Los Angeles Guitar Quartet to Celebrate 40th Anniversary With New Album OPALESCENT

It features his pieces Opals and Wave Radiance, exploring the synesthetic intermingling of light and sound.

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On Friday, April 8, 2022, the GRAMMY Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) will self-release its fourteenth commercial album, Opalescent, marking the group's 40th anniversary as a touring ensemble. Dedicated to the memory of the brilliant Australian composer Phillip Houghton, it features his pieces Opals and Wave Radiance, exploring the synesthetic intermingling of light and sound. Other works include Andrew York's Hidden Realm of Light, Kevin Callahan's Alki Point, Matt Greif's arrangement of Michael Hedges' Aerial Boundaries, Frederic Hand's Chorale, Robert Beaser's Chaconne, and Tilman Hoppstock's Suite Transcendent. Steve Rodby, Grammy-award winning producer and bassist of the Pat Metheny Group, produced this release, and it was vibrantly recorded by Grammy-winning engineer Rich Breen. The liner notes were written by William Kanengiser and the 3D opals featured in the album artwork were created by his daughter, graphic designer Camille Kanengiser. On March 18, Hidden Realm of Light will be released as a single on all platforms.

Of the album, William Kanengiser says, "Seen through the colorful lens of the guitar, the pieces on Opalescent reflect the composers' unique visions of sound, saturated with light. We hope their music gives you as much solace and joy as it has given us."

Andrew York (b. 1958) was an LAGQ bandmate from 1990-2006, and he created a rich repertoire for guitar quartet to go with his vast catalog of solo guitar works. Hidden Realm of Light shows his brilliance as a musical colorist, with flashes of bright tones over muted pizzicato accompaniment, call-and-response textures, and African-inspired overtones.

Kevin Callahan (b. 1958) is a Seattle-based composer and guitarist who freely informs his classical guitar pieces with rock, jazz and folk elements. Alki Point is a wistful portrait of the historic settler's point on the westernmost coast of Seattle, now a home to a vibrant artist colony. Opening with a plaintive melody over a polyrhythmic ostinato, the piece diverges into an insistent section over a pulsing bass rhythm, loosely quoting a Wes Montgomery tune, and ends with a distinctly jazzy coda.

Michael Hedges (1953-1997) created a revolution in steel-string guitar playing with his innovative tapping and open-tuning creations. He took the world by storm with his groundbreaking 1984 recording Aerial Boundaries, and Matthew Greif's arrangement of the title track presents it faithfully, providing a brief 12/8 excursion before returning to Hedge's ethereal tune.

Phillip Houghton (1954-2018) expressed a distinctly Australian aesthetic, reflecting the country's vast landscapes and mystical "dreamtime" Aboriginal legends. He was famously a synesthete, associating specific colors with particular musical tones and timbres. Opals (1993, rev. 2014) is a three-movement work for guitar quartet, capturing the glints and sparkles emanated by Australia's national gemstone. The score contains detailed references to the specific colors of the Black Opal, the Water Opal and the White Opal, which are mirrored in the 3D digital images created for this recording's design.

Frederic Hand's (b. 1947) Chorale turns the guitar quartet into a plucked version of a vocal a capella group; the seeming simplicity of the piece belies the difficulty of four guitars moving with the freedom and spaciousness of a chorus. Hand writes of his piece, "Based on a simple theme of three notes ascending in whole steps, Chorale is inspired by the Renaissance and Baroque choral music that I listened to in my youth, although I've integrated some of my favorite jazz harmonies and rhythms as well."

Of his Chaconne, composer Robert Beaser (b. 1954) says, "Built on a passacaglia bass, itself a trope on Purcell's iconic 'Thy hand, Belinda,' the piece consists of a set of nine variations utilizing harmonic progressions and expressive inflections which alternate in character and transform over time... Each variation contains the same musical DNA so that listeners can locate themselves in its form at any time, but the larger journey ultimately culminates in a world far removed from where it began." Chaconne was commissioned by the Boston Classical Guitar Society and LAGQ in 2017.

Tilman Hoppstock (b. 1961) is a virtuoso guitarist, arranger, and noted Bach scholar, and he has developed a career as a composer under the pseudonym of wholly-invented English composer Allan Willcocks (1869-1956). Composed for LAGQ in 2015, Suite Transcendent is a suite of five pieces inspired by an imaginary exhibition of Impressionist paintings. Hoppstock writes: "By adopting the persona of Allan Willcocks, it freed me to create music which displayed influences of French and English Impressionism and reflected a completely distinct musical personality from my own."

The recording ends with another work by Phillip Houghton, his Wave Radiance (2002, rev. 2005), carrying the subtitle "Colour: the Skin of Resonance." Vibrating with overlapping patterns of repeated notes and arpeggios, it captures the essence of light-wave spectra, phasing with subtle changes of texture and harmony, ultimately drifting away on delicate high harmonics.

About the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

For more than four decades on the concert stage, the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) (John Dearman, Matthew Greif, William Kanengiser, and Scott Tennant) have continually set the standard for expression and virtuosity among guitar ensembles, while perennially redefining themselves in their musical explorations. As one of the most charismatic groups performing today, the LAGQ's critically acclaimed transcriptions of concert masterworks provide a fresh look at the music of the past, while their interpretations from the contemporary and world-music realms continually break new ground.

LAGQ's recordings appear on the Telarc, SONY, Delos, GHA and LAGQ labels. Recent albums include the Grammy-nominated collaboration with Conspirare, The Singing Guitar (Delos 2020), featuring Nico Muhly's groundbreaking work How Little You Are, and Pat Metheny's Road to the Sun (Modern Recordings/BMG 2021). Named for the monumental title track written by Metheny for LAGQ, Road to the Sun topped the Apple Music classical charts in Spring 2021.

Recently inducted into the Guitar Foundation of America's Hall of Fame, LAGQ's ensemble excellence and creative innovation has inspired generations of guitarists around the world. A favorite of classical radio stations, their accessible yet adventurous repertoire runs the gamut from Renaissance to rock, Bach to bluegrass, and gamelan to jazz. With their newest release Opalescent, LAGQ continues to forge new musical paths, brilliantly revealing the interplay between sound and color.

Formed in 1980 as the USC Guitar Quartet under the guidance of Maestro Pepe Romero, they began their professional career as LAGQ in 1982. Learn more at www.lagq.com.

Opalescent Track List

1. Andrew York - Hidden Realm of Light [2:32]
2. Kevin Callahan - Alki Point [3:59]
3. Michael Hedges (arr. M. Greif ) - Aerial Boundaries [5:33]
Phillip Houghton - Opals
4. Black Opal [2:26]
5. Water Opal [4:34]
6. White Opal [3:05]
7. Frederic Hand - Chorale [6:24]
8. Robert Beaser - Chaconne [12:01]
Tilman Hoppstock - Suite Transcendent
9. Open Landscape [2:24]
10. La Grande Cathedrale [1:43]
11. A Breath of Wind (Fuga) [1:16]
12. La Porte Du Ciel [2:47]
13. Danza Diabolica [2:16]
14. Phillip Houghton - Wave Radiance [6:16]

Total Time: 57:25

Produced by Steve Rodby
Co-Produced by William Kanengiser
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Rich Breen
Recorded July 30-August 1, 2019 at the University of Southern California's Brain & Creativity Institute
Suite Transcendent recorded September 28 & 30, 2017 at Cammilleri Hall
Produced by Tilman Hoppstock and Kai Narezo
Recording Engineer: Randall Ayers
CD layout and design by Austere
3D digital opal images by Camille Kanengiser
Photos by Felix Salazar
Program notes by William Kanengiser

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