Category “review”

Classical Guitar review of Omaggio

Frank Wallace
Gyre Music
Finding new colors in Segovia’s repertoire

This “tribute to the legacy of Segovia” (i.e., pieces associated with him) is played on a 1931 Hauser and recorded in a church, so there is plenty of natural reverb on the recording.  Wallace begins with Villa-Lobos’ first three Preludes, well-known to most, but what is unexpected is his presentation of some details in a slightly different way, which I found quite refreshing.  The Manuel de Falla Omaggio that comes next moves a little faster than a lot of interpretations and is full of power and drama. Turina’s Garrotín and Soleares are wonderfully played.  It is such a shame that Turina’s guitar oeuvre is so tiny, as these pieces are exciting and consistently entertaining.

Four pieces by Tárrega follow, all lovely miniatures, including Adelita and the famous Capricho Arabe, which receives a particularly lively and dynamic performance. The only slightly unconventional addition to the recital is a set of variations on El Noi de la Mare, so beloved in Llobet’s magnificent version.  Here, Wallace treats this lullaby to a constantly surprising set of emotions, many of them definitely not very lullaby-like.  This is Wallace’s own homage to both Llobet and Segovia.

The recital finishes with one of the finest pieces Segovia had written for him, Federico Mompou’s Suite Compostelana. Wallace’s interpretations are quite telling, as here, too, he manages to find fresh ways to play this suite.  This is altogether a wonderful album, beautifully played. – Chris Dumigan, Classical Guitar Summer 2017

Listen and Purchase

Nina Krebs, on hearing Omaggio, Gyre CD by Frank Wallace

Gyre 2 by Nina Krebs“Gyres” by Nina Krebs [click on photo to see more] –

I met Nina at the Long Island Guitar Festival two years ago. She’s an artist, a fan, and a lover of all things beautiful. Nina posted several new drawings recently and I had to grab them since each is full of gyres – the circular squiggles. She also wrote me a beautiful response on hearing my new CD a couple of weeks ago and I suggested she fill it out a bit and post as a “review”. So here it is…

Everything about this work of art is beautiful: the lush multi-layered painting on the cover, the sensuous photo of the Hauser inside, the love letter to your mentors, the recorded sound quality, the music and humanity. The music is exquisite; a selection of works that were dear to the iconic guitarist Andrés Segovia as well as a dramatic set of variations on the famous tune Noi de la Mare. Called Dreams on a Lullaby, Wallace’s own composition is perfect for inclusion.

OMAGGIO sat on my desk for a few days, and I enjoyed looking at the cover. Last night I opened it and played it straight through. I was transfixed – did not move. That was not my intention, but I couldn’t tear myself away, and when it ended I hoped for more. Only listen to this work if you have time to devote to cascades of notes, cadences and accents so delicately placed you might miss them if you breathe.

The music flows from its creators through the magic fingers of Frank Wallace. His soul is in the music, and he is unembarrassed by that vulnerability.  The artist’s attention to detail is a gift, one which allows the listener to completely surrender to the performance. The clarity of the playing, the trills and runs that tumble and fall with grace and resonance, carry the music forward intentionally. The Hauser guitar, with its intricate history and depth of soul, embraces the history of music, and hopefully the future.

OMAGGIO coalesces a particular repertoire, a history-laden instrument resonant beyond belief, and an artist who loves it all and pours his musicality as well as exquisite technique and attention into this work. The CD is presented artfully; Nancy Knowles’ cover painting is a perfect touch along with photographs and liner notes that highlight a spare conceptual homage to a particular history of classical guitar music.

The depth of Wallace’s knowledge, commitment and experience shimmer through the sound. Sometimes perfectionism pays, and this is one of those times. In addition to my pure pleasure in listening to the music I find inspiration to push for my best in the work I’m doing now. Thank you. Congratulations on a fine contribution to world art. – Nina Krebs, 1/16/17

Purchase you copy or link to downloads here: BUY OMAGGIO

Gargoyles reviewed in CMSA Mandolin Journal

Short Reviews, Volume 3: Recordings of Interest
By Robert A. Margo, CMSA Mandolin Journal
Mare Duo, “Gargolyes: mare duo plays Wallace,”

California-born [Texas-born and California raised] and educated at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Frank Wallace has long enjoyed an internationally reputation as a performer on classical guitar and renaissance lute and as a composer of solo and chamber music for classical guitar. Wallace met Annika and Fabian Hinsche – the Mare Duo — at a concert in Boston in 2008 and was immediately entranced by the sound of the mandolin – and the rest, as they say, is history. “Gargoyles” contains the bulk of Wallace’s music for mandolin plus one piece for solo guitar, “White Albatross”, dedicated to Fabian Hinsche (not on the record are a piece for solo mandolin, “Blue Heron”, written for this reviewer; “My Vital Breath,” written for the New American Mandolin Ensemble; and two arrangements of works originally for other instruments). Joining the Mare Duo on several tracks are Anne Wolf (mandolin), Kristina Lisner (GDAE mandola), Melanie Hunger (mandolin), and Thomas Kolarczyk (contrabass). Wallace’s voice is modernist, rhythmically and harmonically adventurous but never aggressively so; technically, the music often stretches the mandolinist (and guitarist) considerably beyond their comfort zones (a good thing, in my opinion). This is especially true in the remarkable work for mandolin and guitar “The Coming of Arthur” (written for the Mare Duo) and “Night Owl”, a demanding piece for solo mandolin written for Annika Hinsche. Wallace is fond of programmatic titles, such as the recording’s namesake (for two mandolins and guitar); and the beautiful “New England Quartets” (M1, M2, GDAE mandola, guitar), whose three movements evoke scenes and sounds from New England’s past and present(this piece also exists as a quintet for mandolin ensemble, and in a version for guitar orchestra). Also included is a quintet work (M1, M2, GDAE mandola, guitar, bass) “Nocturne”, originally written for Das JugendZupfOrchester des Landes NRW and the Providence Mandolin Orchestra.

While much of the music on this recording is of a professional caliber of difficulty, “Quartets” and (to a lesser extent) “Nocturne” is feasible for intermediate-level amateurs. The performers are among the crème of the crop of the modern German mandolin scene; it is difficult to imagine superior recordings of any of these pieces. The recorded sound is also unusually good – lifelike, balanced, and sonorous. “Gargoyles” can be ordered directly from along with sheet music for all of its selections (and Wallace’s other works for mandolin); the recording is also available from

The Music of Bret Williams – CD review

Bret Williams is a funny guy. He’s friendly but edgy, likes to push the envelope in his podcast interviews. Here’s a couple of quotes from his website: “I don’t play strings not made by D’Addario. I’d rather die.” Or, “I hate Apple’s recording software, but I love the head of University of Washington’s guitar department, Michael Partington.” So this music is not what I expected. Williams’ music is sweet rather than ironic, it’s lyrical and nostalgic rather than biting and bitchy. It’s downright beautiful. Melody is king on this disc and the lovely interweaving of each line carries me through the whole CD time and again. The titles are worthy of comment: Pick That Up, Please; I Remember Dancing; and my favorite You’ll Tear Your Dress. While these come from Bret’s love of humor and irony, [that sometimes verges on vulgarity] they betray a love of the common, the mundane, the daily life of a Joe in New York City. But one who is not jaded by the need to conform to a style. Bret has created his own style. And it’s daring is to say, “I dare to love;” “I dare to laugh at myself;” “I dare to wear my heart on my sleeve.” “I dare to write beautiful music!”

This is a rare and fresh piece of work. It’s not daring in the sense of way out experimental music, dissonant harmonies or incessant repetition. But it is daring that one composer has chosen to write so much music for one unusual ensemble. And a nice one it is! With guitar, violin, clarinet and bass, Williams manages to use every instrument (except the bass) in every role he can conjure: solo, accompaniment, duets, dialogues. There is always a fresh texture and new rhythmic groove. Only the bass stays in its relatively typical role of being bass – usually plucking, or is it always, hmm, have to listen again…

I have just completed an interview with French composer Pascal Jugy who is about to release a CD of flute and ten-string guitar music and both have much in common. Both clearly love life and show that through an underlying pop/jazz feel. Through melody. I dare say Bret’s music is almost cabaret in style – a touch of the elegant Parisienne. It’s intimate and caring. It’s flirtatious. It says, “Have a seat and enjoy a glass of wine in the sunshine.”

Towards the end of the CD, I did want to hear something distraught, pissy or pissed off. A little anger, an argument, “Hey Bret, your music sucks, wanta fight?!” Or: Hey Jerk, You Spilled My Milk. But that’s just me and maybe it will come next time. I hope there is a next time, with or without spilled milk. We need more guitarists willing to join forces with other instruments and make a statement, commit to a new sound. We need more composers to care about guitar ensembles. We need to try new sounds and break away from the ordinary. This album is proof that one can do that without being weird or controversial, yet still new and relevant.

I have to end with another quote from Bret, “Why don’t you buy a CD from me? You can buy it from iTunes too, but Apple doesn’t care about me. They only care about themselves. You’ll also find me on all your favorite streaming services if you prefer to kill art in America.”

Do It!

Frank Wallace

PS – I sent this review to Bret and invited his response before publication. I thought there might be some further dialogue that could be interesting…here it is:

Holy shit Frank.

You almost made me cry in public. This is amazing. You should be writing at the Times and teaching at Juilliard. Let me know where you decide to post it. Feel free to post my response.


My response to Bret: Cluster Pluck, by Frank Wallace, from a new collection of seven short works entitled Film Scores, click on the title to read more and purchase. A free copy of Cluster Pluck and Sweet Betrayal is in the Sample PDF on that page. Keep your eyes peeled for a Movie Contest coming up this summer.