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Louis Valentine Johnson with the
Dos Almas String Quartet
Hear the Excitement and Passion of Original Compositions!
Works by Radice, Sor, and LVJ
Toccata, Evocation, and Fandango
Opus 35: No. 22 in b minor, Allegretto
(Segovia study No. V)
The Peace Concerto:
Portraits, Song of Peace,
Album Notes by LVJ
Music can express our deepest emotions. Especially in dark times of tragedy and tribulation, it is through music a composer finds their way along the journey toward catharsis. The inspiration for recording these compositions, especially The Peace Concerto, emerged from trials in my personal life. Following the death of my son, Alex Johnson in 2010, I needed to address the pain and honor his life in a meaningful manner as a composer, musician and father. I owe deep gratitude to my son, my beautiful sweetheart Libby, grandson Alex II, daughter Heidi, my family, friends and fellow musicians, designers, and artists who shared their talents to make this important monument a reality. I compose music to illustrate what I cherish most - the people in my life. In The Peace Concerto you will hear the influence of classical styles, wild flamenco breezes, whispers from folk music, and even quotations from the great Romantics. From this palette, I aspired to bring these colors together in an innovative way to convey a wash of feelings. Cullan Bryant adds an exciting string quartet arrangement. We begin the CD with my friend Mark A. Radice’s delightful contribution, Toccata, Evocation and Fandango - a virtuosic exploration of the guitar ranging from soulful beauty to thrilling excess; Philip Rothman wrote a sensitive and deeply haunting string quartet accompaniment. Fernando Sor’s immortal guitar masterpiece, Allegretto in B-Minor (originally Étude #22, and also called Study # 5 by Segovia), finds new life in my guitar presentation which combines with the lovely string quartet accompaniment written by Craig E. Palmer and Richard Altenbach.
WIND, & STONE
The Union Newspaper
Grass Valley, California
Local Guitar Virtuoso
Louis Valentine Johnson’s latest CD (www.LouisValentineJohnson.com) is available this week, with 13 tracks/45 minutes of original compositions. Lou lovingly produces innovative classical guitar pieces that are perfect for road-tripping, kitchen-cooking, couch-lounging, or just living. This Idaho-raised farm boy has performed at venues most of us have only
dreamed about! His new CD and individual tracks are available at 200 digital download outlets such as Spotify, ITunes, Soundcloud
Lou’s latest compilation is entitled “Water, Wind & Stone,” but he tells me his music really reflects “hopes, wishes, &desires...”
WATER, WIND, & STONE CD NOTES BY LVJ:
"HOPE," is Movement One from my work "THREE PERILOUS THOUGHTS" dedicated to MAESTRO LEO BROUWER. When I was in graduate school in San Francisco, one of my professors, Rani Cochran gave me some compositions to study. They were composed by the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. Some of these works were titled: "ELOGIO de la DANZA" and "ESTUDIOS SENCILLOS." I studied them with my teachers and performed them in recitals and in many concerts. I loved them and so did listeners. Over the years I have enjoyed following Maestro Brouwer's compositions and activities;
even more so after visiting his homeland of Cuba for a couple of weeks. The "THREE PERILOUS THOUGHTS" composition consists of three movements which are individually titled: "HOPE," "WISH," & "DESIRE." These compositions are a small thank you to Leo Brouwer and Cuba. He has celebrated creativity, and mated freedom to the passion of musical art. He is an inspiration to the world of music and especially to all of us guitarists.
a review by
People respond to personal tragedy in a million different ways. For the prolific American guitarist and composer Louis Valentine Johnson, the death of his son Alexander at the age of 21 several years ago led to Johnson memorializing his beloved child in music: the three-movement, nearly 27-minute Peace Concerto that dominates this CD release (as well as the short Prelude, “Twenty-One Years,” that kicks off the disc).
As Johnson writes in the poignant liner notes, “The Peace Concerto embraces memories as Alex grew from from a baby to a little boy to a young man who then had his own son. These compositions encompass as much as music can. the opus includes our love, his struggles, his life Valiantly Running With Fire, playing The Cape, The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends, Greensleeves, and Tárrega on guitar by the fireplace, plus much more.” And indeed it is multi-layered work that runs a gamut of emotions and musical textures. Johnson has an unerring feel for melody, and he manages to connect the different musical threads he creates quite naturally. The influence of Spanish and Latin American composers comes through in many places, but there are also American folk strains evident and even nods to the Baroque. The middle movement of the Peace Concerto, “Song of Peace,” is particularly affecting. Johnson’s tremendously detailed notes about the Concerto certainly add to emotional heft of the piece, but I think that even if you didn’t know what inspired the work, it would probably move you. It’s quite a journey.
The concluding Tres Pensamientos Latinos makes for a pleasing conclusion to the disc; all three “thoughts” are infused with rich Spanish/Latin flavors, from soulful balladry to an exciting improv on classic Spanish tropes.
Prelude: Twenty-One Years; The Peace Concerto: Portraits, Song of Peace, The Question; Tres Pensamientos Latinos: Snowfall in El Escorial, Lullaby of Love, Malagueña California!
The album can be previewed and purchased through CDBaby, and heard in its entirety, piecemeal, on YouTube.
~ Blair Jackson, Editor-in-Chief-Classical Guitar Magazine
A DAY IN THE
a review by
"Listening to Louis Johnson's recording - A Day in the Country - is to relax in musical reverie. The delicate precision of the interpretations "sans" garish exhibitionism demonstrates the sincerity and sensitivity of a master guitarist." Enrique Coria,
Argentine Guitarist & Recording Artist
GOODBYE TO MEXICO
a review by
CLASSICAL GUITAR MAGAZINE UNITED KINGDOM
"This release by Louis Valentine Johnson is a pleasant affair. A large percentage of the tracks have been arranged by Johnson himself.....his performances tender and emotional, with here and there a 'Segovian' sweetness in the slower passages.
....traditional tunes from Mexico, Dia de Campo and Adios del Soldado are particularly delightful arrangements, immediately conjuring up visions of the 'traditional' sleepy Mexican village one sees in movies - lovely stuff!"
Album notes by LVJ:
This composition is in memory of those who died in the “Devil’s Path” after crossing the border on May 23 rd 2001: Julian Ambros, Herberto Badilla, Reyno Bartolo, Mario Castillo, Amulto
Flores, Efrain Gonzalez, Lorenzo Hernandez, Enrique Landeros, Alejandro Marin, Edgar Adrian Martinez, Sergio Ruiz, Raymundo Barreda and his 15 year old son.
Goodbye to Mexico tells a human story which is about much more than Mexico, and is re-enacted each night along the 2000 mile long border between Mexico and of Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona. Men, women and children, many desperately poor, separate into different groups and begin their border crossing in the blackness of night. They hope for better jobs and lives for their families. They have paid money to a “coyote” who leads them through trails and ravines of the remote desert.
They are entering the USA illegally and they risk serious consequences. Tonight, some will survive this dangerous journey while tomorrow others will perish in an inferno of desert sun. They pray for no moon and silently travel in the night, away from Mexico, full of hope, on a journey to a mythical new homeland in El Norte.
The devil pensively observes, then opens his path with a furious scale passage. After an arpeggiated introduction, I portray the fears and sadness of twenty-six people leaving their lives, parents, family and friends on May 19 th 2001. Their destination was North Carolina. The next
section speaks to the tension and danger of hiding and running to evade border guards, which was nothing compared to what they would encounter the next day. My central section illustrates the merciless searing furnace of southern Arizona sun as it ends thirteen lives in the 115 to 130 degree midday heat. Lengthy slow-motion moments pass while lives end, one by one. Calls of desperation echo. Death stops heartbeats among the cactus in a scorching desert. Although their deaths occurred separately, I have collectively painted each moment with a single major second and tritone chord, which rings until there is no more resonance and no more life. Their spirits slowly depart suffering, desperation, dehydration, and blinding sun.
In a poem by Octavio Paz: “The final shadow may close my eyes, carry me off from white of day, unchaining my soul at the hour….” The impact of tragedy was intensified by the dangerous web of a coyote’s careless and possibly purposeful deception. These people died because they
voluntarily took a serious risk into the unknown. Their coyote, Jesus Lopez-Ramos was said to have erroneously told them to walk north for one hour to reach a highway and a town. Lopez- Ramos went to trial and was sentenced to sixteen years in prison. That amounts to a little over a
year for each death. Carlos Fuentes in his book Inez writes, “We know how to silence death. We do not know how to quiet sorrow.” In the last section, I have thematically restated these sorrows with a return to the initial arpeggiation motif. A soft breeze moves slowly through the heat in an homage to those who perished. Tall saguaros guard a tableau horizon of sagebrushes where they rest in sand.
~Lou V. Johnson
THE BLUE HOUR
a review by
"Johnson is a skilled and sensitive interpreter. Not only of pieces by venerable master but also those by contemporary composers such as Jose Luis Merlin and Mark Radice.
A beautiful album."
a review by
For my 705th review overall and my second review for Louis Valentine Johnson, I am proud to present One, an innovative guitar piece that provides the listener with fourteen minutes of meditative tranquility and relaxation and can be heard and viewed with the bonus DVD as part of the album. Even though there are only three songs named after three countries on this album USA, India, and China, it is very peaceful and relaxing. On the DVD, there are video films for each of the three songs. It was well performed and written. I highly recommend this album to anyone looking for a piece to listen to when they need to relax and reduce stress.
a review by
DR. MARK A. RADICE
“I have had the pleasure of hearing Louis Valentine Johnson perform on several occasions. He possesses not only a fine technique but also a thorough knowledge of Baroque performance practices. He is a sensitive and talented musician."
a review by
THE UNION NEWSPAPER
Grass Valley, CA
“He succeeds beautifully. Johnson is a fine technician, articulating notes with clarity and warmth. His playing is dignified without seeming staid. Subtly passionate, this recording's quiet, delicate beauty is its' own reward."