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Goran Krivokapić (guitar)
(1769-1841)(transcribed Franz Pfeifer)
Sonata in A major, Op. 17 [13:41]
J.S. BACH (1685-1750) (transcribed Goran Krivokapić)
Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 (orig. violin solo) [18:36]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
(transcribed Carlo Manchione)
Sonata K. 162: Andante [7:16]
Sonata K. 208: Andante et cantabile [4:11]
Sonata K. 209: Allegro [5:06]
Dušan BOGDANOVIĆ (b. 1955)
Sonata No. 2 for Guitar (1985) [12:21]
Goran Krivokapić (guitar)
rec. St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 28 April–1 May 2005.
NAXOS 8.557809 [61:11]

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Goran Krivokapić, born in Belgrade in 1979, is fast establishing himself as one of the finest guitarists of his generation. He has already won prizes at just about every international guitar competition you can name. I have a tendency to fall asleep at guitar recitals, but Krivokapić’s commanding technique makes you sit up and pay attention right from the start.

The amount of transcriptions on this CD are disclaimed with a quote from Ferruccio Busoni in the booklet notes, ‘Good, great and universal music remains the same no matter what instrument sounds the notes.’ Well, we can argue about whether it actually ‘remains the same’, but what Busoni means, and where we are in agreement, is that such music is equally valid on virtually any instrument. There is of course a reason why there are few such transcriptions for, say, Scottish bagpipes or the Mississippi steamboat calliope, but again that is to wilfully miss the point. Krivokapić makes as good a case for Bach and Scarlatti on guitar as I can imagine.

The recital begins with a less familiar name, Franz Werthmüller. Very classical in orientation, the idiom is Haydnesque, but there are some gorgeous ringing harmonics; a technical effect which at times provides a kind of unwitting polytonality. The Sonata’s origins are surmised to have been as a work for piano, but Pfeifer’s transcription is apparently all that survives. There is a small technical foible with Krivokapić’s which reveals itself in the central Largo movement of this piece. A side effect of wound guitar strings, there is always a certain amount of squealing from the left hand with the modern guitar. We sometimes get extra notes as well however, and at 3:36 in this slow movement, and 0:53 into the final Presto we get quite a ‘wannngg’. Such things are incidental, and proof of the physical nature of instrumental performing – like the heavy breathing which is also in evidence.

The opening Sonata is a fresh-sounding and interesting work, which is followed by Krivokapić’s own Bach transcription of the BWV 1005 solo violin sonata. My own feeling about string-to-guitar transcriptions of Bach is that the stresses and tensions inherent in double-stopping and leaping, spread chords is lost, to the extent that I go back to sleep quite quickly. Krivokapić’s playing is persuasive however, with quite a rich, punchy tone, keeping the whole thing alive and dynamic. His voicing in the extensive counterpoint is impeccable, and he seems able to get inside the music in a way I’ve often felt missing in other versions.

The same can be said of Krivokapić’s playing of the Scarlatti Sonatas. Transcribed from harpsichord instead of violin of course, they present different technical problems, but the Spanish aspects of Scarlatti’s creativity become amply present in such versions for guitar. There is the gentle dissonance of the opening of K. 162, the cantabile expressiveness of K. 208 and the incandescent K. 209, all played with equal brilliance.

The most exciting piece on this disc for me is the 1985 Sonata by Goran Krivokapić’s fellow countryman Dušan Bogdanović. As a composer for guitar, Bogdanović’s name is becoming increasingly recognised – cropping up on concert programmes all over Europe, and justly so. There are few composers writing new music for guitar which is rewarding for player and public alike, and Bogdanović knows his way around the guitar like a cat. There are some marvellously inventive moments like the ending of the second Adagio molto espressivo movement, which harks a little towards something Ralph Towner might have improvised. Deceptive and tricky, the Scherzo malinconico is a feast for the receptive mind, and the final Allegro ritmico contrasts the advertised rhythmic elements with interesting harmonic twists of which even Frank Martin might have been proud.

Goran Krivokapić’s guitar is beautifully recorded here, bathing in a resonant church acoustic, but with close microphones pointing out every last ounce of detail. There is no real background noise, but sensitive listeners will notice a very distant rumble of traffic in quiet passages – something which must be almost unavoidable these days. Again, Naxos have supplied us a CD which is many things to many people: a must for guitarists, of great interest to seekers of new and stimulating repertoire and a recording of demonstration quality for those who have blown all their cash on expensive Hi-Fi, and who now can’t afford full priced discs.

Dominy Clements

see also Reviews by Jonathan Woolf and Göran Forsling





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