Bardenklange Op. 13
I remember a radio broadcast of part of a recital given by David Russell.
The performance opened with an Elegy and the Hungarian Fantasie by Johann
Kasper Mertz. I recall the intensity of the Elegy and the vitality of the
Fantasie that Russell injected into these two works. The recital continued
with items by Weiss and Guiliani. This is how I feel the music of Mertz is
best served, played with passion and as part of a varied programme.
Born in Hungary, Mertz (1806-1858) occupies that period of the history of
the guitar that also produced the guitarist/composers Napoléon Coste
(1806-1883) and Giulio Regondi (1822-1872) who were never really taken to
heart by guitarists of the 20th century as was the music of Fernando
Sor (1778-1839) or Mauro Guiliani (1781-1829) who came from a generation
prior to that of Mertz. The high profile virtuosos of the second half of
the last century, Julian Bream and John Williams, never endorsed their
music by recording any of it. Nor it seems did students of the instrument
favour Mertz by making popular any studies or exercises of his in the pursuit
of developing their techniques as they did with Sor.
So a complete CD or Mertz is something of a rarity and unfortunately does
demonstrate the limited appeal of his music. At 58.31 minutes it does struggle
to hold the attention.
Although James Reid is a most capable guitarist showing good precision and
a good rounded tone, if a little limited in variation as is his dynamic range,
I feel that he is much too cautious, so that the performance comes across
a little inhibited, whereas there is a need for a good deal of flair to lift
the music and give it an element of spontaneity, but even so James Reid's
playing of Mertz does broaden the recorded repertoire and is welcome
The wide variety of music contained in these four discs from 'Soundset Recording'
and the quality of the recorded sound should be applauded, the classical
guitar being notoriously difficult to do justice to. Rather than settle on
a 'house sound' it seems each recording has been tailored to the individual
requirements of the artists and the music they are presenting, producers
Todd Hallewell and Frank Koonce have done an excellent job.