Eric Brenton

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Romance Review

by Jonathan Widran

Eric Brenton was a typical American kid growing up in the '60s. After years of studying classical guitar and later classical violin, he became enamored with the Beatles and the guitar gods of the era and focused on the rock & roll dream. His band, Burlesque, became a Southern California club sensation and toured around the country throughout the mid- to late '70s. The multi-instrumentalist left the rock scene to pursue a career as a freelance musician and music teacher and eventually returned to his first love, classical music. His journey back to Beethoven, Bach, and Vivaldi culminates with his dynamic Native Language debut, a richly textured, multifaceted collection of beloved pieces (from the 16th to the 20th century) performed by Brenton on MIDI classical guitar, acoustic guitars, violin, viola, and mandolin. The liner notes recall Beethoven's quote that the guitar is a "little orchestra" of its own. Brenton adds that the discovery of the MIDI classical guitar -- the primary instrument on this recording -- has helped him more fully realize this notion. The disc includes new and innovative renditions of 12 pieces from a wide variety of composers and eras. Brenton waxes eloquent on the opening track, "Capricho Arabe" by Francisco Tarrega (1854-1909), then infuses pop/rock and smooth jazz flavors into Manuel Ponce's "Prelude #1." "Allegro Solemne" from Agustín Barrios' La Catedral introduces a dramatic film score-like orchestral element. "Gymnopedie No. 1" by Erik Satie (1866-1925) features a lush mandolin harmony, while the folksy and whimsical "Sicilienne" (Gabriel Fauré, 1845-1924) introduces Brenton's beautiful viola playing. After the soft and graceful solo guitar piece "Romance de los Pinos" (Federico Moreno-Torroba, 1891-1982), Brenton blends guitar, mandolin, and a chamber music-flavored small orchestra on "Largo" from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9. Other highlights include "Pavane" (Luis Milan, 1500-1561); the jazzy, orchestral-tinged "Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte" by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937); a beautiful spiritual medley of "Doxology" (Louis Bourgeois, 1510-1561) and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" (the later played on mandolin); Vivaldi's "Largo" from Concert in D Major; and an up-tempo pop twist on Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3."

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