Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A fine new guitar CD from London

From October 1, 2015:


The true art of putting together a CD program is something that even some very good performers don’t always pull off. This is especially important for classical guitarists, whose selections too often lack variety of mood or rhythm. Putting a group of musical items together to build an series of emotional or technical arcs, where one piece speaks to or builds on another earlier in the program: these are things that will always enhance a well-played CG disc. The fine London-based guitarist Kazu Suwa knows that Villa’s guitar pieces are character pieces: the Preludes, the movements of the Suite Populaire Bresilienne, and even the Etudes. He’s picked three Villa-Lobos pieces with great character, and more importantly he plays each of them in a character-ful way. And he puts them in the penultimate spot, as they deserve, with just a sad, beautiful little piece by Mompou as a coda.

There are many felicities before that wistful ending. The Gran Vals of Tarrega with its famous embedded Nokia ring-tone (some day soon we’ll have to explain that bit of trivia to younger people who don’t remember flip-phones or Nokia) is a highlight. I loved the two small Milongas of Abel Fleury, and was impressed with the graceful swing Suwa brings to them. The great Choro da Saudade by Barrios Mangore is a more substantial piece, and Suwa plays it with seriousness and majesty, while he draws out the nostalgic sorrow underlying the music. Another standout is the 6th Fantasia of Fernando Sor, subtitled ‘Les Adieux’, and again Suwa has its measure.

The sound of the disc is excellent, and the production values are very high. There’s an excellent, insightful 11-page essay about the music written by Robert Matthew-Walker. This disc is highly recommended.

[cross-posted at The Villa-Lobos Magazine]

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