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Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)
Guitar Music: Scherzo Vals; Estudio Capricho Mazurka; 13 Catalan Folksongs; Respuesta (Impromptu); 5 Preludes; Mazurka for Federico Bufaletti; 4 Folksongs; Study in E Major; Romanza; Variations on a theme by Sor
Lorenzo Micheli (guitar)
NAXOS 8.557351 [73:42]


Born in Barcelona, the Spaniard Miguel Llobet was one of those composer/guitarists whose name is well known among classical guitar aficionados. However for some reason, apart from his arrangements of Catalan Folksongs and perhaps the Scherzo Vals, his works are rarely recorded. This state of affairs is therefore firmly redressed with this programme of guitar music entirely by Llobet.

His style of composing, it could be assumed, was initially influenced by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) one of the most influential guitarists in the history of the instrument, with whom Llobet was a pupil. Llobetís "Mazurka por Federico Bufaletti" has more in common with Tárregaís Mazurka "Marietta" than just the form. With this connection to Tárrega we also have a direct lineage through Llobet to Andrès Segovia (1893-1987), who was a friend of Llobetís, down to the virtuosos of the present day, most notably John Williams. This is significant as Tárrega was allegedly the founder of the modern technique, albeit refined. In addition to this both Tárrega and Llobetís careers coincided with the development of guitar construction by Antonio Torres (1817-1892). Torres saw the instrument through to the larger more sonorous modern guitar we recognise today. This may well have been a factor in the way they played, thus influencing the way they wrote.

Llobetís compositions are firmly rooted in the world of the miniature (the longest single piece on this disc being only 5:58 minutes, and many of them are less than one minute) but are still imbued with a certain charm. In terms of his use of harmony, Llobet drew from the Impressionists, who at the time were so fashionable. This is most apparent in the "Catalan Folksongs" but also in the harmonic structure of the "Folia" a form going back in musical history and popular during the 17th century. On this disc the "Folia" is heard on "Variaciones sobre un tema de Sor" in acknowledgment of Fernando Sor (1778-1839) the guitar virtuoso of the previous generation. Llobet was also fond of the Mazurka, the Polish dance form so developed by Chopin. In his touring career Llobet travelled to South America experiencing those sounds that would eventually, after the ethnic mix was well stirred, become so important to the contempary repertoire of today, Llobetís three "Estilo popular Argentino" and "Leonesa", (tracks 24-27) all of which are in a rather melancholy vein, could be regarded as a forerunner of this tradition.

For this recording Naxos has employed the services of guitarist Lorenzo Micheli whose playing of a programme of music by Castelnuovo-Tedesco for the same label was very impressive. Micheliís tone is full and his approach firm, yet tender when required, resulting in a most spirited performance of this music, if a little marred by, but not excessively so, left hand finger movement on the strings.

This recording, made in Italy with production and sound engineering by Renato Campajola, does not seem to have the ambience and refinement that we come to expect from the Naxos regulars of guitar recording Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver but is nevertheless a fine addition to the catalogue.

Andy Daly

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