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New York concert review

 

In celebration of his newest CD release Tanguero: Music from South America (Signum Classics SIGCD 538), guitarist Christoph Denoth appeared in recital at SubCulture on June 10, 2019. With works by Villa-Lobos, Brouwer, Piazzolla, and Matos Rodriguez, it was an opportunity for one to hear not only the work of a outstanding musician, but also his thoughts about composers and their works as he spoke to the audience.
The basement confines of SubCulture are ideally suited to this type of event. It has the intimate feeling that is characteristic of smaller venues, but also comfortable seating and ample room to move about. One could enjoy a wine or other beverage at the bar before the concert. The one oddity was the almost subliminal level music being piped in prior to the performance, which might be okay for a more casual concert, but really was distracting for this kind of program, which benefits from some silence beforehand.
Mr. Denoth opened with the Villa-Lobos Cinq Préludes, one of the staples of the guitar repertoire. They pay homage to the varied peoples of Brazil, from peasants and urbanites to the indigenous, with a tribute to J.S. Bach as well. They are filled with Villa-Lobos's characteristic folk idiom as well as a Romantic spirit. Mr. Denoth captured the flavor of this music in highly nuanced performances. He followed with the Villa-Lobos Etude No, 11 (Paris 1929), another example of both the composer's highly idiomatic guitar writing and the fine playing of Mr. Denoth.
Leo Brouwer's 1990 Sonata (for Julian Bream) followed the Villa-Lobos works. Each movement is influenced by a different epoch. The first movement, Fandangos y Boleros was humorous, an almost self-deprecating example of Spanish styles, with occasional "wrong notes" popping up. The second movement, Sarabande de Scriabin was a look at the Russian before his "Mystic" transformation. The final movement, Toccata de Pasquini was a moto perpetuo with a "cuckoo" call. Mr. Denoth played with unflagging energy as the music simmered, but he was always well under control. The Brouwer was this listener's favorite work of the evening.
Four Piazzolla pieces followed, Chiquilín de Bachin, Verano Porteño, Oblivion, and Triunfal. When one thinks tango, one thinks Piazzolla, such is the power of the composer's mastery of the style. Mr. Denoth did not disappoint- the soulful laments, the fiery passions, and the infectious rhythmic vitality were all on full display.
Gerardo Matos Rodriguez's La Cumparsita ended the program. It's the tango everyone knows, even if they don't know the name or the composer. Heaven knows how many cartoonish renderings have been done, complete with the rose-in-mouth, but thankfully there was none of that here. Mr. Denoth played it straight, which revealed subtleties often lost in the hammy performances.
Mr. Denoth does not rely on his formidable technique alone. The fast runs, the harmonics, and the cascades of sound that made it seem if there were multiple players were all there, but one never was overwhelmed by these qualities to the detriment of the music itself. Mr. Denoth is like a skilled painter carefully creating a masterpiece – each note and phrase is given the right "color." The pacing is never hurried, but the rubato used is never excessive either, and the expressive aspect is always the priority. Even though it was obvious that Mr. Denoth had thought out every note carefully, the end result was still completely natural in sound and execution.
Mr. Denoth offered Joaquin Malats's Serenata Española as an encore, to the delight of the appreciative audience.
 
by Jeffrey Williams for New York Concert Review; New York, NY June 14, 2019June 14, 2019

 

New York, CLASSICAL REVIEW Guitarist Denoth beguiles with color and nuance in South American program

 

There was no tangoing in the aisles at Christoph Denoth's guitar recital at Subculture Monday night. But there was a lot of leaning forward in seats.
Even though tangos by Astor Piazzolla featured prominently on the program, the evening was memorable not for whiplash-inducing pyrotechnics but for the unparalleled intimacy of string tone produced not with felt hammers or with stretched horsehair but with the player's own fingertips.
Bar service at the underground Bleecker Street boîte was suspended for the hourlong duration of the performance, so that no extraneous rattles or tinkles would intrude on Denoth's subtle colorations and exquisitely nuanced phrasing.
The expression "hands-on experience" acquired new meaning as the Swiss-born guitarist rolled a left-hand finger over to soften the tone or rounded off a phrase by moving his right hand from near the bridge to mid-string as he played. Melodies floated free of layers of figuration, as if two or three instruments were playing instead of one.
Once in a while, a showy run or a special effect such as whispery harmonics took center stage. But for the most part, Denoth deployed his formidable resources so fluidly that one was aware only of the musical result.
Thus, a listener could savor each of the Brazilian folk influences (plus J.S. Bach) that Villa-Lobos celebrated in his Cinq Préludes, the repertoire standard that opened the concert. Peasants, urban Cariocas, and indigenous people of the forest all had their say in folk-poetic miniatures that, with their chromaticism and major-minor shifts, brought Chopin's mazurkas to mind. (With its left-hand "barring" technique moving down the neck, the guitar is a natural for chromatic sequences.)
The shifting moods and rapid-chord technique of Villa-Lobos's Etude No. 11 made an eloquent coda to this section of the program.
Here and throughout the evening, Denoth was sparing in his use of familiar guitar "intensifiers" such as vibrato and sliding portamento, relying instead on tone color and well-gauged rubato to get the expressive message across.
The international perspective of Cuban composer Leo Brouwer's Sonata "for Julian Bream, 1990" brought a change of pace from the otherwise all-South American program. The opening movement, "Fandangos y Boleros," offered a humorous sendup of Spanish idioms, with consonant harmonies punctuated (or punctured) by the bonking dissonance of minor ninths.
A "Sarabande de Scriabin" seemed inspired by the Russian composer in one of his dreamier moods. In the concluding "Toccata de Pasquini"–which referred only obliquely to that Baroque composer's famous keyboard toccata "with cuckoo"–Denoth, a picture of calm and poise, rippled through fast, harp-like figurations, concluding with one twisty run up the fingerboard.
Of the four Piazzolla selections on this program, only one, Verano Porteño, brought the jazz-influenced tango fire for which this composer is best known. Denoth made the most of the piece's sultry rhythm, volatile tune, sforzando strums, and languid rubato interlude.
A different, less familiar Piazzolla emerged in the preceding piece, Chiquilín de Bachin, a tender waltz full of those melting diminuendos at which the guitar is supreme. Chopin came to mind again in Oblivion, as a peripatetic melody sang out over a swaying, nocturne-like accompaniment. Triunfal did indeed sound "triumphant" in its assertive allegro sections, but shifted to deep nostalgia when Denoth (for once) laid on the vibrato in soulful song.
Not everybody recognizes Gerardo Matos Rodriguez's La Cumparsitaby its title, but one bar of that stalking, staccato tune identified this 1916 piece as one of the tango hits of all time, maybe the first tango you ever heard. Denoth closed his program with it, reveling in the florid interludes and welcoming that indelible theme back each time with variations.
For an encore, Denoth played another guitar standard, the Serenata española by Joaquín Malats, giving especially fine voicing to the accompaniment.
 
By David Wright, New York, Classical review June 11 2019

 

"A must have..." – WILLIAM YEOMAN

 

The tango, which Piazzolla liberated from dance, is both extended and tamed by the classical guitar. That’s partly what the Swiss guitarist Christoph Denoth is getting at when he writes that ‘these present recordings aim to express today’s broader definition of tango and exploit the acoustic range of the guitar in order to integrate the tango and its untamed beauty into classical music’.

 

In all these miniatures – some arrangements, some written for the instrument — there are folklorist echoes amplified by compelling rhythmic variations, extended harmonies and songlike melodies. Somewhere among this seductive sound world, Denoth finds room for his own style by finding pleasure in the play of opposites – especially the tension between European classicism and the folk traditions of South America.

 

Denoth’s recital opens with some of Piazzolla’s most widely arranged works, many of which have theatrical origins. The composer’s own favourite, Adios nonino, so full of subtle changes of mood, sits at the centre of a set which alternates between the urgency of pieces like Libertango and Verano porteño and those of a more reflective nature, such as Oblivion and the exquisite Milonga del ángel.

 

These contrasts are maintained throughout the rest of the programme, with works by other tango legends such as Gardel and those exploring different national styles, like Antonio Lauro with his Venezuelan take on the waltz, and Gismonti’s saudade-saturated Agua y vinbo and Dyens’s cheeky ‘fake tango’ Tango en Skaï.

 

There is little here that hasn’t been recorded before by the likes of John Williams et al. What makes Denoth’s offering a must-have is a musical sensitivity exemplified as much by his curation as by his playing.

 

 

GRAMOPHONE Sept 2018

GRAMOPHONE – WILLIAM YEOMAN

Sometimes a work’s ubiquity blinds us to its brilliance. Familiarity breeds – albeit amiable, cosy – contempt. Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez could be considered such a work. But fresh juxtapositions yield fresh perspectives. And so it proves here with...this „highly enjoyable new recording that provide attractive new settings for Rodrigo’s jewel.

Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo’s suite for guitar and orchestra Nocturnos de Andalucía might use an orchestra more than twice the size of Rodrigo’s, but Palomo’s writing exhibits the same kind of elegant restraint. This magnificent tone-poem, with its lush, flamenco-hued evocations of shifting passions beneath the stars, thus balances rather than overwhelms Rodrigo’s chamber-like atmosphere – a genuine conversation, especially in the hands of the superb Swiss-born guitarist Christoph Denoth and the LSO under Jesús López Cobos.

Denoth’s own arrangement of Joaquín Malats’s tuneful, ever-popular Serenata española (actually originally an orchestral piece before being arranged for piano and then solo guitar) is closer to the Concierto de Aranjuez in its economy of means and elegant colouristic flourishes, and makes for a satisfying encore or pendant to the previous two works. Throughout, Denoth again shows himself to be a thoughtful musician of considerable taste and technical prowess, and his recording of the Palomo suffers not one jot by comparison with that of the work’s dedicatee, Pepé Romero.

 

June 2016

RITMO, Musica Clàsica, CD review Ritmo Parada

An interesting programme which adds to the often recorded „Concierto de Aranjuez“ the extensive suite for guitar and orchestra in six movements by Lorenzo Palomo (Pozoblanco, Córdoba, 1938) „Nocturnos de Andalucía“, commissioned by Pepe Romero who world-premiered this piece under the baton of Frühbeck de Burgos in the year 1996. The CD closes with a good version for guitar and orchestra, realized by Denoth himself, of the beautiful „Serenata Española“ by the catalan Joaquín Malats (1872-1912), a piano work (originally with orchestra!) whichs popularity strangely declined in the last times. Palomo’s composition, with folkloric roots skillfully dressed with a modern language and a splendid orchestration, is an important contribution to the limited repertoire of guitar and orchestra. It’s a programme to follow with highest pleasure, if we add that the sound recording is excellent and that the interpretations of the guitarist of Basel, who possesses a marvellous sound and a remarkable musicianship, show perfectly its expertise and lean on the full professionality of the baton.
Ángel Carrascosa Almazán

May 2016

CLASSICAL GUITAR MAGAZINE 2016


HESSISCHE NIEDERSÄCHSISCHE ALLGEMEINE – GEORG PEPL, Variations of Love

Celebrating Shakespeare at the Opera Foyer (Staatstheater Kasssel Germany)

 

Kassel“If music be the food of love, play on …”, thus William Shakespeare in his comedy Twelfth Night or What You Will. It was plenty of food for love on Sunday at the crowded opera foyer: Director of the Staatstheater Thomas Bockelmann and renowned guitarist Christoph Denoth arranged a musical recital on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

It focused on the sonnets by the bard from Stratford, which capture the entire dynamics of love affairs in immortal verses. Bockelmann read selected sonnets and added some exciting information – with unpretentious ease, though quite breezy, which rendered the performance somewhat terse.

Love and the transient nature of life are serious topics, but Shakespeare time and again surprises us with his witticisms. “You may smile and laugh”, Bockelmann said. And yes, people did laugh, for instance listening to the obscene Sonnet No. 135 with its ambiguous key word “will” – which can also be a slang expression for female or male genitals.

In musical interludes, Basel born Christoph Denoth, who teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London, was perfectly brilliant. Full of life, with a finely honed dynamic and sophisticated rhythms, the guitarist played works originally written for the lute by Shakespeare’s contemporary John Dowland, who also worked at the court of art-loving Landgrave Maurice the Learned in Kassel. He finished with attractive variations by Spanish composer Fernando Sor to the great acclaim of 180 listeners.

 

24 April 2016

ROBERT HUGILL - review of “Nocturnos de Andalucía"

*****

"Throughout Denoth impresses both with his technique, but also with the engaging way he plays the music. He clearly feels strongly about Palomo's work, and brings out the interesting darkness and complexity of Palomo's vision of Anadalusia. Whilst the Rodrigo is a lovely, highly recommendable performance, it is the Palomo which makes this disc special. I do hope that the performance makes more guitarists take up this fascinating work."

 

Full review available here.

 

24 March 2016

CLASSIC FM - review of “Nocturnos de Andalucía"

 

The ever versatile LSO also features on this exceptional album, where the London-based guitarist Christoph Denoth winningly mixes the familiar and the unfamiliar. His account of Rodrigo’s evergreen Concierto de Aranjuez, with the orchestra winningly conducted by the veteran Spanish conductor Jesús López Cobos, is excellent, and can be highly placed in a competitive field. But the real reason for buying this well filled 68-minute album is the fill-ups. Lorenzo Palomo’s Nocturnos de Andalucía is a substantial 40-minute, six movement piece for guitar and orchestra, which revisits the same Spanish themes and moods that so inspired the great late-19th century Spanish guitar virtuoso/composers.

It’s attractive, without ever being too comfortable, and backward looking. It’s very cleverly scored for large orchestra, and will give much pleasure. There’s also a delightful lollipop at the end, with Denoth’s own arrangement for guitar and orchestra of Joaquín Malats’ Serenata Espanola – 4½ minutes of pure joy.

 

 

By David Mellor, 20 February 2016

ROBERT HUGILL - review of “Homages”

 ***** 

"all the works on the disc had great emotional appeal (…) and Denoth's performance certainly makes you want to dance"

 

27 March 2015

AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE - review of «Homages»

«…His playing is beautiful.»

THE NEW YORK TIMES - review of “Mister Dowland's Midnight”

"The melancholy, private lute music by John Dowland gets an infusion of fresh color in this recording by Christoph Denoth. Transposed to the modern guitar, the light-and-shadow contrasts of Dowland’s compositions become starker; the flights of counterpoint more brilliant. But it’s in the quietly meditative galliards that Mr. Denoth’s guitar sounds most lutelike."

GRAMOPHONE - review of “Mister Dowland's Midnight”

“Christoph Denoth is superbly placed to exploit the cantabile and colouristic properties of his instrument” (…) “beauty and power”

CLASSIC FM, THE NEW RELEASE SHOW - review of “Mister Dowland's Midnight”

"Well played… Makes a strong case for the music of Downland and show why we should stop overlooking him as a Great British composer."

THE NEW YORK CONCERT REVIEW INC
"A master of his instrument, he performed with great technical skill, spinning out well-shaped melodic lines with crystal clear, often thrilling, accompaniments. He drew from his instrument so many different colors that one often thought there was more than one guitarist on stage."
BADISCHE ZEITUNG

“As soloist, outstanding Basel concert guitarist Christoph Denoth showed true empathy for the Spanish tone colour, instrumental subtleties and technical finesse” (…) “impressively harmonious rendering by Denoth”

BASLER ZEITUNG
On stage, Christoph Denoth and his instrument quite naturally became a single entity. ”
BADISCHE ZEITUNG

"Christoph Denoth: Virtuosity and great musical expression"

NICE MATIN, Sylvie Carbou

"L’église Saint Grégoire a connu un beau moment de musique classique. Il faut dire que l’invité était prestigieux: le Suisse Christoph Denoth avait accepté de jouer un soir à Tourrettes, lui qui a connu sous les ovations, l’immense salle du Carnegie Hall de New York. [...] Quelques moments précieux ont émaillé cette soirée vraiment exceptionnelle. Ainsi le public, sous le charme, a pu découvrir un morceau écrit par Christoph Denoth lui-même et qu’il a intitulé ‹Hommage à Federico Garcia Lorca›. Musique raffinée faisant appel à beaucoup de rapidité et de qualités d’interprétation."

BASLER ZEITUNG

"With incomparable dexterity (Denoth) opens up a world of musical perspectives and the entire history of the guitar on his six strings…..Denoth crowns the kings of music with a potent mix of stage presence,technical virtuosity, fidelity to the music, and original expression."

CLASSICAL SOURCE - review of Wigmore Hall recital

"music was bright and crisp under Denoth’s dextrous fingers" (...) “extremely enjoyable hour’s music"

BUENOS AIRES HERALD

"All was played by Denoth with finely honed professionalism."

PEPE ROMERO (Guitarist) on Christoph’s Carnegie Hall Recital

“His musical and stage presence deeply impressed me. [...] Christoph Denoth combines faithfulness to the original score with a highly expressive and personal interpretation. He has the ability to fathom the depth of the composer’s inspiration and reveal all the mysteries and beauty of the piece."

MARIO DI BONAVENTURA (Conductor, Festival Director and Music Publisher in Los Angeles)
"…Christoph Denoth’s virtuosity on the classical guitar is outstanding and touches people’s minds and hearts and – above all – those of his audience. It is seldom that I can write with such enthusiasm and conviction.  He is one of the most accomplished guitarists of his generation…"
ROBERT HUGILL - review of Kings Place concert

"vibrant voice complemented by Denoth's strong (and) (...) moving accompaniment." (...) I very much hope to see them again."

JUAN CARLOS TARIFA, Argentina
"The Guitar on the Highest Level of Musical Expression"
FRANCES WILSON - review of BBC Proms Chamber Music at Cadogan Hall
"guitarist Christoph Denoth, whose accompaniment lent a sparse elegance to Gilchrist’s voice, while also recalling the spirit of Chinese lute."
JENS NYGAARD, New York (conductor)
"Christoph Denoth is the best classical guitarplayer I have ever heard"

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