Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

SOUNDS OF THE BARD Johann Kasper MERTZ (1806-1858)    James Reid   Soundset SR 1014

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Bardenklange Op. 13
Variations mignonnes
An Malvina
Fingal's Frohle

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


Andy Daly


Soundset Recording

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.


Andy Daly


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