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Dimitri Illarionov (guitar)
(1781-1829) Grande Ouverture; Alexandre TANSMAN (1897-1986) Cavatina; Roland DYENS (b.1955) Valse en skai; Igor REKHIN (b.1941) from 24 Preludes and Fugues: No. 6 in D minor, No. 21 and Bb major and No. 3 in Db major; Nikita KOSHKIN (1956) Marionette; Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968); Francisco TARREGA (1852-1909) Variations on Carnival of Venice
Dimitri Illarionov (guitar)
Recorded at St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, January 2003
Naxos Laureate Series
NAXOS LAUREATE 8.557293 [58.11]

This man is as fine a guitarist as I have ever heard. He is aided and abetted by this beautifully chosen and structured recital which, quite rarely, I find that one can listen to from start to finish. The recording is also ideal and a real pleasure in a realistic acoustic. It contains music that is both expressive and virtuosic from the early 19th Century to the 1990s.

Dimitri Illarionov is a young Russian (born 1980) who has experience in giving recitals all over Eastern Europe as well as in Germany and Japan. In 2002 he won the 2002 Guitar Foundation of America Competition. Part of the prize was the making of a CD, an excellent idea. In 1997 he also won the Moscow Guitar Competition and the list of his successes goes on. The very interesting booklet notes by none other than the doyen of guitarists and guitar music are written by John Duarte. He provides a detailed biography of Illarionov and writes eloquently on the composers and the music.

As is usual with the guitar repertoire much of it is not commonly known by the general music lover. Take for example Mauro Giuliani, a prolific contemporary of Beethoven; not just a great guitarist but a highly refined composer as his Grande Overture shows. This is in sonata form and almost makes the guitar appear to be an orchestra in its own right. It is a formally clear piece given a sparkling and utterly convincing performance.

Alexander Tansman's 'Cavatina' is a five movement work lasting something approaching fifteen minutes. It is rather neo-classical in nature with titles like ‘Barcarolle’ and ‘Sarabande’. Tansman wrote eight symphonies and was a very serious composer. At Segovia's request he deliberately altered his language for this charming work.

Roland Dyens is probably a new name to most of us. He is from Tunis and is also well known as a fine guitarist .His charming, indeed irresistible, piece is called 'Valse en skai'; ‘skai’ being leather: "something glossy, cheap and cheerful" (John Duarte).

Igor Rekhin has become the first composer to write Preludes and Fugues in all the keys for solo guitar. The composer is quoted in the notes: "I often consciously admixed the classical and avant-garde and united them with elements of jazz, rock music, and Latin-American rhythms." This is what you find represented in the three examples here, which, incidentally are also incredibly demanding. The Bb Prelude and Fugue is a good example of the classical; the Db is rather 'bluesy'.

Koshkin's 'Marionette' is a mere bagatelle in length but complex in delivery having been composed as a set piece in the senior division of a competition in Voronezh in 1996. Its jerky movements evoke a puppet.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a versatile composer. I love his Violin Concerto but it is his typically characterful guitar music that is heard most often, especially the guitar concertos. This marvellous piece pays homage to Paganini who had an ability to make easy music sound difficult (quite a useful compositional skill). It is the question of the devil's inspiration that lies behind this virtuoso composition. There is also, towards the end, a brief quote from Paganini's 'La Campanella'.

Like wine the best is left until the end. This comes in the form of the extraordinary Variations on 'Carnival of Venice' by Tarrega, the so-called father of the modern guitar. Here almost every possible guitar technique and special effect is used, including a weird glissando and various fluttery type noises. Musically it might be a bit thin, but it makes entertaining listening.

All in all no-one is likely to be disappointed with this CD and you don't have to be an aficionado to enjoy this lovely recital.

Gary Higginson

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