For over 20 years, classically trained Brad Rau has been tirelessly performing his music across Boston, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. His repertoire includes classical guitar, rock guitar, and he also performs as a rock drummer. His album, La Catedral, draws on an evocative classical guitar sound that invites the listener to come closer, pause for a while, and engage with the story it has to tell.
Opening with a particularly arresting interpretation of Erik Satie’s classic Gymnopédies, Brad Rau’s performance is firm and confident while at the same time giving the sense of holding back. It’s a testament to the sheer weight of the composition, and how in the wrong hands it could sound clumsy and out of control. Not so here, with Rau’s remarkable ability to add a colourful flourish here and there, with the occasional harmonic resonance that adds depth and texture.
The listener is then led into a series of renditions of Santiago de Murzia’s compositions which are similarly restrained, channelling a confident baroque tone. These pieces in particular have an intimate feel to them, with a sense of space that gives the listener the impression of being very much there in person while the music is played directly to them – perhaps around an open fire just after the sun has gone down. Brad Rau’s musical delivery manages to create such a vivid reality for the listener, full of warmth and sensitivity, allowing the space between the notes to hang in the air and leave pockets of time which feel filled with energy and potential. A few of the Murzia pieces are so fleeting, drawing to a conclusion with an abruptness that holds the attention and demands that the listener should immediately look back and consider what has passed – much like the difference between savouring a glass of wine and taking a shot of tequila.
And so, we are then treated to one of Brad Rau’s own compositions, ‘Washed Away’. Featuring his own distinctive playing style, it’s an idea example of his writing skills, which draw on so many styles and influences. In parts it is understated, in others it steps forward, with certain notes ringing out with a clear expression, all the while maintaining an underlying sense of melancholy. This leads on to a rendition of Agustin Barrios’ ‘Una Limosnita por Amor de Dios’, which is deeply moving and evocative. Rau’s skills are again put firmly on show, clearly not a simple composition to perform, and yet the music is very much in safe hands here.
The closing tracks are more of Barrios’ work, ‘La Catedral’ I, II and III. This time the guitar is delivered with a different tone, one which almost leans towards the tone of a piano. The notes and gentle and played out gradually, leaving the listener in a position of leaning in closer to be as involved as possible with the performance. There are flashes of flamenco, dark moments, and occasions where it is as though the music becomes light itself. All in all, Brad Rau’s ‘La Catedral’ is a masterclass in classical guitar, and an ideal way to spend some time quietly winding down for the evening.