It’s always pleasing when an artist creates a favorable first impression by something he or she didn’t do. Having provided two succinct pages of program notes, incorporating a brief introduction to his own work by Viet Cuong (b.1990), Krystin O’Mara then resists all temptation to drone on about herself by politely inviting any interested readers to visit her website. This I did, and was rewarded with the boast-free resumé of an enterprising young guitarist who’s clearly going great guns in America, but is little known elsewhere.
By now, a spirited “Zapateado” was emerging from the speakers. As well as establishing O’Mara’s credentials as a player, this agreeable opening choice once again raises the question of why posterity has treated Regino Sainz de al Maza (1896-1981) less generously than his younger brother.
In addition to his original compositions, several of which were punchy Hispanic miniatures like the “Zapateado,” there are those splendid re-workings of Gaspar Sanz, recorded by both Alirio Diaz and Leo Witoszynskyj half a century ago but rarely revisited since.
After an unusually short break between tracks, O’Mara flips into a darker mode with the poignant initial flourish of Fantasia Élégiaque. Dramatic throughout, but never excessively so, her handling of this romantically-charged 19th century middleweight reminds us once again that the man who inflicted the Mozart Variations on the world was a far more refined composer than his undeserving greatest hit might suggest. Centered on a forceful two-note ostinato with gentler contrasting episodes, Viet Cuong’s 10:29 minute title track is a rare example of a newly-minted contemporary heavyweight that hits the spot on the first hearing.
It also presents a challenge in both skill and stamina, to which O’Mara proves more than equal. To place the retro lyricism of “Julia Florida” in its wake emerges as a smart piece of programming—the nostalgic soundscapes of Barrios cleanse the palate in preparation for more than 20 minutes of Ian Krouse (b.1956), who’s probably best know to CG readers as a long-standing collaborator with the LAGQ. Drawing his inspiration from The Nightingale, The Little Match Girl and The Red Shoes, Krouse displays all his customary assurance in exploiting the guitar’s resources, although it has to be said that the link between the sound and the stories isn’t always obvious. by Paul Fowles
Obsession Regino Sainz de la Maza: “Zapateado”; Fernando Sor: Fantasie Élégiaque, Op.59. Viet Cuong: “Obsession”; Augustin Barrios: “Julia Florida”; Ian Krouse: Trois Tableaux d’Andersen Krystin O’Mara