Aspirations Achieves

MiMi Yeh

Look no further if you are in search of a change from contemporary musical formulas but still desire something interesting to the ear. Kevin Hubbard, UMass alumnus and classical guitarist, recorded his debut album, Aspirations, featuring selections from the likes of J.S. Bach and Heitor Villa-Lobos. With a background in folk, jazz, and rock, the CD reflects a variety of musical styles from Europe and Latin America. Besides having achieved a magna cum laude in music during his stint at UMB, he has been active in theatre and radio broadcasting, and, interestingly enough, won the 1996 World Table Hockey Championship.

Beginning with Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malaguena,” arranged by Hubbard, the song is based upon a popular Spanish dance with the same name, done in 3/4 time. Melodic, yet flowing, it’s easy listening on the ears; the kind of album you can listen to while driving that won’t distract or detract from your attention and mood. Towards the end, the tune picks up the pace sharply before dropping off suddenly, leaving you hanging.

Fernando Sor’s “Etude No. 5” is, appropriately enough, listed as the fifth track off this album. An etude was originally intended for technical aerobics, working out complicated exercises. Now, it has evolved into the equivalent of an “answer key” for explaining the problem intended to showcase the simplicity of the solution, as seen in this particular movement.

An old favorite, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” by J.S. Bach, showcases one of the most well-known and skilled composers in history. It seems even more delicate and simplistic when played on Hubbard’s guitar, handled with the same care that can be found on its piano counterpart. It’s familiar and uncomplicated but still pleasing to hear.

“Prelude No. 1,” written by Manuel Ponce, reads almost like a lullaby. A prelude is usually an introduction to a larger piece. Previously, it had been used as an opening for a ceremony. However, it was only with musicians like Bach that it actually began to take on distinct characteristics during the seventeenth century. Ponce was considered the first internationally recognized Mexican composer. This particular track was written for his friend, Andres Segovia, one of the foremost classical guitarists of his time.

Hubbard chooses some of the best in opting for Francisco Tarrega’s “Estudio,” as Tarrega is regarded as having laid the foundations for modern classical guitar. Tarrega is responsible for transcribing and converting works of Beethoven, Chopin, and others into compositions capable of being covered by the guitar.

After 18 tracks of covering other musicians’ work, it’s only on track 19 that we see Kevin Hubbard’s own style with track “Aspirations,” which gave its name to the album. It demonstrates a startlingly contemporary and sprightly sound compared to the slower pieces of latter composers with a heavier emphasis on traditional melodies. Hubbard does not hesitate to have fun with his fingering where he displays both the influences of the classical and the Latin American artists he presents on his album.

Kevin Hubbard will be performing a noon recital at King’s Chapel in Boston on January 27, 2004. For further dates and booking information, he can be reached at [email protected].