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CD Review Album Review Suite Magica Emily Granger and Andrew Blanch

album launch: suite magica | emily granger andrew blanch

Two musicians, harpist Emily Granger and classical guitarist Andrew Blanch, have been working and living in Australia for years but only really got to know each other in 2019 when they were both Banff Musicians in Residence in Alberta, Canada. Each has plenty of experience working in high quality partnerships performing and recording but, this is something different.

A partnership between harp and guitar is actually quite rare. The two stringed instruments have plenty of repertoire when matched to either more players of their own instrument or in mixed ensembles. To fill a whole recorded album with just one harp and one guitar, they were going to need new arrangements and new compositions.

With the help of ABC Classic recording label and Producer Tristan Coelho (Granger’s husband), they drew upon composers from the late 1800s/early 1900s such as Ravel and Granados for works the audience or listener would easily recognise. Next, they added modern works that were either new arrangements or had been specifically commissioned for the project by composers such as Elena Kats-Chernin and Ross Edwards.

The result is one of the most extraordinary albums to come out of Australia in a long time. Suite Mágica (named after the featured, four movement work by Máximo Diego Pujol) fairly evenly distributes the spotlight between both players. The music is light, positive, fresh and fun. A contemporary mix lightly skipping between the whimsical, the gentle, the playful and some sexy Latin rhythms. It’s perfect for a wide variety of listeners to enjoy and would make a great gift.

Granger and Blanch have been touring to promote the album visiting almost every Australian state. On 9 February 2024 they played to a full house at the Sydney Opera House Utzon Room. The audience was filled with show business patrons, musicians and followers; all there happy and keen to support. Considering the difficulties of performing anywhere in the world in the past few years, it was surprising to hear this Sydney performance marked their 50th public performance together.

Granger has a wealth of experience from her professional work starting in the USA where she was born. Previous positions have included Principal Harp of the Chicago Civic Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra and National Orchestral Institute in the USA. Presently she is Principal Harp for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Highly professional in attitude, well organised and being a great networker meant she put her roots down in Australia, intermingled and stirred up work faster than most locals.

Blanch has matured in technical skill and on-stage demeanour in leaps and bounds over the past few years. No longer the quiet, gangly kid, he is now confident in his banter, cracking jokes with the audience, laughing with Granger, then throwing himself into playing with a sound that is pure, emotive and effortless. He is currently President of the Classical Guitar Society here in Sydney.

As a duo, they work very well together and the intimate setting of the Utzon Room allowed the entire audience in to their personal space. Only one unexpected interval was required to replace a snapped string, which only made the audience roar for more then they returned to complete the music set. The duo were very popular with the audience and for good reason. Difficult artists can never succeed in pretending to be nice people. These two really are amiable. Their partnership and choices of repertoire feel like the recipe for a guaranteed success in regional touring, theatre settings, intimate settings and hopefully more albums.

Five stars for a unique offering. Five stars for setting aside angular, dissonant music for the sake of being “modern” and instead choosing music with wide appeal. Five stars for outstanding performance. Five stars for all the Australian commissioned works. Five stars for style and class.

Emily Granger Andrew Blanch guitar and harp CD Album review Suite Magica.
Emily Granger Andrew Blanch guitar and harp CD Album review Suite Magica.

As a CD, the album cover is easy to spot with it’s bold pink circles and half circles. The text on the outer leaf is frustratingly small and pale – obviously designed by someone with excellent eye sight – as was the program for the tour performances. In the dim lighting of a theatre setting it was near impossible to read. However, we can save reading the small print for a sunny day. Meanwhile, sit back, relax, and enjoy a truly great 60+ minutes of music by Granger and Blanch.

The best way to support the artists is by buying the physical CD here: https://emilygranger.com/links

Related links:

Emily Granger website: https://emilygranger.com/
Interview with Emily Granger 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vew_H85k3Hw
Andrew Blanch website: https://www.andrewblanch.com/

CD contents

MARCO PEREIRA – Fantasia Concertante
TRISTAN COELHO – Forest Stories
SALLY WHITWELL – Tiny Dances
ELENA KATS-CHERNIN – Fleeting Encounters
ENRIQUE GRANADOSm – Danzas Españolas
MAURICE RAVEL – Pavane pour une infante défunte
MÁXIMO DIEGO PUJOL – Suite mágica
ROSS EDWARDS – Emily’s Song

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