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Sergio ASSAD (b. 1952)
Solo Guitar Works
Aquarelles: 1 Divertimento [7:17], 2 Valseana [2:45], 3 Preludio e Toccatina [2:56];
Three Divertimentos: 4 Apoador [2:23], 5 Abaeté [1:44], 6 Parati [1:28];
7 Fantasia Carioca [9:14];
Sonata: 8 Allegro Moderato [5:59], 9 Andante [5:36], 10 Presto [3:03];
Three Greek Letters: 11 Psi [3:25], 12 Pi [3:35], 13 Sigma [2:51];
14 Jobiniana No. 3 [8:21]
Aliéksey Vianna, guitar
rec. Granada Studios, El Granada, California


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Like Samson of Biblical fame, a major strength of this new recording by Brazilian guitarist Aliéksey Vianna is also its key weakness.

For his debut recording Aliéksey Vianna has taken a “calculated risk”, selecting a programme of relatively unknown and unrecorded original works for guitar, all by one composer. Given the limited guitar repertory and the inevitability of recurring “work horses”, the programme initiatives taken here are laudable; therein lies a major strength of this new release.

Sergio Assad is best known for his partnership with brother Odair as a guitar duo. In the same vein as Alexander Lagoya of Presti/Lagoya fame, Sergio Assad arranges music for duet guitars; he also writes original music for that format. His original compositions for solo guitar are less known and recorded.

When Aliéksey Vianna proposed to Sergio Assad that he record some of his solo works for guitar, the latter was surprised that they could fill a whole CD. Presented on this disc are ten different compositions totalling fourteen tracks.

In 1988 Sergio Assad completed his first piece for solo guitar, Aquarelle [1-3] This is based on a three-note motif explored through diverse expansions of the original proto-cell.

Five years later he returned to composing solo guitar works and completed Fantasia Carioca [7]. Originally conceived as an orchestral work, later this was adapted for duet and solo guitar. The main theme is constantly re-worked into different shapes and colours capturing the rich atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro.

In 1995 Jobiniana No. 3 [14] was written and belongs to a series of works dedicated to the master of Brazilian music, Antonio Carlos Jobim. It is the development of his famous song Desafinado.

Written for Sergio Assad’s students at the Royal Conservatoire in Belgium, the Three Divertimentos [4-6] were composed in 1996.

Three years later the Sonata [8-10] was written as a commission for the Japanese magazine Gendai Guitar. This piece follows the structure of a classical sonata and is written in multiple layers, sounding very similar to a guitar duet.

In 2000 the Three Greek Letters [11-13] were written as a private commission, dedicated to the great Greek guitarist Antigoni Goni. These pieces are not based on Greek music but pay homage to the Greek culture and civilization. To avoid any traditional Brazilian influence, these pieces are devoid of syncopation.

As well written and enjoyable as some of these pieces are, one is left with the impression that individually they would be better served by sharing the programme with music by another composer or composers. Be it recorded or in live concert, the construction of a well-balanced programme is a challenge for any musician. It not only involves artistic and musical considerations but is also very much a marketing exercise; not every composer is well suited to serve a totally dominant role. Having learned the important difference between entertaining and just performing well, many less qualified musicians and singers have succeeded over their superior counterparts.

In addition to their musical value, some of the pieces on this disc undoubtedly also have didactic virtues. This may in part explain the enthusiastic accolades of Mr Vianna who states “For many years Sergio Assad’s music has played a fundamental role in my growth as a musician”. 

A live concert comprising the identical programme found on this disc would require significant perseverance on the part of this writer to be present for the encores. Therein lies a key weakness.

Aliéksey Vianna was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1975. After initial guitar studies in Brazil during his teenage years, using a scholarship, he later studied at the University of Arizona with Thomas Patterson. He continued at the San Francisco Conservatory with David Tanenbaum, graduating in 2001. The list of his successes in major guitar competitions is extensive.

While Mr. Vianna exhibits all the technical skills of a virtuoso, he is first and foremost a fine musician with a repertoire that encompasses jazz and music of his native Brazil. He has performed globally with orchestras, string quartets and other ensembles.

On the review disc Vianna demonstrates strong understanding and empathy for the music and this is never compromised because his technical command is so robust. As one may anticipate he conveys a sense of enjoyment associated with music for which he holds such a high regard.

Aficionados of the classical guitar, particularly those who play, are always keen to know the maker of the instrument used on a particular recording. The American luthier David Daily (b.1950) of Sparks, Nevada, made the fine instrument used on this disc. Many younger guitarists are opting for the “new breed” of instruments that are very loud but frequently have a rather strident and cold sound. Tonally this instrument is the antithesis of that modern tendency; it has a beautiful, warm and endearing sound. We should not be surprised to learn that Daily spent time with Antonio Marin Montero one the most famous and revered luthiers of Granada.

This new release is definitely recommended listening but with one caveat - in smallish doses.

Zane Turner




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