Short Reviews, Volume 3: Recordings of Interest
By Robert A. Margo, CMSA Mandolin Journal
Mare Duo, “Gargolyes: mare duo plays Wallace,” www.gyremusic.com
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 www.gyremusic.com along with sheet music for all of its selections (and Wallace’s other works for mandolin); the recording is also available from www.trekel.de.