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19th Century Guitar Favourites
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)

1. Minuet, Op.11. No.6 [2:19]
Eight Studies: 2 Op.35, No 22 in B Minor [2:52]; 3 Op.31, No.19in A Major [1:36]; 4 Op.35, No.17 in D Major 1:21]; 5 Op. 6, No.9 in D Major [2:59]; 6 Op.6, No.6 in A Major [2:38]; 7 Op. 6, No.11 in E Minor [3:24]; 8 Op.35, No 13 in C Major [0:42; 9 Op 6, No. 12 in A major [4:58]; 10 Minuetto, Op. 22 [3:16]
Dionisio AGUADO (1784-1849)

11 Minuett [2:27]
12 Andante [3:46
Six Etudes: 13 Leccion 15 [1:21]; 14 Leccion 29 [1:25]; 15 Leccion 19 [0:37]; 16 Leccion 26 [1:39]; 17 Estudio 17 [1:15]; 18 Leccion 24 [1:07]
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)

19 Rosita-polka [1:30]; 20 Marita- mazurka [2:18]; 21 Sueno-mazurka [2:02]; 22 Adelita-mazurka [1:19]; 23 Mazurka en sol [2:44]; 24 Estudio brillante [2:01]; 25 Gran Vals [3:14]; 26 Endecha [1:21]; 27 Lágrima [2:03]; 28 Aborada-capriccio [2:22]; 29 Recuerdos de la Alhambra [4:18]; 30 Maria-gavota [1:34]; 31 Preludio No I [1:34]; 32 Preludio No. II [1:04]
Norbert Kraft (Guitar)
rec. St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Canada, August 1993. DDD
NAXOS 8.553007 [69:06]

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Today’s opinions and attitudes may take on quite different perspectives when new points of reference emerge. This is particularly true of musical performance reviews.

Recently several new recordings of guitar music representing composers from the mid 18th to the early 19th century have been released. These include Anabel Montesinos’s Guitar Recital (Naxos 8.557294), Tilman Hoppstock’s Classical Guitar Christophorus CHE 0118-2), and Fernando Espi’s Francisco Tárrega Guitar Pieces (Verso VRS 2007)

A recording of guitar music from the same period by the Canadian guitarist Norbert Kraft was made in 1993 and subsequently released on the Naxos label: 19th Century Guitar Favourites (8.553007). In the context of these newer recordings, revisiting this is very interesting, because it highlights aspects that originally may not have been so conspicuous.

Norbert Kraft needs no introduction to those familiar with the classical guitar and its repertory. Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft have acted as producer and technical support respectively for much of the extensive series of classical guitar recordings on Naxos. His credentials as a classical guitarist are impressive including the Canadian CBC Radio Competition First Prize (1975) and First Prize (1985) in the Segovia International Competition, Mallorca. He has served as a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music and professor of guitar and chamber music at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

19th Century Guitar Favourites comprises precisely what the title implies, and although some subjectivity is always involved in such a compilation, Mr Kraft reflects extensive experience and good taste in his selection of music by Sor, Aguado and Tarrega.

The challenge in such a recording is that "favourites" often connotes "done to death" and ensuing ennui. Not so in this recording. Employing a combination of refreshing interpretation, musicianship and technical facility, Mr Kraft imbues these compositions with vigour and new appeal. Dimmed are past student recollections of pain inflicted by these masterpieces on untrained fingers inspired to explore their musical beauty.

Studies by Sor from Op. 35,31 and 6 have never received better treatment than on recording. The rendition of Op 6 no.12 (9) embellishes the exquisite musical content in a way few before have managed to achieve.

There is a real lilt in the Tárrega polka, waltz and mazurkas, conveying intentions the composer doubtless had when he composed and so named them. Estudio brillante {24) is a very appealing composition, and a particularly challenging arpeggio study. The rendition on this recording is impeccable and not even Segovia (EMI CHD 7610 482) can match it although Christopher Parkening (Angel S 360 20) comes close.

A study in tremolo, Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Recollections of the Alhambra) is nurtured with a very slow smooth tremolo and beautiful "mood shading" in the phrasing. Just as Tárrega intended it, this combination gives strong evocation of the Alhambra, the fortress-palace of the Moorish kings at Granada

To ensure that an acute attack of "imaginitis" was not prevailing, the following nine recorded versions of Recuerdos de la Alhambra were reviewed, after which Mr Kraft was awarded this writer’s nomination for best overall rendition.

Andres Segovia (EMI CHD-7610482), Alexander Lagoya (Philips 6521013), Christopher Parkening (Angel S 360 20), Pepe Romero (Philips 9500 295), Alexander Sergei Ramirez (Denon CD 73715), Alirio Diaz (Musidisc RC 784), Fernando Espi (Verso 2007), John Williams (CBS 4656441), Narciso Yepes (DG 423991-1).

The fine instrument used on this recording is by Paulino Bernabé, Madrid. It is another complementary link in a chain of excellence.

A decade may have passed since the release of this disc, but in decades to come it will remain as a testament to superb guitar playing, refined interpretations and good taste. Definitely my desert island "allowed one only" choice

Zane Turner


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