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Recordings of the Month


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CD: Crotchet

Francisco TARREGA (1852-1909)
Original compositions
Jota [9:40]
Tango Maria [2:59]
Gran Vals [3:03]
Sueno [4:47]
Capricho Arabe [4:10]
Lagrima [1:39]
Studio sobre la Sonatina d’Alard [2:06]
Adelita [1:33]
Las dos hermanitas (vals) [2:19]
Vals [2:06]
Maria [1:36]
Alborado [1:44]
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [4:37]
Mazurka en sol [2:25]
Serenata Espanola - J. Malats (1872-1912) 3:40]
La Paloma - S. de Yradier (1809-1865) [3:42]
Sevilla - I.Albeniz (1860-1909) [4:44]
Notti di Spagna - J. Massenet (1842-1912) [2:31]
Ave Maria Bach/Gounod (1:56)
Michael Erni (guitar)
rec. 2008. location not specified. DDD
GUILD GMCD7332 [61:33]
Experience Classicsonline

Those who have studied both the classical guitar and another instrument to concert standard, generally agree that the guitar is harder to learn. Similarly those who teach both the guitar and other stringed instruments find that students’ progress on the guitar is slower.  

This may explain in part why guitarists, as a group, are often inferior musicians to their stringed-instrument counterparts. Of necessity there is inordinate emphasis on the development of technique which is sometimes viewed as an end, rather than a means to one.

The music of Francisco Tarrega is guitar repertory that requires significant interpretive skills. Sometimes referred to the ‘Chopin of the Guitar’, much of his music reflects strong elements of the musical era to which he belonged. Tarrega wrote some immortal works for the guitar, specializing in miniatures. These are often exquisitely musical and very technically demanding studies in the guise of preludes.

The review disc programme comprises a good cross-section of Tarrega’s original music and works that he arranged for the guitar. The latter are invariably music of contemporaries and popular music of the day; however J.S. Bach did not escape his attention despite what Andrés Segovia would have us believe. Rather than play available original works for the guitar, Tarrega preferred to play his own compositions, and arrangements that he made from non-guitar sources.

Michael Erni gained a degree in teaching music and a Masters degree in performance from the Zurich Conservatory. He pursued post-graduate studies at the Conservatory of Berne where he received a Master of Arts in specialized music performance. Further studies with guitar included tutelage by Andrés Segovia and Pepe Romero. He has also composed three guitar concertos and a quintet for guitar and strings. 

It is obvious from the outset that Michael Erni is another keen contender for ‘fastest gun in the west.’ Where the score affords any opportunity, the music is executed at break-neck speed. There are even occasions when the score is amended to accommodate more exhibitionism of speed. That Mr. Erni has a well developed technique will be quickly recognized, however there are times when even he fails cogently to navigate particularly challenging passages in the music at the tempo initiated. The phrasing is erratic and on occasion the music begins to sound more like flamenco falsetas than the music of Tarrega.

Erni’s tremolo is played with the smoothness of a virtuoso, but the imagery that Tarrega so exquisitely conveyed in Recuerdos da la Alhambra is totally compromised in preference to ‘first over the line.’

He manages to execute the task in 4:37. A very empathetic interpretation by Karin Schaupp -Evocation: Warner Music Australia, 8573833112- has a playing time of 5:19.

Tarrega’s arrangement of Alard’s violin study (7) is very difficult to play well; the technical demands are considerable and the piece, marked allegro moderato, is most comfortable in the hands of a virtuoso. On this occasion the beautiful flowing melody line suffers apropos an unrealistically fast tempo. It is periodically dislodged and slowed to accommodate difficult measures in the music. Full credit to Mr. Erni for those passages where it seems everyone else slurs; he plays the notes individually. This time his record run is 2:06 - even with the extra notes. A far more musical version - albeit appropriately slower at 2:12 - is that by David Russell on Opera tres, CDS 1003/4.

The arrangements by Tarrega fare no better. The beguiling Ave Maria (19) gives the illusion that it is ’squeezed in‘ right at the end, despite lack of available space on the disc.

The repertory on this recording is a treasure trove of music for the guitar. Unfortunately, in the context of this performance, it remains a ‘hidden chest.’

Zane Turner

see also review by Jonathan Woolf  



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