Acknowledged as a major composer of guitar music Manuel María Ponce
(1882-1948) it was nevertheless not high on the priorities of many guitarists
to undertake recordings of his complete works, indeed Julian Bream
never recorded any, although during the 1960's Bream did include 'The Folia
de España' in his concert programmes. It was Ponce's collaboration
with Andre Segovia during the 1920's, 30's and 40's that yielded the fine
number of works in order to reinforce the maestro's repertoire of (for then)
contemporary music for the guitar. But now with this, the first of five discs
covering Ponce's complete guitar works, and another set already underway
by Naxos, and yet another available from Guitar Masters Records played by
Gérard Abiton, recording of Ponce's music seems to be enjoying something
of a revival.
Although influenced by his country's popular music tradition, pieces like
'Cuatros Cancione Populares' and 'Sonata Mexicana' bear Manuel Ponce's
unmistakable musical stamp, due to his individual harmonic sense.
Ponce also delighted in writing a number of works mimicking composers of
the past, Bach (the 'Weiss Suite'), Schubert ('Sonata Romantica'), and Fernando
Sor ('The Sonata Clasica'), included on this disc, which although in the
style of the great Catalan guitar composer is still undeniably Ponce.
Guitarist Antonio López certainly demonstrates his ability in his
interpretations of his fellow Mexican's compositions; the sonority of his
tone used with subtle variation suit the music of Ponce perfectly (listen
to 'Thème Varié et Final') getting the best out of it, even
though there is rarely, if ever, in Ponce's works the type of show piece
enabling the soloist to display dazzling feats of virtuosity, as there is,
for instance, in the works of Barrios. The virtuosity is embedded within
the music itself. Antonia López obviously knows this and is more than
adequate for the task.
One thing not in favour for this disc is its full price against Adam Holzman's
playing of Ponce on the super budget Naxos label, nevertheless a fine recording
from Sound Set Records. I look forward to Volume Two.
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.