New Classical Tracks®

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet celebrates 40 years

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet started at USC. Jiro Schneider

New Classical Tracks - Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (Extended)


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April 27, 2022

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet Opalescent (Lagq Records)

New Classical Tracks - Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

“One could argue that the original goal was that we needed to get an ‘A’ in this classical guitar ensemble we signed up for,” guitarist William Kanengiser said about how the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet started. “We're still working on it.”

LAGQ was formed 40 years ago at the University of Southern California, and its members are celebrating that occasion with their new release, which highlights the varied colors of the guitar, Opalescent.

“It started with a friendship I formed with Scott Tennant at one of Pepe Romero's master classes,” Kanengiser said. “This was before he arrived at USC, and Pepe was a member of Los Romeros, the most famous guitar quartet. He told Tennant and I that we should have a quartet.

“It wasn’t until two years later that we went from being the USC guitar quartet to the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. That's why we're celebrating our 40th anniversary now.”

Can you talk about Matt Greif, your newest member, who also studied with Pepe in Spain?

“Greif joined our group, and we call him the new guy. He's only been with us for 16 years. We're still breaking him in. He was my student at USC and has done beautiful arrangements for us, one of which is featured on the new recording.

“It was heartwarming to see the arrangement of Michael Hedges’ Aerial Boundaries. I hadn't realized he'd been gone for 25 years. To hear that piece of music brought back to life by four guitarists makes Hedges sound like he was actually playing four guitars.”

Why is it so important to have Hedges’ Aerial Boundaries on this recording?

“Hedges had a groundbreaking recording on Windham Hill called Ariel Boundaries. It just blew the socks off everybody. It changed finger-style guitar forever.

“The funny thing is, quite a bit of this arrangement is a straight cover of what he did. It speaks to his amazing virtuosity and creativity that it takes four of us to do what he did on one guitar. Greiff went off the beaten track in the arrangement with a minimal 12/8 section that also beautifully adds his voice to the piece. It seamlessly works its way back to the original Hedges’ track later on.”

Why did you dedicate the album to Australian composer Phillip Houghton?

“He's most famous in the guitar world for his suite for four guitars called Opals. It attempts to portray the glints and reflections you see when you rotate the Australian national stone, the opal.

“He passed away three years ago and when we had started playing Opals, we thought we should record this beautiful piece. That work started the whole idea of what other pieces can reflect on the intersection between light and sound, or between the colors of the guitar and the colors you would see in your mind.”

How does Frederick Hand’s The Chorale turn your quartet into a choir?

“It's unusual for us to have each person playing a single line as if we were singing. It's probably the hardest thing to do with four guitars.

“John Dearman liked to say, ‘You know, it took us half our career to figure out how to play together and the other half to figure out how not play together, but to be together.’ That requires years, and a lot of telepathy.”

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Los Angeles Guitar Quartet — Opalescent (Amazon)

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (official site)