Once in a while it pays to stray from the well-trodden
tracks, and that’s exactly what I’ve done with this set
of guitar sonatas. Penned by the Catalan composer Fernando Sor, who
spent a number of years in London, these solo pieces are full of surprises.
They are played here by Ricardo Gallén (b. 1972), who is also
Professor of Guitar at the Hochschule für Musik ‘Franz Liszt’
in Weimar. I listened to the SACD but I see Eudora also offer their
recordings as mp3s and, via e-Onkyo, as high-res downloads. That makes
sense in this diverse and fast-evolving business, where more and more
labels are supplementing their physical product with virtual ones.
This out-of-the-way repertoire is reasonably well represented in the
catalogue, with Naxos leading the way as usual. For instance they’ve
recorded Sor’s Opp. 22 and 25 with the American guitarist Adam
Holzman (8.553340). Apart from their series devoted to this composer’s
output Naxos have also buried some pieces within more general collections;
BIS have done the same with Opp. 14 and 15b, played by Diego Bianco
(BIS-CD-133). Fans of Julian Bream can hear the Menuetto
from Op. 22 on a recent compilation
from Heritage (HTGCD 242); there’s almost nothing from Andrés
As for Ediciones Eudora they are new to me, and I was pleasantly surprised
to see they support SACD. First impressions of Op. 25 are entirely favourable;
the brief, tolling intro of the Andante - Largo
articulated and Gallén plucks some gorgeous tunes from the mix.
That process of easeful excavation is a notable feature of this recital
as a whole. Rhythms are nicely varied and Gallén shapes it all
so well. Indeed, anyone who is normally averse to the classical guitar
will be astonished at the expressive range and buoyancy of these pieces.
There’s an irresistible joie de vivre
to much of Op.
25 – the songful Allegro non troppo
in particular - and
I was more than happy to yield to its charms. At times it’s akin
to a spirited dialogue, the opposing ‘voices’ of which are
characterised with subtlety and flair. Goodness, this is moreish music,
winningly presented. Some may feel the sound is a tad close, but that
highlights the absorbing detail and dexterity of Gallén’s
playing. The Menuetto
, combining as it does elegance and wit,
is a prime example of his ability to contrast and clarify Sor’s
tunes and textures.
That same deftness informs the freewheeling Op. 15b, but alas the ride
is all too short. Anyone who feels that Sor’s music wants for
colour will surely waver and retract once they’ve heard how much
of it Gallén unearths. Indeed, listening to this little gem again
only deepened my respect and admiration for composer and performer alike.
The nimble progress and jewelled flourishes of Op. 14 are also delightful,
as is the the sense of genial engagement that pervades the entire collection.
This too is a ride, a journey through sun-dappled landscapes, in which
Gallén knows all the important sights and landmarks.
of Op. 22 has a declamatory power that Gallén
projects with just a hint of asperity; such details can be too aggressively
inked, so it’s a relief that dynamics are so judiciously shaded.
The twirls and curlicues of the Adagio
are also well handled;
this time it seems one's eavesdropping on another's solitary but contented
musings. As expected the Menuetto
is spry – no aged or
creaking joints here – and the disc concludes with a lovely, aerated
. In short, a perfect end to a perfect recital.
Sor and Gallén both shine brightly; a treat, and not just for
guitar fans either.