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Manuel Maria PONCE
Guitar Music
Variations on "Folia de España" and Fugue
Twenty-four Preludes
Theme, Variations and Finale
Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Variations on a Theme of Cabezón

Stephen Marchionda (guitar)
ASV CD QS 6249
Crotchet £5.45  AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Manuel Maria Ponce (1882-1948) was probably Andrés Segovia's favourite composer and indeed he did enrich the guitar's repertoire in Segovia's quest for new composers of the day to write for the instrument. On this CD of guitar music by Ponce there is plenty to satisfy the listener. Guitarist Stephen Marchionda has just the right approach to convey the nuances of Ponce's personal style.

Of the works included, it is the "Variations on Folia de España and Fugue" that dominates the disc. Regarded as a monumental work for guitar it taxes the performer's skills of interpretation and technical prowess and certainly Marchionda gives a fine account of the piece.

Originally only twelve of the "Preludes" were selected for publication, but presented here is the full set of twenty-four, covering all the major and minor keys. Though some of the "Preludes" are only seconds in duration, overall they do give us Ponce's intended view of the cycle.

Ponce was known for writing pastiche works imitating composers that he admired, Scarlatti and Schubert being two of note. It appears that he took great delight in writing his "Variations on a theme of Paganini" based on that composers "Grand Sonata" written for violin and guitar, but generally today performed as a guitar solo. Ponce's variations cover a range of moods and emotions from joy, melancholy, humour and playfulness transmitted through Marchionda's playing. I am surprised that this work is not in more guitarists' repertoires.

Of the remaining works the "Theme. Variations and Finale" must be one of Ponce's more frequently performed pieces but the "Variations on a Theme of Cabezón" is something of a rarity in the catalogue. Antonio de Cabezón (1510- 1566), a renowned organist and composer, had many admirers and Ponce's homage is not the only work of even relatively recent times to have used his music as a source of inspiration.

ASV's recording engineers have adopted a very natural acoustic for the guitar on this recording which suits the music well.

Though Naxos are in the throws of a Ponce 'Complete Works', I do feel that the couplings could be a deciding factor for many buyers. Whatever, this is a fine disc and should not be discounted.

Andy Daly

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