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Fugas y Fandangos
Manuel DE FALLA (1876-1946)
Primera Danza Espanola, from La Vida Breve (transcribed E. Pujol, arr. Mebes/Freire) [3:34]
Les guitares bien tempérées, Op.199:
Prélude and Fugue in A minor [5:36]
Prélude and Fugue in E major [4:34]
Prélude and Fugue in B Minor [7:08]
Sonatina Canonica, Op.196:
Mosso, grazioso e leggero [3:14]
Tempo di Sicilane [4:54]
Fandango en Rondeau [2:48]
Fuga Elegiaca:
Fuga [2:38]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Intermedio, from Goyescas (transcibed E.Pujol, arr. Mebes/Freire) [4:33]
El Fandango de Candil, from Goyescas (transcribed Mebes/Freire) [7:58]
Manuel DE FALLA (1876-1946)
Danza De La Molinera (Fandango), from El Sombrero de Tres Picos (transcribed Mebes/Freire) [3:56]
Susan Mebes; Joaquim Freire (guitars)
rec. 28/30 October, 1994, Vers l’Eglise (Les Diablerets), Switzerland
LÉMAN CLASSICS LC44401 [52:41]
Experience Classicsonline

Both the Dutch guitarist Susan Mebes and Brazilian Joaquim Freire have impressive CVs as solo guitarists. Mebes has made acclaimed recordings of, amongst others, Vicente Asencio (Leman Classics LC 44201), Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Leman Classics LC 42501) and Manuel Ponce (Leman Classics LC 42701). Joaquim Freire’s recordings are equally distinguished, not least an excellent recital of works by Ponce, Villa-Lobos and Ginastera (Leman Classics LC 42601). Both have good records as concert performers.
But, of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that if you put together two top class soloists you will – hey presto – have a top class duo. But the magic works here. Mebes and Freire play together beautifully; the intonation is faultless, there is a sense of mutuality and interaction, of complementarity, which is very pleasing to the ear. And yet, the CD is not without its drawbacks.
More than two thirds of the disc is occupied by guitar duets composed by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and these are both delightful in themselves and eloquently played. Though the adjective neo-romantic is sometimes applied to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s work; in these pieces neoclassicism seems a more relevant a consideration, though it is a particularly playful neoclassicism. Romain Goldron’s booklet notes suggest affinities with the neoclassicism of French composers such as Ibert, Poulenc and Françaix and there is much good sense in the suggestion. There is charm and wit in all of these pieces, a gracefulness that works itself out in fugues and canons which are the last word in not being heavy-handed. Such Bachian allusions as there are glancing and well integrated into the larger elegance. The Sonatina Canonica is particularly lovely. It is played with delicacy especially in the gorgeous andantino marked ‘Tempo di Siciliane’ and vitality, specially – but not only – in the closing Fandango en Rondeau.
It is with the transcriptions from De Falla and Granados that a slight unease sets in. Not because there is any drop in the quality of playing, which remains very high. Rather because of the very nature of the exercise undertaken here. I am not, of course, against the very idea of transcription. My unease here relates to a quite specific concern. Susan Mebes in her contribution to the booklet notes touches on the relevant issue, though I draw conclusions different from hers. She writes that “these works for piano and orchestra, transcribed for two guitars on this CD, summon up, in their original version, the sonorities of the guitar; so what the transcriptions in fact are doing is translating the works back into the musical idiom first evoked by their composers. Granados even went so far as to mark into his score the moments when he had imagined the sounds of the guitar”. But he didn’t choose to actually use the guitar, when he easily could have done. He, like De Falla, chose to evoke –  but not imitate or incorporate –  the guitar, making use of other instrumental resources; both were creating music which alluded to the guitar and its Spanish traditions without actually being music for the guitar. In a sense the fact that the music was powerfully reminiscent of the sound world of the guitar without the guitar actually being heard was a central point in the way that the pieces worked. Transcribe the music for actual guitars and you immediately lose a kind of doubleness and creative tension which was at the very heart of the music in the form in which the composers wrote it. In truth the transcriptions are, while certainly very skilful and certainly very well played, more merely ‘pretty’ than the originals, more picture-postcard Spain, as it were. They are pleasant listening but without the impact, without the musical complexity implicit in the way the originals are both for guitar and not-for-guitar, as it were.
It is to the performances of the duets by Castelnuovo-Tedesco that I shall return more frequently. They make an excellent core to a good CD.
Glyn Pursglove
see also review by Paul Shoemaker


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