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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata K208 [4:00]
Sonata K209 [5:07]
Sonata K32 [2:34]
Sonata K27 [4:30]
Giulio REGONDI (1822-1872)
Introduction et Caprice Op 23 [10:32]
J. S. BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998 [12:27]
Dionisio AGUADO (1784-1849)
Andante and Rondo No. 3 [9:39]
Regino SAINZ de la MAZA
Danzas Cervantinas (after Gasper Sanz (1640-1710)) [7:31]
Paco de LUCIA (b. 1947)
Tarantas (Fuente y Caudal) [5:54]
Francisco TARREGA (1852-1909)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [3:44]
Lagrima [2:21]
David Martinez (guitar)
rec. 22-24 April 2005, St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
NAXOS 8.557808 [68:19]
Experience Classicsonline

For those who, like this reviewer, inveterately add new CDs to an already burgeoning collection, a correlation between available music and time for listening can be sobering. A modest collection of five hundred discs represent in excess of five hundred hours of music. If three hours were available each day for serious listening, it would take six months of listening time to cover the collection just once!

Given time constraints, favourites emerge that inevitably consume a disproportionate amount of time. The review disc is one for which such a bias exists. It is selectively accessed from an embarrassingly large collection of classical guitar recordings when a ‘fix’ from this genre is mandatory.

David Martinez was born in Granada, Spain in 1975. He commenced study of the guitar at the age of seven and furthered his studies at the Conservatory of Music in Granada under Carmelo Martinez. After graduation, he studied in master-classes with Eliot Fisk and Joaquin Clerch. Martinez has won many international guitar competitions including the coveted Francisco Tarrega, Benicasim in 2004. He now teaches guitar at the Conservatory of Music in Granada.

As part of its evolution the guitar has, of necessity, embraced contemporary guitar music. It has been suggested that a turning point came with the inaugural performance of Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal Op. 70: when the music was published in 1965, guitarists were forced to review their repertory. But Segovia was immutable, and in reference to the avalanche of contemporary music written for the guitar he expressed a need to ‘isolate the guitar from those microbes’. The great Spanish master, Jose Luis Gonzalez (1932-98) also expressed little empathy for this genre and continued to record and play the repertory that he dearly loved: Spanish masters and romantic guitar music - music that reflected the folk music and lore roots of the guitar. Antipathy toward contemporary music was not unique to the guitar repertory. Asked if he ever conducted Stockhausen, Sir Thomas Beecham responded: ‘No but I trod in some once’.

The review disc presents music that shows the guitar at its traditional best. With minor exceptions it could be a recital programme for either Segovia or Jose Luis Gonzalez. In a highly competitive environment one must acknowledge the courage - and taste - of a young player who is working to establish a career as a concert guitarist. Slavish compliance with fashion and trends sometimes does more damage than good to inaugural recordings by young relatively unknown players. Not so with Mr. Martinez. One of the surprises is the inclusion of a Tarantas by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, which is essentially a not-for-note transcription. The majority of classical guitarists are not technically equipped to play flamenco so wisely avoid it.

The playing of Martinez is impeccable. He is technically adept and, more importantly, his musicianship is impressive. Scarlatti’s sonata K27 has long been a personal favourite, particularly the piano interpretation by Murray Perahia - Sony SK 62785. Despite its origins, the version by Martinez seems more idiomatic to the guitar. The challenging Prelude, Fugue and Allegro by J.S. Bach, from BWV 998, are given an empathetic reading, although some may like the Prelude at a slightly faster tempo. The embellishments are not those typically heard in guitar arrangements but are most appropriate; the same is true of the music by Scarlatti.

There are no traditional buzzing strings or metallic tonal sounds in the Tarantas so flamenco purists may grizzle. In all other aspects this is splendidly played, and demonstrates a finely developed, mature technique. Tarrega’s immortal Recuerdos de la Alhambra appears at the end of the programme. One wonders how many times this piece can be heard before being overcome by ennui? I have lost count but in the hands of a master like Martinez, all the evocation with which Tarrega imbued it appears again exquisitely unfamiliar. Played a little faster than one may speculate was Tarrega’s intention, it nonetheless conveys the inspiration that he expressed on its presentation to doña Concha for her birthday in 1899. The relatively fast rendition time of 3:44 is distorted by modification of the repeat pattern.

Fortunately David Martinez does not succumb to the current fashion and fad of playing lattice and radially-braced instruments. His guitar is from the hands of Paco Marin, Granada. It embodies the warmth and beauty of tone that is exclusively characteristic of instruments made in accordance with traditional design. One must acknowledge that regardless of the instrument’s intrinsic capabilities, its full potential can only be accessed by the likes of Martinez.

In the discography of most instruments there are undiscovered and under-recognized treasures. In the guitar genre this is one; you will return to it often.

Zane Turner

see also review by Göran Forsling



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