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2009-03-07

Artist Spotlight: Daniel Bautista

I discovered Daniel Bautista last month via the free MP3s recommended in my last.fm account. A look at his last.fm artist page showed songs with titles like "Moonlight Sonata", "Symphony No. 5", and "Symphony No. 9" among his top tracks. Even without being on a classical music kick, I would have easily recognized these song titles; given the fact that I've been listening to little but classical music for a while now, this seemed like something that would be right up my alley. Another thing I noticed on this page is the "jamendo" tag. I've covered Jamendo here before, and it is still a site that I use regularly for discovering new music. A quick search on Jamendo brought me to Daniel's artist page, where the two albums that jumped out at me right away were Beethoven and Classics and Soundtracks.

Beethoven is a collection of six of Ludwig van Beethoven's compositions arranged for guitar. There are three instrumental styles on the album, each represented by two tracks. The first style is guitar and drums, in which multiple guitars are overdubbed to achieve an orchestral effect with the drums providing accents rather than a beat; the overall sound lies somewhere between classical music and heavy metal. "Symphony No. 5" opens the album in this style, and is actually a guitar-based version of the entire first movement of that piece. The other song in this style is "Symphony No. 9"; this time Daniel summarizes the various movements of the piece. The slow, ominous feel of the first movement soon gives way to the more technical second movement, allowing him to really showcase his mastery of the instrument. About midway through this 10-minute song, the fourth movement begins, which includes a beautiful rendering of the famous "Ode to Joy". Here Daniel's skill as an arranger is on full display; what begins as a solitary guitar playing the melody gradually builds into a small orchestra of guitars and drums, bringing the piece to a rousing and rocking finish.

The second style is similar to the first, in that it consists of layers upon layers of electric guitars, but without any drums. "Symphony No. 7" is the first such track, consisting of just over 3 minutes from the second movement of the titular symphony. This track is very beautiful, and has given me new appreciation for the original. I actually had trouble figuring out where in the symphony this brief excerpt was from, and even thought it might have been mislabelled. After a few more listens to the original, I finally heard it at the beginning the second movement, and this is now my favourite part of the symphony. The second such song is "Grosse Fuge", which is actually a complete performance of "Große Fuge in B flat major", a string quartet. The interplay between the various guitar tracks is amazing in this song, and I think it also showcases an enormous amount of respect for Beethoven's music.

The third style of tracks employs classical guitar for a much more traditional sound. "Moonlight Sonata" is the complete first movement of "Piano Sonata No. 14 'Moonlight'". The guitars are still layered in this song, and there are some very nice stereo effects in it - listen to the song on headphones to hear the rhythm travelling from left to center to right throughout the piece. "Para Elisa", a brief, single guitar version of "Für Elise", closes the album, almost feeling like a tease after the five longer pieces that preceded it. I would certainly love to hear another album like this in the future, based either on Beethoven or another composer (Mozart, pretty please?).

The album description for Classics and Soundtracks states "This is the Jamendo edition of the album, there are plenty more classics in www.danielbautista.com". I guess this has something to do with the Creative Commons licenses used on Jamendo; in this case, what it basically amounts to is that the "Soundtracks" part of the album is not available from Jamendo. Should you choose to download the album from Jamendo, you will be treated to some excellent reinterpretations of some classical pieces. "The Four Seasons - Spring Allegro", for example, is a version of Vivaldi's famous piece arranged for classical guitar, while "The Four Seasons - Summer Presto" is an electric guitar version of its titular piece. There are a few songs based on works by Mozart, including "Symphony No. 25 (1st Movement)", a cool electric guitar version of that piece, and "Turkish March", which features a rock arrangement led by piano. A couple of my other favourites are Tchaikovsky's "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee".

As good as all that is, I would highly recommend downloading the album from Daniel's own site. You get everything from the Jamendo version of the album plus 8 movie and television soundtrack selections. My favourites of these are "Superman" and "Lord of the Rings"; the soaring melodies in the "Superman" theme translate very well to the electric guitar, and "Lord of the Rings" is an excellent medley of the major themes from those films. If you're into torrents, you may notice that there is a link to a torrent for this album - that's how I downloaded it, and I'll be seeding it for a while, so if you don't feel like downloading all 22 files separately, this might be a good option for you.

If you do head to Daniel's site, you will notice that there is an incredible amount of music available for download - both solo material and from a variety of bands Daniel has played with over the years. I think it would be easy to spend weeks downloading and listening to all this music, and I think it is very likely that I may end up doing just that. Before I sign off here, I just want to briefly mention one more album, Madera Y Bronce, an album that showcases Daniel's skills on the acoustic guitar across a wide variety of genres. Some of the songs are acoustic versions of songs from Daniel's other albums, such as "In the Desert", which features a great chord progression, and "Difícil", a short progressive metal piece which translates amazingly well to the acoustic guitar; some are original songs, like the high speed country-tinged "Judge Holden"; and some are classical songs, including "Para Elisa" (the full version this time!) and a piece called "Bach Auf Der Gitarre", a medley of Bach's music featuring, among other things, his "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" (thanks to Mike G. for identifying that piece for me; if anyone knows any of the other pieces referenced in this song, would they kindly leave a comment here about it?).  

I am sure that this will not be the last time I blog about this amazingly talented and prolific young artist. At the rate he seems to put out new music, it probably won't be long before he has something else that I'll want to write about. I hope that this post will help to raise his profile a little as well, because artists as talented as Daniel Bautista deserve to be heard by lots of people. Happy listening!

URLs:
http://www.last.fm/music/Daniel+Bautista
http://www.jamendo.com/en/artist/daniel.bautista
http://www.jamendo.com/en/album/27602 (Beethoven)
http://www.jamendo.com/en/album/24585 (Classics and Soundtracks)
http://www.jamendo.com/en/album/39593 (Madera Y Bronce)
http://www.danielbautista.com/discography.php

1 comment:

Daniel Bautista said...

This is an incredible post, Jeff. Very, very insightful and detailed. Thank you very much!

The pieces of Bach medley are parts from:

- Tocata in D minor
- Allegro (Brandenburg Concerto No. 2)
- Badinerie (Orchestral Suite No. 2)
- Erbarm' dich, mein Gott (or something like that; Aria No. 39, St. Matther Passion)

Thanks again!