from American Record Guide | July/August 2014 | page 158
Frank Wallace | Elemental | Gyre CD 10172 | released April 1, 2014
purchase at Gyre Music
This is the third volume of Wallace’s solo guitar works (the first was warmly reviewed in S/O 2001). His works, print and sound recordings, are all published through his site, www.gyremusic.com, and he also performs traditional repertory, and on vihuela, on 10-string guitar, and in a voice and guitar duo, [Duo] LiveOak. All the music here is 21st century - The Elements from 2004, Sonata 1 from 2005, the rest from 2012 or 2013.
Wallace’s music is gestural and mostly non-tonal (the sonata uses the 12-tone system). Above all he is concerned with the sonorities of the guitar, and as a performer he employs a huge range of timbre and dynamics. He obviously composes on the guitar—passages recall Villa-Lobos or Brouwer, two other composers who let the structure of the instrument lead to compositional possibilities. His wide ranging exploration leads occasionally to harsh sounds, because those are appropriate for his music, not because he is a careless player.
His works are, except the sonata, all programmatic to some degree, and all on an epic scale. Even the two single movements works, ‘A Heavy Sleep’, written for Britten’s 100th birthday and based on the Nocturnal, and ‘Black Falcon’ are serious and substantial. As for the rest, I found The Elements, a meditation on earth, water, air and fire to be particularly moving.
I enjoyed this recording very much. Wallace has a unique and compelling voice as a composer, and he is a superb player, He use a 1931 Hauser guitar, a magnificent instrument ideal for his works that explore so many different sonorities. I found that his gestural language often steps out of meter—too often for my taste, but that is a minor quibble. A rewarding performance.