Playing new music is a voyage of discovery, an unpredicatable and exciting journey, and this is what informed my choices for this CD. Each work has its own particular language, pacing and personality: the four stark snap-shots of Black Venus; the angular, fragmented energy of Elliot Carter’s Shard; the controlled passion of Pete Wyer’s flap; the delicate long lines of Michael Zev Gordon’s Bells, Lachrimae and Stillness.
I am always fascinated by the story behind each piece of music, sometimes explicit, sometimes hidden. Peter Sculthorpe recreates the empty stillness encountered on a walk in the Australian landscape, Gilbert Biberian evokes the enigmatic beauty of Japanese haiku, and Phil Cashian is inspired by Scandinavian winter landscapes in Talvi.
I am especially fond of Takemitsu’s Equinox. Its expressive power belies its length and it is a work I never tire of performing.
All of the works here are well-crafted, idiomatic pieces that demonstrate the variety of textures, techniques and colours of the guitar. This collection alone shows how diverse new music for guitar is; and it is an area I have only begun to explore.
Abigail James is one of the most exciting British guitarists of her generation. She has a passion for contemporary music and has had new works written for her by Michael Zev Gordon, Andrew Keeling and Pete Wyer.
Abigail has performed in all the UK’s major venues including St. Martin-in-the-fields, St John’s Smith Square, the Barbican, The Purcell Room, Conway Hall, the Royal Opera House, Queen Elizabeth Hal, the Royal Festival Hall as well as in Tate Britain’s Late at Tate series. Her performances have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Abigail has also travelled widely, performing in Holland, France, Germany and Japan.
Abigail has taken on some of the most challenging guitar parts of the twentieth century in Maxwell Davies’ two operas The Martydom of St Magnus (Music Theatre Wales) and The Lighthouse (The Opera Group) and in Boulez’x Le Marteau sans Maitre. She toured the UK with Music Theatre Wales and performed with them in Quimper’s Festival des Mondes Celtes and Dusseldorf’s Sechs Tage festival. Abigail has played with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Music Players, Reservoir and was a leading member of the London Guitar Trio. She has a regular duo with flautist Rowland Sutherland.
Abigail formed a unique partnership with choreographer and dancer Sarah Warsop and together they performed Pete Wyer’s solo Flap for the Cutting Edge series at The Warehouse. For this highly acclaimed concert and the resulting Cutting Edge tour, Abigail commissioned choreographer Joanne Fong to create a dance film to accompany Phil Cashian’s piece, Black Venus.
Her interest in innovative artistic collaboration has taken her on tour in Japan with Hartland Chamber Opera and Japanese puppet group Saruhachi-Za in a production of The She-Fox of Shinoda, a Japanese folk tale set to music by British composer Colin Hodgetts. She has also performed with contemporary dance group Snag Project at the Clore Studio of the Royal Opera House, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Cardiff’s The Blue Room and in Swindon’s Taking Risks Festival.
Abigail has recorded for NMC, Burning Shed and most recently Delphian Records for a CD of Edward McGurie’s music with pianist Dominic Saunders and flautist Nancy Ruffer.