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The Spanish Guitar

RON BIERMAN listens to excerpts from previous Naxos releases

Naxos    8.557122-23

The Spanish Guitar - a timeless collection of Spanish Guitar classics. © 2002 harmonia mundi usa

The development of the modern guitar was completed by Antonio de Torres Jurado of Spain in the last half of the nineteenth century and Spanish composers have contributed more than their fair share of well known works for the instrument ever since. Many of those works are included in this two CD set of excerpts from previous Naxos releases. Each selection has a palpable Spanish flavor in melody, rhythm and style. Almost all are worthwhile and performances are good to outstanding. Too many of the excerpts though feature the quieter, more thoughtful side of the style. That makes it difficult to sustain interest during over two hours of listening.

Norbert Kraft may be the most reliable of the Naxos guitarists and he has nearly half of the space on this release. His Tárrega, Albéniz and De Falla performances are fine indeed. Denis Azabagic doesn't play with quite the same smooth authority, but is more adventurous in choice of repertoire. He is represented here in pieces by two obscure twentieth century composers -- Ruiz-Pipó and José. The José is an especially entertaining find [listen -- CD2 track 7, 2:44-4:00].

Although most pieces are for solo guitar, several include an orchestra. The most interesting of these is Torroba's Sonatina, originally composed for Segovia. The Adagio from Rodrigo's popular Concierto de Aranjuez is heard in a competent performance, but there is too much competition for Kraft's version to be a first choice even at a lower price. If the Allegro giocoso based on Breiner's arrangements of themes from Bizet's Carmen is representative of the work, I can understand why the recording of the full concerto is no longer available. The excerpt, perhaps in an attempt at light-heartedness, makes annoying fluff of some of Bizet's finest melodies.

Album notes are a little sloppy. Tárrega, born in Spain, is listed as a 'Polish composer'. References to prior Naxos CDs are in a few cases incorrect with respect to performer or catalog number, so buyers need to verify contents before they purchase an excerpted CD.

In spite of my reservations, the album is worth the price. It includes many first-class performances of must-have Spanish music and is a good way to sample other Naxos recordings lovers of the Spanish guitar will want to own. Some buyers may prefer going directly to the originals. Kraft's recital on Naxos 8.553999 includes the best solo pieces from The Spanish Guitar, but in a better constructed program, and the playing is outstanding. Those seeking lesser known and more modern works can try the original Azabagic recital on Naxos 8.554555.

Copyright © 28 December 2002 Ron Bierman, San Diego, California, USA


The Spanish Guitar - A timeless collection of Spanish Guitar Classics

8.557122-23 COMPILATION (2 CDs) 72'29"/69'24" - TT 141'53" 1989-2001 HNH International Ltd

various - see below

DISC 1: Granados: Danza Española No 5 (solo version - Norbert Kraft); Torroba: Sonatina (Dagoberto Linhares, Camerata Cassovia, Johannes Wildner); Mompou: Suite Compostelana (Antigoni Goni); Bizet, arr Breiner: Allegro giocoso from Carmen Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (Norbert Kraft, Polish National Radio Symphony / Peter Breiner); Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Tarantella Op 87b (Lorenzo Micheli); Albéniz transcr Kraft: Asturias, Mallorca, Sevilla (Norbert Kraft); Falla: Dance of the Miller from The Three Cornered Hat (Norbert Kraft); DISC 2: Tárrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Norbert Kraft); Sor: Theme and Variations Op 11 (John Holmquist); Granados arr Breiner: Danza Española No 1 (Norbert Kraft, Razumovsky Sinfonia / Peter Breiner); Ruiz-Pipó: Estancias (Denis Azabagic); Antonio José: Sonata: Allegro moderato (Denis Azabagic); Rodrigo: Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez (Norbert Kraft, Northern Chamber Orchestra); Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Escarramán (Lorenzo Micheli); Turina: Fandanguillo, Soleares (Norbert Kraft); Rodrigo: En Los Trigales (Martha Masters); Granados: Danza Española No 5 (orchestral transcription - Norbert Kraft, Razumovsky Sinfonia / Peter Breiner)



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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews