Some weeks we take a peek at recent albums or sheet music releases. Here are three of the CDs that have come into the Classical Guitar office within the past few months.
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Some of the albums I write about online will be reviewed in the magazine, some not. But we want to at least mention most of them here. You can listen to some of these on various of streaming services, but we always encourage you to support the artists by actually buying anything you like! Obviously we cannot research and report every outlet or online business where these albums are sold (Amazon, for instance, has outlets in many different countries/regions, but we generally link to the U.S. version), so check your favorite places that sell CDs and downloads!
To see links to all of our online album listings/reviews, click here.
I guess I telegraphed my love of this album by putting it on my Top 10 list for 2018. I am an unabashed fan of this player, and he manages to amaze me with every new release. This one is light years musically from his last triumph, The Romantic Guitar, which featured an all-19th century European program (Coste, Schumann, Mertz, Liszt, et al). Now, as the album title indicates, the Brazil native has shifted his attention to the Western Hemisphere, with a collection of 22 short pieces (one is tempted to call them “songs”), most from the 20th century, each by a different composer from South America or Central America, plus one each from Cuba, Haiti, and the USA.
There’s a huge variety of styles here, and the album is so intelligently sequenced: alternating tempos track to track—putting a driving, folk-derived “dance” side by side with a more complex Classical-inspired ballad; and tunes by well-known composers next to numbers by relative unknowns. Among the more famous “names” are Agustín Barrios (Danza Parguaya), Paulo Bellinati (Emboscada), Manuel Ponce (Estrellita), Antonio Lauro (Virgilio), Gentil Montaña (Suite Colombiana No 2: Porro); Marco Pereira (Bate-Coxa); and Frederic Hand (Lesley’s Song). But there’s absolutely no fall-off in quality with the (perhaps) less-known writers, such as Eduardo Fabini (the beautiful ballad Triste No. 1), Maria Luísa Anido (the lively Aire Norteño), or Eduardo Caba (Aire Índio No. 2, so deep and mysterious). With his tremendously graceful and expressive left-hand work, Zanon—who wields a 1964 Robert Bouchet guitar on the album—is a master storyteller when it comes to playing ballads, and this album has many that moved me (by Carlos Gardel, Carlos Bonilla, Ariel Ramírez, among others). Combine those with with the spry dance numbers and you’ve got an album that touches the soul and spirit in nearly countless ways. This is spectacular music from beginning to end; don’t miss it!
Emboscada (Xaxado) (Bellinati); Dia que Me Quieras (Gardel and Le Pera); Coral del Norte (Zamba Chilena No. 1), Op.29 (J.A. Rodriguez); Danza Paraguaya (Barrios); Suite Colombiana No 2: Porro (Montaña); Balada para Martín Fierro (Aire Sureño) (A. Ramirez); Parabienes (Ya se Casaron los Novios) (anon. arr. C. Pérez); Triste No. 1 (Fabini); Aire Norteño (Anido); Así Yo Te Soñé (Valse-Canción) (R.M. López); Estrellita (Ponce); A La Capotín (Xique) (Honduran folk dance arr. Carlos Barrientos); Guerra Perla Marina (Garay); Bate-Coxa (Pereira); Lejania (Payés); Pasillo No. 1 (F. Velázquez); Solo Tu (Pasillo) (Bonilla); Virgílio (Bambuco Tachirense) (Lauro); Aire Índio No. 2 (Caba); Dance of the Hounsies (Casseus); Preludio Criollo (R. Riera); Lesley’s Song (Hand)
The album can be purchased and downloaded through the Brazilian GuitarCoop label, streamed and bought on iTunes/Apple Music, and streamed on Spotify, and YouTube. More outlets will surely crop up in the near future, as well!
Here’s my problem: I have a stack of something like 25 classical guitar CDs on my desk at the moment waiting to be listened to and perhaps written about, but I keep coming back to this one instead of moving on to other ones! It’s a good problem to have, I guess, as this is a truly great release in my humble estimation! Somehow, Oliver Fartach-Naini, a German guitarist who lives in Australia, had mostly escaped my notice until now, even though the discography in the back of the notes for this album lists ten previous releases spanning 20 years—and I’d quite liked the one in that list I have heard: the 2015 release Tango, recorded under the name Duo Nexus (Fartach-Naini and clarinetist Peter Handsworth). The other nine feature him either as part of a guitar duo with Lee Song-Ou, or in various other intriguing chamber combinations.
But this solo guitar release is a winner on every level. Fartach-Naini plays four Latin suites—two by the great contemporary Argentine composer Máximo Diego Pujol (Seis Revelaciones and Suite Adelaires; the former assembled from six existing pieces, the latter actually written for Fartach-Naini); one by Australian Richard Charlton (the delectable title track, also written for Fartach-Naini but first recorded on Hilary Field’s wonderful 2015 album, Premieres); and one by the late Argentine composer Hector Ayala (Serie Americana, which was popularized by Narciso Yepes on his Viaje con Narciso Yepes por España, Francia u Sudamerica album in 1967). In the notes, Fartach-Naini describes the project as “the last of four CDs that constitute the core of a doctoral dissertation that examines the phenomenon of ‘ethnoclassicism.’ A vital aspect of this subject matter is the tri-ethnic confluence of African, Amerindian, and European traditions across South America’s musical landscape and how the resultant transcultural styles have come to define the classical guitar’s repertoire like no other.”
Heady stuff, but you don’t need a PhD, or anything besides your ears, to thoroughly enjoy this timeless, thoroughly engaging journey through South American sonorities. The Ayala suite’s six parts expressly, but still creatively, address folk traditions of different countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Argentina); while Pujol’s Seis Revelaciones reveals what Fartach-Naini calls an “unmistakably Argentinian voice Pujol specifically seeks to merge traditional tango and folk forms with classical music concepts….” Pujol’s Suite Adelaires (the title, in tribute to Fartach-Naini, combines the Australian city of Adelaide with Buenos Aires) is perhaps the most modern-sounding of the four, yet still steeped in tradition (tango, milonga, etc.). Three of the four suites have a movement with the word “tango” in the title, but they couldn’t be more different one to the next. The same could be said of the two vals movements. Indeed, there is much rich variety to the album as a whole, yet also an appealing consistency that makes it hang together beautifully. I can’t recommend this beautifully played and very well-recorded disc highly enough! Not mentioned in the notes is the guitar Fartach-Naini plays on the album: “a 2002 spruce-top by German guitar maker Rolf Eichinger in Granada; he unfortunately passed away in 2009,” he told me by email.
Seis Revelaciones: I. Un Nuevo Dia, 2.Tango Express, 3. La Búsqueda, IV. Mulato, V. Canción de la Tarde, VI. Acá A La Vuelta (M.D. Pujol); Suite Latina: I. Preludio, II. Tango in the Dark, III. Canción de la Rosa, IV. Vals By Moonlight (Charlton); Serie Americana: I. Preludio, II. Choro, III. Takirari, IV. Guarania, V. Tonada, VI. Vals, VII Gato y Malambo (Ayala); Suite Adelaires: I. Preludio, II. Tangostinato, III. En Dos Por Cuartas, IV. Las Camelias, V. Capicúa (M.D. Pujol)
Alas, there are no videos of Fartach-Naini performing any of this material on YouTube, however, the album can be streamed in its entirety on YouTube and Spotify, as well as purchased and/or streamed through iTunes/Apple Music and Amazon, or bought through his website.
The Italian Recital
Daniel Valentin Marx
Here’s a fine album of Italian classical music played by a German guitarist, recorded in a small, nicely resonant Austrian church. Daniel Marx‘s pedigree includes studying with Susanne Schoeppe and Roberto Aussel in Germany and with Pepe Romero and members of the LAGQ in California, and he clearly is very comfortable with the repertoire on this delightful album, which spans three centuries and five composers as it moves from the Renaissance up into the Romantic era.
It opens with a pair of appealing fantasias by Simone Molinari (c. 1565–1615): “I have the impression of a choir singing in my guitar,” Marx writes in the notes, and these do have a vocal quality to them that is heightened by the warm but bright acoustics of the church. (The marvelous recording is by Michael Silberhorn.) I was not familiar with the early 18th century lutenist Giovanni Zamboni, whose varied five-part Sonata IX comes next. It boasts a beautiful sarabande and requires a fair share of technical gymnastics from Marx in the peppier movements. Marx confidently handles the demanding Baroque counterpoint and ornamental flourishes there and in the four Scarlatti Sonatas that follow, each a different world unto itself.
The final two pieces are more common in the guitar repertoire: The three-movement, 20-minute Grande Sonata by Paganini (1782–1840) is a tremendously challenging piece, with many virtuosic requirements, but also many moments of tenderness and almost ethereal beauty (particularly in the popular, middle “Romanza” section); all handled with seeming ease by Marx. The final Reverie by Regondi—who Marx reminds us was born in Switzerland of only half-Italian ancestry and lived most of his life in England—is played by everyone (or so it seems), but it’s such a deep, emotional and satisfying work, not to mention difficult to play well, with its lush flights and long tremolo section (which in this context of Italian works makes me think of Italian mandolin more than Tárrega’s more “Spanish” tremolo). Marx played two different guitars on the disc: one by a luthier from Malaga named Joaquin Garcia, and one from the noted Bavarian maker Edmund Blöchinger. Both sound fantastic, and all in all, this is a lovely disc very well-achieved!
Fantasia Prima, Fantasia Nona (Molinaro); Sonata IX (Zamboni); Sonatas K531, K213, K32, K27 (Scarlatti); Grande Sonata in La Maggiore (Paganini); Reverie—Nocturne (Regondi)
Below is a mini-documentary (in German with English subtitles) that features an interview with Marx and footage of him playing: