The Blue Guitar). The wonderful, powerful, coppery and virile Boyd can get of his guitar serves this piece very well.

Flow my Tears. Everyone know this piece. It's here wonderfully played, and the arrangement sounds terrific - I bet it's very hard on the left hand. Everything sounds natural, vocal - which isn't something easy to achieve at the guitar !

The Nocturnal is a great choice as a closing piece. It's, with Flow my tears, the most famous piece of this CD. It's of course played with great intelligence and an amazing musicianship.
The tone - I should say the tones - of Mr.Boyd is a marvel. full of shades, as singing, ample and natural as the human voice, it has so many colors. This is exactly what the pieces asks.
All those nuances, all those shades participate in creating a wonderful nocturnal moment, and James Boyd draw us in his world with an amazing force.
At the end, "Come, heavy sleep" resonates with grace and poetry and the music evaporate gently.

This is really great art. I've never encountered before a CD so well built, and the music is so well played that I still have the impression, after numerous listenings, that I'm only discovering it, only scratching the surface. This is so rare ! This is so rare to hear a guitarist achieving such flamboyant colors in such a demanding - technically and musically - program. This is so rare to hear such a rhythmic mastery, such an singing melodic playing. I'm glad I bought this CD. I had never heard something like that. Unfortunately there isn't any extract on YT - there's just a short video of J.Boyd about an other project of him, where you can hear a bit of his wonderful playing of "Come heavy sleep".
Here's a page of his website which includes review of this wonderful CD.


edit : I just found a "listen" section on mr.Boyd website :http://www.jamesboyd.co.uk/shapesofsleep#listen
Last edited by Praeludium on Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
Cette dernière trahison m'a été également reprochée. Ce que je trouve à répondre, c'est:"merde aux conventions!"

- Ligeti

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muirtan
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Location: Norfolk, UK

Re: Shapes of Sleep : CD review

Post by muirtan » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:30 pm

Hi Praeludium would you mind if I sent James a copy of your post? I am due to have a lesson from him next week all being well. He is performing in Delft in August where I think he said he was performing the Blue Guitar along with some other pieces. Glad you liked the CD its one of my favourites as well.

Lovemyguitar
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Location: Canada

Re: Shapes of Sleep : CD review

Post by Lovemyguitar » Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:53 pm

This sounds like a very interesting CD, I will definitely check it out.

It is odd, however, that you, Praeludium, do not mention anything about Julian Bream (nor does Mr. Boyd on his website), without whom we would not have the two 20th century compositions on this CD (since they were written for Bream, at his request). And, without Bream, Dowland may not be quite as much a household name as it is now (well, maybe it would), but, gosh, this whole CD is so "Bream"-inspired, it might be nice if the Maestro got a mention?

Praeludium
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Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:27 pm
Location: France, East.

Re: Shapes of Sleep : CD review

Post by Praeludium » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:29 pm

Yeah, I thought about mentioning Bream but I finally didn't for no particular reason. His playing also reminds me Bream - particularly with the way he handles shades of tone.
I thought he mentioned Bream in his website but I just checked and I didn't found anything about that - he has maybe changed his bio, since I'm pretty sure I remember having read about a Julian Bream award he won or something along those lines.
One of the reason I'm particularly enthusiastic about J.Boyd is that he seems to be determined to expand our repertoire with the help of great non-guitarists composers, not unlike Bream (:
We'd be blessed to have a similar personality for the guitar of the XXIth century.
Guitarists of this quality (some others name include Pablo Marquez, Rafael Andia, David Starobin, and also the almost as young as me Ian Watt, etc.) are definitely an inspiration for me, much more than most of the young competition winners.


Muirtan - of course it's ok if you send a copy to him. I only hope my english isn't as awful and clumsy as I often think it is (:
Cette dernière trahison m'a été également reprochée. Ce que je trouve à répondre, c'est:"merde aux conventions!"

- Ligeti

Lovemyguitar
Posts: 2877
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:50 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Shapes of Sleep : CD review

Post by Lovemyguitar » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:40 pm

Praeludium wrote:One of the reason I'm particularly enthusiastic about J.Boyd is that he seems to be determined to expand our repertoire with the help of great non-guitarists composers, not unlike Bream (:
We'd be blessed to have a similar personality for the guitar of the XXIth century.
Indeed, Boyd sounds like a great guy, a lot like Bream in his passion for the guitar and its music!

Toccata

Re: Shapes of Sleep : CD review

Post by Toccata » Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:04 pm

This is indeed a wonderful CD on all accounts: the playing, the music, his tone, and the audio quality are all superb. His tempos are a bit more leisurely than some in this repertoire, but they work and often provide a bit more musical depth. I wrote him when the CD first came out and shared my enthusiasm with him. He responded with a very gracious message, so he seems to be a great guy on top of an amazing artist!

brooks
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Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:11 am
Location: halifax, nova scotia

Re: Shapes of Sleep : CD review

Post by brooks » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:24 am

nice review...it made me interested in buying a copy. just a heads up for future reviews you might write, it's always a good idea to mention the guitarist's name at the beginning with the name of the CD. i didn't know who was playing until half way down the review! (i'm sure it was just an oversight :) )

Praeludium
Posts: 810
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:27 pm
Location: France, East.

Re: Shapes of Sleep, James Boyd : CD review

Post by Praeludium » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:16 am

Haha I didn't think about that. Now it's added.
Cette dernière trahison m'a été également reprochée. Ce que je trouve à répondre, c'est:"merde aux conventions!"

- Ligeti

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