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Third 5 stars review in Fanfare

June 14, 2023

Jacqueline Kharouf

This release from the Scandinavian Guitar Duo—Per Pålsson and Jesper Sivebæk—is quite a gift from start to finish. For most of the repertoire on this album, the duo arranged these pieces for themselves (all except for Fernando Sor’s L’Encouragement). The synchronicity of this duo is evident throughout the album—and a noted feature of their sound that they quite appreciate (at least according to their album notes)—but perhaps best on display in their transcription of Handel’s Grande Chaconne. In this piece, the duo maintains a consistency similar to that of a piano player, each performer filling the role of either the left or right hand. The duo trades parts (I assume) whenever possible so that at times one guitar plays the more complicated and moving melody line (treble clef, if you will) and the other guitar plays the more supportive and rhythmic harmony line (the bass clef, perhaps). The Baroque beauty of this piece lies in the quickly repeated and fast paced movements, but also in the relaxed and contemplative middle movements, where the duo truly shines in their ability to respond with equivalent temperament and lyricism.
My favorite set of tracks, however, is most definitely the Dolly Suite, which the duo again transcribed for this recording. These sweet pieces, which Fauré wrote for the daughter of his mistress, incorporate many styles—not only the heavy influence of Spanish music, but also the quiet lyricism of a lullaby, the lilting, dance-like melody of Berceuse (the first movement), and of course jazz, as heard in the boisterous melody of Mi-A-Ou (the second movement). The Scandinavian Duo particularly excels at playing with similar (or nearly identical) touches on their instruments, often in parts of the movements in which either guitar plays different roles. Kitty Valse (the fourth movement of the Dolly Suite) is a prime example of the duo’s ability to maintain similar dynamics and touch while playing divergent lines of melody or harmony. Their work in slower paced songs and movements is particularly poignant, as in the fifth movement, Tendresse, in which each player moves with firm and decided movements that demonstrate his incredible capacity for both listening to his own guitar and the guitar of his partner.
“Synchronicity” implies that this duo plays the same notes at the same time, but in reality, the Scandinavian Guitar Duo maintains their duality and creates a unique sound that is only the result of their particular differences. Happily, it is not important to decide the differences between these players, but rather a secret happenstance that listeners can only ponder. Jacqueline Kharouf

5 stars—Scandinavian Guitar Duo delivers wonderful repertoire in transcription

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