Spanish Magic: Recent Albums from Jorge Caballero and Kazu Suwa

Jorge Caballero

Most 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 recently.

If you have a CD you’d like to submit to us, here’s our address:

Classical Guitar
501 Canal Blvd. suite J
Richmond, CA 94804-3505

Some of the albums we talk 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, so check your favorite places that sell CDs and downloads!

To see our previous listings, scroll to the bottom of the page.

                                                                                 —Blair Jackson

Jorge Caballero

Here’s an album you should not miss! Jorge Caballero, the extraordinary Peruvian virtuoso famous for the breadth of his repertoire, including tackling and mastering pieces that are notoriously difficult to play on guitar (such as Kazuhito Yamashita’s arrangements of works by Mussorgsky and Dvorak, and his own version of Berg’s Piano Sonata Op. 1), shines brilliantly on this album devoted entirely to solo guitar arrangements of piano works by Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909). Now, it’s certainly not unusual to hear guitar takes on Albéniz—is there a Spanish “guitar” piece more played than Asturias/Leyenda, popularized by Segovia? That’s here, of course, under its actual title, Preludio (or Prélude), the opening work in Albéniz’s Chants D’Espagne (or Cantos de España); the other titles were attached to the piece after the composer’s death. Caballero presents the entire five-part suite in his own arrangements—his Preludio is less flashy, perhaps a little slower, but also deeper than some I’ve heard. It fits wonderfully on the album, especially in its slot following four works from Albéniz’s Iberia (which consisted of four books of three pieces), again in arrangements by Caballero.

It’s amazing to consider what Caballero has done here. Most of the pieces he’s chosen have more commonly been played by guitar duos, or even trios—fitting for the at times nearly orchestral complexity of Albéniz’s writing, which is not that easy even for the ten fingers of a pianist with ready access to all those octaves. That’s why it made sense for John Williams and Julian Bream to play Bajo la Palmera and Evocación as a duo, and why Williams elected to record El Albaicín, fronting an orchestra. But Caballero has managed to create effective translations to solo guitar, without sacrificing too much from the piano originals. In fact, I did a side-by-side piano-guitar comparison with three of the pieces; for example, listening first to Ricardo Vines’ 1930 piano recording of Oriental (from Chants), then immediately listening to Caballero’s transcription. Of course, the guitar version does not have quite the same drama or as powerful dynamic shifts, but it definitely capture the piece’s emotional—and thoroughly Spanish—essence, the full contour of the melody, and boasts enough beautifully executed ornamentation that it communicates its own distinct personality. And Caballero peppers many of these arrangements with perfectly employed harmonics that bring a magical delicacy to certain passages that even surpasses the piano.

Of the ten pieces on the disc, only the concluding Capricho Catalán is by another arranger (Michael Lorimer). The rest are Caballero’s, and full of imagination and virtuosic playing. The recording, by Brazilian engineer Ricardo Marui in 2015, is perfect. I know it’s only April, but I already know this is going to be one of my favorite albums this year!

From Iberia: Evocación, El Puerto, El Albaicín, Málaga; From Chants D’Espagne: Preludio, Oriental, Bajo la Palmera, Córdoba, Seguidillas; From EspañaCapricho Catalán

So far, I haven’t found this album on any streaming services, but Albeniz is available for purchase from Guitar Salon International and GuitarCoop; and videos of a few pieces are posted on YouTube.

Adivinanza de la Guitarra
Kazu Suwa
KSR Classics

London-based Japanese guitarist Kazu Suwa follows up his 2015 release of Spanish and South American works (Guitar Recital) with a stronger, better-recorded set dominated by Spanish composers from different epochs, from the Renaissance to the 20th century.  It opens with a trio of slightly solemn 16th century pieces originally written for vihuela by Luys de Milán and Enríquez de Valderrábano, but then picks up the energy with a lovely rendering of a piece by Sor. Suwa does a fine job on both the lyrical passages and the occasionally speedy runs that require deft and precise fingering.

Curiously (perhaps), there are two much more modern works by non-Spanish composers in the middle of the album: Norwegian Edvard Grieg’s piano work Ensom vandre, from his third Lyric Book, is one of the prettiest pieces on the disc; and British composer Reginald Smith Brindle’s El Polifemo de Oro makes for a dour but effective companion to the preceding version of de Falla’s Homenaje pour Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy (probably the most-performed piece on the album). The tone of the album then shifts dramatically for the rest of the disc, which is generous selection of pieces by Spanish composer/guitarist Angel Barrios (1882–1964)—not to be confused with the more famous Paraguayan composer/guitarist Augustín Barrios. Hearing this large concentration of pieces was quite a revelation to me; as I’d only heard a few of these in isolation here and there. All are deeply imbued with an appealing Spanish lyricism and romanticism that is easy to embrace. A few of these pieces (such as Cristinilla) almost sound like they could have been written by the other Barrios, but that is no slight, as there is genuine passion in these works, and the emotions evoked in a ballads like Eloísa and Jardin grandino are profound. I can’t tell you why this Barrios’ works aren’t played more than they seem to be, but perhaps this album will help change that. Hats off to Kazu Suwa for presenting such a deep dive into this relatively unheralded repertoire, and so beautifully!

Fantasia X, Fantasia VIII (Milán); Soneto (de Valderrábano); Introduction et variations sur l’Air: Que ne suis-je la fougère! (Sor); ‘Ensom vandre’ from Lyric Pieces Book 3 (Grieg); Homenaje pour Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy (de Falla); El Polifemo de Oro—quattro frammenti per chitarra (Brindle); Flor Granadina, Cristinilla, Eloísa, De Cádiz a La Habana, Viejo romance, Jardín grandino, Rosario de la aurora Arroyos de la Alhambra: Evocación, Tonadilla (Ángel Barrios)

The albums is available for purchase and/or streaming through Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube.


Previous CD listings:

October 4, 2016: Jacob Cordover, Oleg Timofeyev and John Schneiderman, Arkaïtz Chambonnet, Matthew Fish, Gidi Ifergan

October 18: Norbert Kraft and Jeffrey McFadden, Steve Cowan, Katrin Endrikat, Jason Vieaux and Julien Labro, Yenne Lee, Emanuele Segre

November 1: Virginia Luque and Bojidara Kouzmanova, Jon Gjylaci, Fabiano Borges, Alfonso Baschiera, Miscelanea Guitar Quartet, J.P. McShane

November 15: Antigoni Goni, Adam Levin, Radoŝ Malidžan, Black Cedar, Lou Marinoff, Antonio Malinconico

November 22: Marcelo de la Puebla, ChromaDuo, Carsten Pedersen, Thibaut Garcia, Yiannis Giagourtas

December 13: Zsófia Boros, Andrea Bissoli, Philippe Sly & John Charles Britton, Carlos Dorado, Steven Joseph

December 27:  João Carlos Victor, Frank Wallace, Simon Thacker & Justyna Jablonska

January 10, 2017: Alberto La Rocca, Jeffrey McFadden & Michael Kolk, Stefan Koim

January 24: Fabio Zanon, Marcelo Kayath, David Norton & Cindy Spell, Jeff Gosselin

February 7: Canadian Guitar Quartet, Mats Bergström, John Sargent, Dimitris Kotronakis

February 21: James Akers & Gary Branch, Karol Samuelčík, Josef Mazan, John Lehman-Haupt

March 7: Meng Su, Raphaella Smits, Michaela Hrabankova & Gabriel Bianco, Mark Westling

March 21: Sabrina Vlaskalic, Ozan Saritepe, Simon Cheong

April 4: James Akers, Duo Amaral, Chris Fossek

April 18: Pepe Romero, Vicente Coves & Extremadura Orchestra; Carlos Walter; David Härenstam (et al.)

May 2: Kaiser Schmidt Guitar Duo, Montréal Guitare Trio, Nazrin Rashidova & Slanislav Hvartchilkov

May 16: Paul Galbraith, Marc Teicholz, Koen Claeys

May 3o: Michal Svoboda, Izhar Elias

June 13: Eliot Fisk, Duo Salmona-Valette, Evgeny Beleninov

July 11: Xavier Jara, Schneiderman-Yamaya Duo, Detlev Bork

July 25: Cristiano Poli Cappelli, Dúo Villa-Lobos, Giancarlo DiPierro

August 1: Sharon Isbin & Isabel Leonard, Boyd Meets Girl, Silvana Saldaña

August 8: Brasil Guitar Duo,  Maria Camitz & Leif Hesselberg, Duo Bohemico

August 22: Kenneth Meyer, Flamenco Pacifico, Jonathan Richards

September 12: Hamish Strathdee, Thanos Mitsalas Plays Assad Chamber Works, Tony Romano

October 11: Quatuor Eclisses, Michael Kolk/Nick Peros, Yuri Liberzon

October 25: Lukasz Kuropaczewski, Paul Psarras, James Akers & Gabriella Di Laccio

November 8: Zoran Dukic, Matt Withers, Paul Bellam-Cross
November 29: Guitar and… Violin (Luciano and Mauro Tortorelli), Mezzo-soprano (Eva Beneke and Nerea Berraondo), and Cello (José Lezcano and Rebecca Hartka)

December 8: 
New Zealand Guitar Quartet, Joel Karlsson, Alan Rinehart

December 14:
 Candice Mowbray, Gantriis-Zimmerman Guitar Duo, Louis Valentine Johnson
December 21: Brian Farrell, Sven Lundestad, Mats Bergström
January 18, 2018: Thanos Mitsalas, Duo Silb, composer Randy Hathaway
February 7: Trio Alborada, Rody Van Gemert, Sylvie Proulx
February 22: Brian Farrell, John Sargent, Mohit Dubey
March 9: Thomas Athanaselos, Michel Grizard, Music of Kai Nieminen
March 28: Mark Hussey, Boreas Duo, the Corium Project