American Record Guide
May 2, 2017
The Canadian Guitar Quartet—Julien Bisaillon, Renaud Cote-Giguere, Bruno Rousssel, and Louis Trepanier—have been performing since 1999. As you can tell from their names, they are French Canadian; and this was recorded in a church in Quebec. Their career at this point is mostly in Canada and the US. They present a fascinating program, beautifully played.
The Vivaldi concerto was originally for two cellos, and their arrangement is interesting and effective—the concertino parts are given to guitarists 1 and 2 in I, to 2 and 3 in II, and split among the four for the finale. Fille de Cuivre (Copper Girl, named for a sculpture by Quebec native Jean-Louis Emond) was written by quartet member Cote-Giguere. It’s a snappy, neo-classical work in three movements, with the last movement particularly beautiful—beginning slow but ending with a whirlwind of energy.
The real discovery here is Patrick Roux’s Concierto Tradiconuevo. Roux was the teacher of most of the members, and he has a history of exciting, demanding works for guitar ensemble. This work is in two movements, ‘Café Gardel’, and ‘En los Calles de Buenos Aires’. If you like tango but find Piazzolla too sappy (as I do), you will love this work. It has a wide range of expression, from brooding melancholy to wild excitement—a deeply sensual piece. The demands are intense, but the CGQ makes it all seem easy.
Hans Bruderl’s Octopus was originally for a double guitar quartet. The title is an obvious play on words: Oct-opus, work for eight. I’ve never heard that version, but the arrangement for just four guitars is quite effective. Like the Roux, it makes intense technical demands, but the Canadians are well up to the challenges. The first three-quarters of the one-movement work are quite energetic, but the work closes with an almost-chorale-like passage leading to an exciting coda.
The title of the release is from a quirky piece by Christine Donkin, which is scored for guitar quartet and cello, the latter played ably by Rachel Mercer. The four movements are named for imaginary places on a 14th Century map of the world (Mappa Mundi), which includes locations for the troglodytes (cave dwellers), the Tower of Babel, Hyperborea, and Hippopodes—the latter a land where people with horse’s hooves dwell. It’s delightful music, highly imaginative—I can’t name a piece quite like this.
The CGQ may not be in the lofty position inhabited by the LAGQ, the Aquarelle, or the Brazilian Quartet, but they’re a really fine ensemble. They champion worthy new works, and that alone is reason to hear this recording.
© Kenneth Keaton - American Record Guide
March 31, 2017
The Canadian Guitar Quartet brings together four of the best guitarists in their country. Each have individually impacted the classical guitar landscape in their own powerful and unique ways, and together as the CGQ they combine their talents to form one of the most sought after ensembles in Canada. Mappa Mundi is their fourth studio album, which they have gradually released since their debut in 2001. The disc opens with a lovely and distinctive Vivaldi concerto for two cellos arranged for four guitars. The duo concerto arrangement is perfectly suited for guitar ensemble, as the solo content is charmingly echoed between the two lead guitars throughout the work. The CGQ skillfully keep the voices distinct and separate, heightening the impact of the imitation. The following works on the album are all modern, but cover a wide cross-section of sound palates, including extended harmony, tango, pop, and middle-eastern influences. First, "Fille de Cuivre" is inspired by a sculpture depicting a woman who is immaculate on the outside, but struggling with chaos within. The music reflects this theme with increasing degrees of harmonic and rhythmic complexity, and the CGQ draw upon their precision and enormous dynamic range to fully express the composer's vision. Next is an homage to Tangos written by another eminent Canadian classical guitarist, Patrick Roux. It highlights the compositional styles of Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla, and is a thrilling and characteristic addition to the recording. The next track, "Octopus" (a play on words 'oct-opus') was originally an octet performed by the CGQ and the Salzburg Guitar Quartet. The CGQ were so impressed with the work that they arranged it for four guitars. It covers several tonal and melodic styles, taking the listener on a spectacular sonic journey. Finally, the title track "Mappa Mundi" is a striking departure from the rest of the disc as it features celebrated Canadian cellist Rachel Mercer. This powerful and awe-inspiring work that portrays four images found on a fourteenth-century map of the world. Mercer's playing and the inherent timbre of the cello compliments the CGQ perfectly, and makes a striking and unexpected finale to the disc. The CGQ have put together an album which presents their most impactful endeavours from the past several years, and is an essential addition to the guitar quartet record library.
© Timothy Smith - minor 7th.com
February 28, 2017
There’s more terrific guitar playing on Mappa Mundi, the new CD with a mixture of old and new works from the Canadian Guitar Quartet of Julien Bisaillon, Renaud Côté-Giguère, Bruno Roussel and Louis Trépanier (ATMA Classique ACD2 2750).
Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos RV531 works extremely well in Roussel’s arrangement, with all four guitarists sharing the two solo lines at some point in the three movements.
The other four works on the CD are all comparatively recent compositions. Fille de cuivre (Copper Girl) by quartet member Côté-Giguère explores the conflicting emotions when outward persona is not matched by inner self; it was inspired by the metal-welding works of Québecois sculptor Jean-Louis Émond, whose sculptures include a woman with a perfectly polished front but an open back revealing the rough inner welds.
Concierto Tradicionuevo by Patrick Roux (b.1962) is a terrific homage to the Argentinian tango, with particular nods to the 1930s singer Carlos Gardel and – in a particularly dazzling movement – Astor Piazzolla.
Octopus, by the German composer Hans Brüderl (b.1959) was originally a work for eight guitars (hence the title pun: Oct-Opus) written for the Canadian Guitar Quartet and the Salzburg Guitar Quartet; the former enjoyed it so much that Brüderl adapted it for four guitars. It’s a delightful piece with a real “Wow!” factor.
The CD’s title work Mappa Mundi was written by the Canadian composer Christine Donkin (b.1976) and is a portrayal of four of the images on the 14th-century world map held at Hereford Cathedral in England. Cellist Rachel Mercer joins the quartet in the Tower of Babel movement, the cello representing the voice of God!
These are all substantial, captivating works, beautifully played and recorded.
Terry Robins – The WholeNote
February 8, 2017
The latest from this venerable quartet—Julien Bisaillon, Renaud Côté-Giguère, Bruno Roussel, and Louis Trépanier—is filled with life and adventure. After starting with a stately, crowd-pleasing historical piece—a cello concerto by Vivaldi (arranged by CGQ member Roussel)—the rest of the CD is devoted to four contemporary works that are considerably less conservative and more modern, with more dissonance, leaping and abrupt tempo and rhythm shifts, but still at least on the edge of melodicism much of the time. Patrick Roux’s Concierto Tradicionuevo offers an interesting mutation of familiar Argentinean musical elements, while Hans Brüderl’s Octopus (listen below) goes from rhythmically manic to elegiac, and also includes some lovely, lilting passages; it’s quite a piece. The invigorating title work, which has a Bernard Hermannesque opening (think Psycho) and closing—and more sonorous movements in between—also features guest cellist Rachel Mercer, to nice effect.
Blair Jackson - Classical Guitar