Recent Releases: Albums from Lukasz Kuropaczewski, Paul Psarras, and James Akers & Gabriella Di Laccio
Most weeks we take a peak 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:
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 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.
Lukasz Lukasz Kuropaczewski
There are four substantial multi-movement pieces on this fine album from Polish guitarist Lukasz Kuropaczewski (pronounced koo-ro-pa-shev-ski). Antonio José’s Sonata Par Guitarra is more than just a nod to the guitar’s Spanish roots—José, a highly regarded composer who was executed by fascist forces at the age of 33 during the Spanish Civil War, was no mere Spanish nationalist composer, but rather one with considerable modernist tendencies. Listen the startling opening of the “Finale” of this exceptional piece for confirmation of that. The other three works here are by Polish composers, two of them by Alexandre Tansman—His 1950 Cavatina, dedicated to Segovia, has been popular among contemporary guitarists for some time, though more often than not guitarists don’t play all five movements (the concluding “Danza Pomposa” seems to be the most popular). But Lukasz does, and it makes for a very rewarding listen, as Tansman artfully plays off various Baroque tropes while adding contemporary touches. I find the “Sarabande” particularly affecting. The other Tansman work is the seven-part Suite “In Modo Polonico” from 1962 which Tansman explained was “inspired by the ancient court dances of Poland. Some of them… have counterparts elsewhere in Europe; others are typically Polish [such as the concluding mazurka]…. I have avoided any voluntary stylization or modernization.” It’s a wonderful suite, with plenty of variety. The seven Witold Lutoslawski Folk Songs (from an original collection of 12 written for piano in the mid-1940s) are also a varied lot rhythmically and tonally, and with a couple of exceptions feel more like sketches (four are under a minute long) than full-blown songs; but they are still interesting.
Look for the Winter 2017 issue of Classical Guitar (out in mid-November) for an interview with Lukasz K., in which he talks about the album, his studies with Manuel Barrueco, and other subjects.
Sonata Para Guitarra (José); Cavatina (Tansman); 7 Folk Songs (Lutoslawski); Suite “In ModoPolonico” (Tansman)
Here’s Lukasz performing the Preludio of Tansman’s Cavatina several years ago:
Cascade Paul Psarras
A Greek guitarist who studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with the likes of Sérgio Assad, David Tanenbaum, Marc Tiecholz, and others, Paul Psarras has put together an album that is, in his words, “a collection of Baroque and Renaissance transcriptions and contemporary guitar works that especially resonated with me during my studies at the SFCM from 2005 to 2011.” The guitarist covers much ground on the CD: Among the handful of pieces from the distant past come a wonderful Baroque lute sonata by Weiss, a Renaissance lute piece by Marco Dall’Aquila, John Dowland’s appropriately titled A Dream, and two from the little-known Ennemond Gaultier, including the fetching title track, a chaconne arranged by Psarras and Tanenbaum. The modern era is nicely represented by Dušan Bogdanovic’s Jazz Sonatina (love that percussive third movement!) and the contrasting moods of SérgioAssad’s Three Greek Letters. Stylistically in-between the Baroque/Renaissance and very contemporary works sits Eduardo Sainz de la Maza’s lovely tremolo piece Campanas del Alba, which Psarras handles quite nicely. Sonically, it’s a fairly ambient recording (most of it captured at the SFCM Recital Hall), which particularly suits the earlier music well and brings out both the subtleties and s;parkle in Psarras’ assured playing. There’s lots to like here.
Sonata for Lute in D Minor (Weiss); Ricercare (Dall’Aquilla) ; La Traditora (Dall’Aquilla); A Dream (Dowland); Baza de Contrapunto (de Narvaez) ; Jazz Sonatina (Bogdanovic); Companas del Alba (E. Sainz de la Maza); Three Greek Letters (Assad) ; Le Langtok (Gaultier); La Cascade (Gaultier)
From the album, Psarras plays John Dowland’s A Dream:
Ombre Amene James Akers (guitar) and Gabriella Di Laccio (soprano)
This is the third album involving Scottish guitarist Akers that has come my way in the past year alone, each boasting a different approach and musical thrust, but all charming, tasteful and beautifully executed. (The other two are the solo-guitar The Soldier’s Return: Guitar Works Inspired by Scotland and Classical Vienna: Music for Guitar and Piano, duets with pianist Gary Branch.) For this outing, Akers—21st century replicas of 19th century Stauffer and Panormo guitars at the ready—teams up with Brazilian-Italian soprano Gabriella Di Laccio for a program of works by contemporaries Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829) and Fernando Sor (1778–1839), dubbed “Ariette, Seguidillas, Cavatine & Guitar works.” Two sets of six songs by Giuliani (in Italian) bookend the project: The Sei Ariette, Akers’ helpful liner notes tell us, were inspired by Giuliani’s friend, the great opera composer Rossini, and they cover several different moods, from dramatic to jovial, all very Italian in character, I’d say. Giuliani’s Sei Cavatine , based on six Italian love poems by unknown authors, are more to my taste, though I couldn’t tell you why (perhaps a bit more rooted in Classical-period motifs, less in the Italian operatic tradition?). But my favorite of three vocal sets is from the Spaniard Sor, whose Six Seguidillas are filled with drama, pathos, and characteristically Spanish-sounding guitar accompaniment that asks more of Akers than most of the Italian songs.
Fans of Akers’ always-impeccable playing will also be thrilled by the three solo guitar pieces—two by Sor (I love Meditacion!), and Giuliani’s wonderful Grand Overture, Op. 61, which sounds quite a bit different, but perhaps even more exquisite, played on a period-style guitar (and no doubt is closer to how Giuliani heard it). The CD package, besides containing richly detailed historical notes, also includes lyrics for all 18 vocal pieces in Spanish or Italian along with with English translations.
Sei Ariette, Op. 95 (Giuliani); Medtacion (Sor); Etude 17, Op. 28 (Sor); Six Seguidillas (Sor); Grand Overture, Op. 61 (Giuliani); , Sei Cavatine, Op. 39 (Giuliani)
The album can be previewed and purchased through Amazon, iTunes, and Drama Musica (outside U.S.), and heard through Spotify, Apple Music, and there are extracts on YouTube.
Listen to Akers and Di Laccio playing the final piece of the Sei Cavatina by Giuliani, titled “Gía presso al termine”:
Previous New Album Listings:
October 4: 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: 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