Matthew Marshall plays guitar music by Michael Calvert


It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to write this introduction to Matthew Marshall's album of guitar music by New Zealand composer Michael Calvert. Having been resident at the Nelson School of Music for three years or so in the mid-1980s, I had the opportunity of working with many of New Zealand's players, teachers, and indeed composers.


It was at that time a smallish guitar scene, but with very active societies in several centres around the country, encouraging the playing of the instrument. Although the great Spanish maestro Andrés Segovia had performed there in 1964, recitals by international artists were still somewhat infrequent, but it was obvious that here was a nucleus of dedicated and passionate individuals who were determined to build support and interest not only through concerts and teaching of their own, but also by encouraging composers in New Zealand to write for the instrument.


I would like to mention the work of my good and much lamented friend, the late Ron Burt. He had first studied the instrument at the Spanish Guitar Centre, London, established by Len Williams in the early 1950s. After emigrating to New Zealand, Ron did much to promote and establish the instrument in the classical music scene, also encouraging composers to create new works suitable for concert programmes, thereby forging a link between New Zealand and the United kingdom, at that time the centre of the classical guitar world.  Ron became the dedicatee of the first large-scale work for the instrument, Suite for Guitar by David Farquhar (1966), closely followed by the set of Seventeen Pieces for Guitar by Douglas Lilburn.


Though, sadly, I never knew Lilburn, I had the pleasure of working with David Farquhar and other composers such as Michael Calvert, John Ritchie and Kenneth Young. These were all highly gifted musicians who had a real appreciation of what the guitar could do and who were able to write beautifully structured compositions of high quality. This music encompassed a large range of styles, written with belief and professionalism, through which emerged a new, fresh, and highly distinctive New Zealand guitar repertoire unfettered by the shackles of European tradition, leading to a distinctive compositional identity.


I am delighted to see the release of this album by Matthew Marshall, who is there right at the forefront, championing as he does New Zealand compositions around the world. Matthew has made an in-depth study of the music of Michael Calvert, and his insight into the details and complexities of this fine and beautifully structured music brings us an important recording, thus continuing the tradition established by Julian Bream more than fifty years ago, of commissioning and introducing new and challenging repertoire. Michael speaks eloquently about the works featured on this CD, so I would simply conclude by saying that here we have beautifully honed performances of music of real quality, written with deep understanding for the instrument, which comprises an important and serious body of work for the guitar.


- John Mills



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