“Of Colors Most Fleeting” Volume One

In 2010 Robert and Bruno Luse began the task of restoring the recordings of the Singapore Guitar Quartet, in collaboration with Lee Choon Boon, one of Robert’s students.

To purchase this CD please visit our online store at www.classicguitarmethod.bigcartel.com
For buyers in Singapore please drop us an email.

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10 Responses to “Of Colors Most Fleeting” Volume One

  1. Dusan Bogdanovic says:

    Dear Rob,

    Thanks for the CD and sorry about this delay. I finally listened to your CD. The whole Cd is very charming and I understand that it is a labor of love and of nostalgia for the fleeting…
    That said, the playing is really good and I did notice all the things that are typical for your work: an excel-lent orchestration (I especially enjoyed the “virtuoso harmonics”), the use of colors, which is not so common for this generation of guitar players as well as the excellent use of articulations and respect for dynamics. I also like the “retro” aspect of the recording that was transplanted from cassettes; it does sound a bit like the old Buster Keaton movie music. I also liked very much your own piece. It’s very humorous, original and quirky, but certain parts are very powerful and expressive, such as your John Henry, where you have a memorable use of harmonic textures in the bass. As far as other pieces, I liked the Joplin and Ravel very much. Of course, Pavane is one of my favorite pieces and it’s very meaningful to hear those great basses. I admit that the high register guitar always sounds a bit like a mandolin, but it is our relative and it fits into the “family” concept. Talking of family, I have heard something similar once in San Francisco-it was an Australian guitar ensemble called “Guitar Trek” with Tim Kaine as the leader, and they used a very similar concept in guitar ensemble instrumentation. Of course, it is a relief to hear the whole range.

    Best regards,
    Dusan

  2. Philip Moulton says:

    Review – Singapore Guitar Quartet

    When I was a young kid, all about 9-10 years of age, I recall a windy winter’s morning on a Saturday in Australia. Freed from the shackles of having to get ready for school and work, our family would often have long leisurely breakfasts and listen to music, read and carry on conversation.

    One such Saturday my father made a hot rolled oats based porridge. Together with milk and brown unrefined sugar, he would describe the dish as a “never ending feast”. I tried for the first time that day and loved it. And then my father put on a Julian Bream record.

    My father would marvel in ways that I could only comprehend now, at Bream’s discourse and conversation with us through his instrument (indeed others may cynically point out that Bream was really talking to himself and not anyone else, or that the conversation was really a monologue not a dialogue. Genius does not always come with a warm and fuzzy personality!).

    From that early memory, I equated great music with great food. While my definition of great food has advanced from sweet milky and warm porridge (to the relief of my own family), the imagery of great music with flavor and texture remains. I am sure that there are sparks in our heads that light up when the conditions are right and our sensors are open whether through tongue, ear, nose or touch.

    Recently I was provided a CD“Of Colors Most Fleeting” from Robert.

    Naturally enthused, I approached it from the perspective of someone who has listened to a lot of classical music over the years, as well as learning classical guitar from Robert Luse as a musician-guitarist “to be”. Having never written a music critique before, I also approached this recording from the perspective of doing my best to listen deeply and reflectively, rather than simply being played as an accompaniment to my daily activities. This was certainly a challenging activity.

    Putting it in my CD player at home for the first time, the sparks certainly lit up and the flow of music helped.

    The format of the ensemble is either highly innovative or absolutist depending on your point of view (absolutist in its dedication to the idea of absolute loyalty to the musical score). With dedication to the idea that music must be played score-perfect, the CD offers a far different perspective to guitar music and breaks out of its inherent limitations.

    Each piece is special – and each has highlights. However my favorites were The Entertainer and Pavane. Golliwogs Cakewalk is also a delight to listen to in this format as it picks up the playful spirit of the piece so well (the altos particularly shined in the opening passages). You can’t help thinking that despite the “hours of tedious practice” that Robert refers to in the cover notes, the quartet had a ball playing this. Bachieri’s Sinfonia also is such a damn fine tune to get your toes tapping to. Track 5, Rondo and Salterello, sounds like being played by harpsichord in places, which confirms the idea of the guitar as a whole orchestra in one instrument.

    One or two tracks were personally challenging to listen to. R.I.P. John Henry started as a wonderful gumption of sound only to have the logical progression of the melody seem to loose its way. I acknowledge that this is a matter of musical taste though not of technique, and the melody seems to recover very ably at the 3:05 minute mark. I felt that “Train Time” overall pushed the edges of what is possible.

    Overall though, this format is crying out to be done again with a broader range of music. It would be fascinating to hear what other pieces would work. I think there are many pieces from the work of Julian Bream and George Malcolm (playing harpsichord) where the upper octaves of the music were covered by Malcolm that would otherwise be reached with the alto guitars. Boccherini’s Introduction and Fandango also comes immediately to mind as other worthy candidates.

    Here’s a random thought for classical guitar enthusiasts: what if this format was applied to some of Albeniz’s piano works? The irony would not be lost on those knowledgeable in guitar music history: part of Albeniz’s unique musical quality was said (by biographer Pola Baytleman at least) to be the transfer of traditional idioms of guitar music into piano writing. So the music wheel will do one complete turn: the canon of Spanish guitar music and its naturally inhibited range is stretched into piano score, only to be played once again by a guitar quartet newly capable to play the original expanded range!

    This is a format that should get people seeing beyond the natural limitations of guitar and provide greener pastures for classical fans to wonder, writers to enthuse and guitarists of course, to play.

    And I will look forward to the next round of warm milky porridge!

    Phil Moulton

  3. An interested listener says:

    In the first place it occurs to me that aside from the fun of having an ensemble and performing in public, it gives you a chance to show your presence in the area and perhaps initiate another direction for the guitar repertoire. At the same time what you play has to be conceived with a public in mind. An ensemble with an Elliot Carter type of repertoire might vaguely interest the musical community, but it probably wouldn’t charm the families of your students and encourage more to sign up. In that context we are talking about show business and your offerings were just dandy. No quibbles. It sounded like a good time. Everything was well prepared and with the help of Bruno came off without a hitch on the recording as I am sure it did in public. Little mistakes are rapidly forgotten as the ear goes on to other sounds. Not always so with recordings when the listener will soon start to anticipate the errors and therefore begin to focus on them.

    Then there is the angle of a comparison of the transcription with the composer’s intention. For the most part there is not a problem. Most of the pieces worked very well. The polyphonic pieces are custom made for your circumstance and ragtime succeeds with any kind of an ensemble if the spirit of the work comes across. Do you have a facsimile of Joplin’s original edition of The Entertainer? He dedicated it to the James Brown mandolin club. He probably expected a transcription if he hadn’t already made it himself.

    Probably you can already guess where I had problems. Yes, it was Ravel and Debussy. More the latter than the former. Much of my problem is that I frequently listen to the piano versions and I have those in my ear. The pavane with the pizzicato instruments came off too much like a march in four rather a stately dance in two. That would have been less of a problem if it had been conceived as a dance rather than a funeral dirge. Personally, I don’t think that Ravel would give a shit one way or the other given all the transcriptions that exist of his pieces.

    The Debussy is another matter. It almost works, but there isn’t that weightless, cloudlike something which comes from a light touch on the piano keyboard. There is a moment towards the end of the piece when there are little flourishes an octave or more above the principal action. In the guitar realization they seem to be looking for some way to exist in the piece.

    As always with your recordings, I play them for the family. My ears are so entirely jaded at this point that I can’t do otherwise than to listen analytically, something which draws frequent criticism. They liked the record, but a member of the family stated a preference for other mandolin record. The two alto guitars do come off sounding like a mandolin.

    Keep up the good work!

    Interested listener

  4. Nobuko Hosoya says:

    Dear Robert, Luse-Sensei!

    I listened to the CD while driving (because the sound system is the best so far) . I enjoyed it very, very much.
    What a lovely CD. Selected pieces are all famaous and popular. But yours are not included so many this time?

    Natural and honest music.How the members listen to each other, beautifully soft second strokes and more beautifully the softest forth strokes, and what most beautiful are the fading sounds of the ends of the phrases!

    Who is this? I never recognize that it is You.

    Sorry to responding very late.
    The summer heat is finally over.

    Your friend Nobuko

  5. Mathew says:

    Hi Rob..
    Managed to get some time to listen to the CD….and it has been a truly “retro-experience”. In the ’80′s I used to listen to cassette recordings and enjoyed them “hiss and all” so these recordings reminded me of an era gone by. I am reminded of my close association with the SGQ and the concerts I attended, however more importantly these recordings reconnected me to that period wherein I have had the unique privilege of experiencing the live performances of the SGQ and now listening to these resurrected recordings I can say they rekindled a pleothora of wonderful feelings and images……Thank you .

    Mathew

  6. Jerry Ong says:

    Listening to “Of Colours Most Fleeting” Vol. 1, I am happily reassured that the guitar can hold its own and stand tall alongside other instruments. Robert Luse, Lee Choon Boon and Bruno Goh Luse go into quite technical explanations of why and how this was achieved, but hearing is believing!
    Debussy’s “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” and Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” spring to life on The Singapore Guitar Quartet’s (SGQ) A-A-P-B guitars, more so than the solo piano versions I’ve heard. I find the recording of Borodin’s Notturno just as tender and as moving as string quartet renditions; and Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess is both sensitive and elegant in the hands of the SGQ.
    These beautiful pieces by well-known composers, so well conveyed by guitars in this offering, starkly contrast with my previous listening experiences – Bach’s Cello Suites and Chaconne sounding much richer on the original instruments than the guitar versions; Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9 No 2 so full and sonorous on piano but paling in comparison on guitar; and flat, two-dimensional performances of Vivaldi’s mandolin concertos by four-part prime guitar ensemble.
    With such disparities, there were indeed times when I wondered if I’d fallen in love with the wrong instrument, but “Of Colours Most Fleeting” assures me that I did not!

    Jerry Ong is a full time guitar teacher and student of Robert Luse. He previously taught in a commercial music school and now teaches the Luse Method, as well as group/ensemble guitar in MOE schools.

  7. He Qing says:

    The programme is various and stylistic. The music are colorful and emotional. The Borodin’s piece touches me deeply on my heart.

    He Qing teaches at the Tianjin Music Conservatory. As lutenist and guitarist, he tours throughout China and abroad with his students.

  8. Penny Liu says:

    My first impression on hearing vol. I was the immaculate professionalism and clarity of the playing and recording – most impressive and most pleasing to listen to. Where did the title come from? I like it. And while the technicalities of the re-recording escape me, you and Bruno certainly have produced a wonderfully clear and rich sound. The guitar quartet provides a whole new kind of listening to ears used to the more traditional chamber music instruments – all the pleasures of following the different voices but in a light, clear, more pastel? mode, yet with all the satisfying contrasting tones and colors we expect in chamber music.

    While I would listen to “Pavan” in any version – spoons and musical saws? – this one really delighted me. The stately dignity of the musical “steps”, the beauty and warmth of the melody – for the first time I began to hear it as a lullaby, which adds to the poignancy. I agree that Ravel would have loved it.

    I love the humor and joy of the Joplin pieces. They are such fun. Guitar seems to fit these pieces beautifully. The spirit and virtuosity here are wonderful.

    I love the dance movements which keep recurring through different times and places. The Renaissance music – clearly a perfect fit for the guitar.

    I loved the changing moods and complexity of “Train Time” – the simple, folk-tune melodies in first movement, the tempo changes – the shifts in mood seeming to reflect the changing scenery and speeds in any journey. Movement two is a darker, more abstract and extended piece – the allusions to John Henry may not be evident to many listeners without the help of notes, but there is an arc moving through the piece that goes through a darker section of the beginning to end with the simple, peaceful mood that suggests acceptance and a simple joy in sound and movement. The third movement seems more complex and dark, ending with a surprising abruptness. A real journey!

    I love the texture of the Borodin too – the familiar song we all can sing at least some of the words for (“and this is my beloved”), as well as the rich depth of the lower register of the bass guitar in the less familiar parts. A lovely way to end the cd.

    Huge congratulations to all involved.

  9. Dick Thomas says:

    It was good to chat with you yesterday, and I thank you again for sending the CD “Of Colors Most Fleeting” (Volume 1). This collection is a delight. Particularly impressive is the tight, well balanced ensemble apparent from the opening notes. Beyond the skill of performance and the clarity of recording, credit must be given to the details of instrumentation: The choice of two alto guitars with a single prime and bass instruments allows the quartet to achieve a smooth, full sound palette without “pushing” natural ranges. And it all complements the selection of compositions very well indeed.

  10. Nick Rodin says:

    I have much enjoyed “Of Colors Most Fleeting”. You are right — it does indeed require digestion! What particularly stands out for me is the sound of the high register guitars on the rags and Renaissance pieces. I am also pleased that there is nothing I dislike. The musianship is superb, and the four of you manage to produce a huge variety of sounds. More than once even after many years of study, I would hear some novel effect and wonder “How did they do that?”

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