Recent Releases Tuesday: CDs by James Akers & Gary Branch, Karol Samuelčík, Josef Mazan, and John Lehman-Haupt
Guitarist James Akers and pianist Gary Branch perform on period instruments
Here’s our bi-weekly listing of some 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 these 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!
To see our previous listings, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Classical Vienna: Music for Guitar and Piano James Akers (guitar) and Gary Branch (piano) Resonus Classics
Yes, this is all music from Vienna in the first quarter of the 19th century, but, with a single exception, it is an all-Italian program, with pieces from Ferdinando Carulli, Mauro Giuliani, and Anton Diabelli, (the fourth composer is Bohemian pianist Ignaz Moscheles)—all of whom thrived in Vienna during that era. Still, there is nothing here that “sounds” Italian; rather the pieces are standard Classical-era pieces, redolent with the influence of Mozart and others, and in the case of Moscheles’ moody Fantasia, Beethoven. Akers plays a pair of Romantic guitars—one an 1820 instrument by Saumier, the other a 2015 Panormo replica by James Cole. The pianoforte dates back to 1826. The piano tends to dominate the sound, though the distinctive “period” guitar adds much throughout, and also gets its solo slot on the Giuliani Sonata Brillante. A wonderful disc that will brighten anyone’s day!
Nocturne No. 1 (Carulli); Sonata for the Piano Forte & Guitar, Op. 71 (Diabelli); Fantasia on ‘Potem Mitzwo’ (Moscheles); Nocturne No. 2 (Carulli); Sonata Brillante, Op. 15 (Giuliani); Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’ & Polonaise (Giuliani); Variations on Themes by Rossini (Carulli)
This is a very appealing first-CD surprise from a young Slovakian guitarist I’d never heard of. It consists of confident and expressive renditions of four of the seven parts of Albéniz’s lovely Recuerdos de Viaje, two from his Suite Española, the apparently requisite Bach lute suite (nicely handled as well), and closes with a stimulating five-movement work by Spanish composer Vicente Asencio (1908–1979) called Collectici intim (the components of which are “Serenity,” “Joy,” “Calm,” “Delight,” and “Haste”). Judging by YouTube, the Asencio piece seems to be gaining favor among guitarists, though it still has not been recorded a lot.
Recuerdos de Viaje, Op. 71: Rumores de la caleta, En la playa, Puerto de Tierra, En la Alhambra (Albéniz); Suite española: Cuba, Cadiz (Albéniz); Suite in C Minor, BWV 997 (Bach); Collectici intim (Asencio)
Below, Samuelčík plays Albéniz’s “Rumores de la caleta,” the “Gigue & Double” from the Bach suite, and “La Frisança” (“The Haste”) from the Asencio.
Contemporary Czech Guitar 2 Josef Mazan
It’s difficult to describe this second volume of contemporary Cezch guitar pieces played by Josef Mazan. The one for which we have video below—Štĕpán Rak’s Song for David—is easily the most conventionally attractive and well-developed piece on the CD. Most of the other works (by composers less-known outside of the Czech Republic than Rak) are multi-part pieces with extremely short “movements”—for instance, Jan Meisl’s Hawara has 13 sections, all under 40 seconds each; Vlastislav Mitoušek’s Hexachordon has only three of seven movements that exceed a minute. In both cases the fragmented works almost feel more like guitar exercises than fully formed pieces—don’t get too attached to any musical idea, because it won’t be around for long! This is not to suggest there are not many interesting moments—there are—but in the overtly modern idiom of most of these works, I am more drawn to the pieces that are given a chance to present more than one or two ideas, such as Peter Eben’s Mare nigrum and Alois Haba’s Sonata. Also interesting is Vét Clar’s Danzas: Suite Iberoamericana, which plays off Mexican, Cuban, Argentinian, and Brazilian styles with originality and verve. Last year’s Contemporary Czech Guitar 1 featured pieces by Rak, Ivo Bláha, Štĕpán Urban, Vaclav Kučera, and five others.
Song for David (Rak); Hexachordon (Matoušek); Mare nigrum (Eben); Danzas: Suita Iberoamericana (Clar); Hawara, Op. 73 (Meisl); Sonata for Guitar, Op. 52 (Hába); Tabulatura Nova: Rhapsodic Variations on an Old Bohemian Love-song for Guitar (Eben)
Songs of the Guitar II John Lehman-Haupt
Talk about a “mixed recital”! Fifteen years after the release of his eclectic Songs of the Guitar album, comes the equally diverse follow-up from New York guitarist/arranger John Lehmann-Haupt. This time out there’s no Tárrega or Albéniz, but the classical world is represented by a pair of Bach works, a somber Debussy piece, and perhaps my favorite on the disc, Mendelssohn’s jaunty Canzonetta. There’s a breezy Jobim tune, a couple of “standards” (God Bless the Child and Embraceable You), a sweet version of James Taylor’s folky hit Fire and Rain (with a dash of the Motown smash Dancing in the Street tucked into it), even a Jimmy Reed blues. It’s a mostly low-key affair, pleasantly diverting and more cohesive than the song list might indicate.
Insensatez (Jobim); Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies (Trad.); Bouree from Violin Partita No. 1 (Bach); Courante from Cello Suite III (Bach); God Bless the Child (Holiday/Herzog); Canzonetta (Mendelssohn); Invitation (Kaper); Et la lune descend sur le temple quit fut (Debussy); Misty Roses (Hardin); Fire and Rain (Taylor); Creepin’ (Wonder); Honest I Do (Reed/Abner)
You can audition all the tracks on YouTube, or hear samples and purchase through CD Baby.
Previous New CD 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, and 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: Canadian Guitar Quartet, Mats Bergström, John Sargent, and Dimitris Kotronakis