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Song without Words
Johann Kaspar MERTZ (1806-1856)
Lied ohne Worte, from Bardic Sounds, Op.13 [4:14]
György LIGETI (1923 -2006)
Sonata for Cello solo (1948-53) arr Kostas Tosidis [7:32]
Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Elegy (1971) [8:13]
Richard Rodney BENNETT (1936-2012)
Impromptus (1968) [8:04]
Julián ARCAS (1832-1882)/Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Fantasia on themes from La Traviata [7:13]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Moments musicaux D 790 (pub 1828) arr. Ganesh del Vescovo; No.1 [6:29]: No.2 [7:35]: No.3 [1:54]
Marcin Kuźniar (guitar)
rec. 2017, National Forum of Music, Wrocław

This new Polish label has a roster of young musicians and a perceptive eye for programming. This guitar disc, for example, clearly works on an arching principle that begins with one of Johann Kaspar Mertz’s well-known genre pieces and ends with a Schubert arrangement by way of a sequence of twentieth-century works and an operatic fantasia transcription.

Guitarist Marcin Kuźniar finds appropriate refinement and delicacy of articulation for Mertz’s song without words, which is simple in structure, perhaps, but typically melodious in effect. He moves forward boldly to Ligeti, taking on Kostas Tosidis’ arrangement of the two-movement Sonata for cello solo and finding that it acts as a kind of programmatic bridge, the slow cantilena of the first movement offering decidedly Baroque elements, and the Capriccio movement striking a virtuoso, almost Paganinian stance for the instrument. The arrangement is effective, and the performance convincing.

Two British works follow. Rawsthorne’s Elegy was his last work; indeed, he didn’t live long enough, quite, to finish it, that responsibility vesting with Julian Bream, for whom it was written, and who both edited and completed it. Ranging from meditative, melancholic paragraphs to faster, almost jazzy runs, the music remains oddly enigmatic. By contrast, Richard Rodney Bennett’s Impromptus – also written for Bream – is cast in five crisp, brief movements that encode twelve-tone procedures in a creative and imaginative way. The music remains appealing, embracing silent pools in the central Elegiaco or more florid pleasures in the Con fuoco.
The fantasia on themes from La Traviata was written by Julián Arcas and further amended by Francisco Tárrega. In seven minutes, it covers the overture and main themes, ending optimistically – not despairingly – with the dance patterned Sempre libera. Kuźniar concludes by playing three of the set of Moments musicaux D790 in the guitar arrangements of Ganesh del Vescovo (he has actually transcribed all six) that manage to retain those elements of intimacy so important in the piano originals. Perhaps the association of Schubert the guitar player adds another pleasurable gloss on these transcriptions.

As yet the label has yet to get to grips with idiomatic English translations in its booklet but that’s a small matter. The booklet itself is attractively laid out, in Polish and English, and the recording is sympathetic.

Jonathan Woolf

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