Great musicians who elect to teach become immortalized not only
in their music, but also through students that become famous in
their own right. The review disc embodies the fruits of such an
The great Spanish
master of the classical guitar Jose Luis Gonzalez (1932-1998),
in addition to being a fine concert and recording artist, was
also a prolific teacher. His temperament was well suited to the
role of teaching and those students who became close, loved him
for his special qualities. During a tenure in Australia from 1962
to 1968 he taught a nucleus of 95 pupils from all over Australasia.
On return to his native Alcoy, Spain, Jose Luis later established
a private school there to which students from all over the world
came. Many Japanese students would attend the Madrid Conservatory
and having completed their studies, then go to Alcoy for master
classes. He also taught advanced courses in Estella (Navarra)
and Gandia (Valencia) and was later appointed to teach at what
became the Conservatorium of Alcoy
The disc liner notes
are devoid of biographical details, however Manuel Babiloni is
one of Gonzalez's most successful and respected pupils. Babiloni
first met Gonzalez in 1981 when he had just completed the seventh
level in High Grade Studies at the Conservatorio Superior de Musica
in Valencia. After an audition he was invited to study privately
with him and the two subsequently established a close relationship.
At the 1983, 18th International Guitar Contest 'Francisco Tarrega'
held in Benicasim, Babiloni was awarded the Special prize for
the best performance of works by Tarrega. At the 1986, 24th International
Course of Spanish Music in Santiago de Compostela, he received
the 'Ruiz Morales" award for the most outstanding pupil and
the 'Ramirez " prize for the best player. After the premature
death of Gonzalez in 1998, Babiloni assumed responsibility for
the master class at Estella. He currently teaches at the Professional
Conservatoire of Music in Castellon.
The programme chosen
for this disc is original guitar music from the pen of Catalan
composer Fernando Sor. No name is more famous in guitar repertory
than his. Over half of the 21 tracks are dedicated to studies
for the guitar. In addition to being highly didactic they are
some of the most musically beautiful and popular works ever written
for the instrument. Educated and brought up in the age of classicism,
Sor was sensitive to the birth of Romanticism in which he played
a part. Manuel Babiloni's perspective on Sor is closer to Schubert
than to Haydn. This motivates him to pursue a Sor of great expressive
intensity. In his playing we experience a freedom that arises
from profound understanding of the works that are being presented.
A number of tracks
represent the very best Sor to be found on record. Track 16, Study
in B-Flat, no. 19 from the Segovia collection, is played with
an expressive intensity and a technical perfection that is without
peer in recorded music. Track No. 14, Study in A Major from op.
6, demonstrates that although a close disciple of the Maestro,
Babiloni pursues his own interpretive path.` Beautifully recorded
by Gonzalez back in 1965 (CBS BR 2351128) that rendition of Study
in A-Major op 6, no. 12 reaches sublime perfection, however includes
arpeggiated chords. Some musicologists conveniently ignore evidence
in guitar tutors of the era that recommend such expressive devices
as chordal arpeggiation, now considering them anachronistic to
modern interpretations of 'period' music. As well played as Babiloni's
version is, I am still very partial to arpeggiated chords as judiciously
employed by Gonzalez, and am not uncomfortable being out of fashion.
There is meticulous
attention to every aspect of the music, and technical challenges
are embraced with true mastery of the instrument. Although no
maker is specified, the guitar used has an excellent balance across
the entire register, and the tone that Manuel Babiloni extracts
from it is redolent of the Maestro.
String squeaks are
an intrinsic part of the guitar but for those sensitive to this
phenomenon, the review disc will be especially appealing since
the playing is so clean and relatively devoid of string noise.
It is also very well recorded with a strong sense of presence
on appropriate quality reproducing equipment.
This is an important
new disc that every student of the classical guitar and aficionados
of Fernando Sor should own. There is no finer recording of this
Sor repertory available.