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in the first division
summation of a lifetimes experience.
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Grand Sonata in La maggiore, M.8.3 (1803) [18:36]
Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)
Canciones populares catalanas (1899-1918) [11:40]
Scherzo-Vals (1909) [3:47]
Rory BOYLE (b. 1951)
Partita a quattro (2009) [12:56]
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Wainscot Pond (1995) [4:56]
Over the Rainbow (1977) [3:16]
Yesterday (1977) [3:35]
Marco Ramelli (guitar)
rec. April 2012, Villa Montevecchio, Samarate, Italy.
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6218 [58:46]
Fans of the guitar are pretty well looked after these days, with ‘Laureate’ series’ from labels like Naxos regularly presenting the latest award-winning stars for our delectation. The soloist in this superbly produced release is an Italian virtuoso who has numerous prestigious awards under his belt, most recently winning the 2012 Seville International Guitar Competition. This was held at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who hold copyright on the recording, hence the logo on the front of the booklet.
This is a highly attractive programme, opening with Paganini’s Grand Sonata, from which a relatively insubstantial violin part has been left out according to current tradition. This piece is very charming easy on the ears, with the lyrical lines in the central Romanze allowing Ramelli space to give us some delicious expressive vibrato. Another important composer, Miguel Llobet, was one of the leading figures who ensured the status of the guitar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Popular Songs of Catalonia are amongst his most often heard pieces, and the often simple character of the music is given a great deal of subtlety and character by Ramelli. The poetic and narrative qualities of the Popular Songs contrasts with the witty Scherzo-Vals, a parody in which Ramelli relishes the little glissandi and leaping variations which make the piece so appealing.
The jump to contemporary music is a reasonably gentle one, Rory Boyle’s very fine Partita a Quattro having its dissonances and dramatic dynamic gear changes, but in a traditional idiom with plenty of familiar hand-holds. The first movement gives us the title for this CD, Energico, followed by a gorgeously pensive and melodic Languido. The clues to the character of the music continue in a penultimate Nervoso, and the final Insolente which does indeed have rude elements, but in the nicest possible way. The last three pieces by Takemitsu are deeply representative of his remarkable ability to embrace Western influences while retaining an Eastern point of view. Poignantly, In the Woods was his last original work, written just a few months before he died, and the movement Wainscot Pond is a quiet, landscape inspired piece with a mood of melancholy. The final two pieces are part of Takemitsu’s Transcriptions for Guitar, and yes indeed, you can easily recognise both tunes in these elegantly arranged versions.
A lack of track numbers in booklet or on the back of the case is a minor irritation. For fans of guitar and just of good music in general this release ticks all boxes, and there is plenty of decent repertoire to get your teeth stuck into. The Energico title is perhaps a little misleading, though I for one was glad to hear a minimum of spectacular string-scrubbing and a maximum of marvellously subtle and sensitive playing.
see also review by Steve Arloff
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