CD Review: Nicola Jappelli Offers a Different Look at Carulli’s Solo Guitar Music

Carulli cd

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Carulli Solo Guitar Music
Nicola Jappelli
Brilliant Classics)

While not wishing to personally vouch for its veracity, the claim that Carulli Solo Guitar Music is a “first recording” is at least plausible, in that recent interest in Ferdinando Carulli’s concert works has tended to concentrate more on his duos and chamber music than his huge catalog of solos. Could it be that Carulli’s supremacy as a purveyor of introductory didactic pieces has blinded us to his more challenging creations? This is alluded to in Mario Torta’s notes to this release, and it’s easy to imagine how Carulli’s user-friendly teaching fodder based on thirds, sixths and tenths could lead to the false conclusion that this is all he was good for.


Using a Stauffer-based instrument from 2001 by Bernhard Kresse, Nicola Jappelli opens with a hefty 9:20 slice of Solo Op.76, dispelling in a single move that Carulli was nothing more than a prolific miniaturist. This said, there’s no escaping the reality that we’re in the presence of a composer who was an arch-conservative in the context of his own time and whose harmonies and textures are always pleasing but never arresting. But those of us who celebrate Carulli for what he was, rather than deride him for what he wasn’t, will find much to savor. Even the mandatory set of variations on Les Folies d’Espagne emerges as one of the more engaging guitar examples of the era.

Carulli has found a worthy ambassador in Nicola Jappelli, whose tidy and rhythmic accounts maintain a prevailing spirit of understatement that’s ideally suited to the music. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the concluding Trois Divertissements in E Op.223, a triptych for “tuned guitar.” According to Torta, this term refers to the fact that these pieces require a guitar tuned to an open E chord, so please don’t take it to mean Carulli’s other works are intended for an instrument that hasn’t been tuned.

This is quality Carulli superbly performed and recorded.

—Paul Fowles