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MARTHA MASTERS: Guitar Recital
Alexandre TANSMAN
  • Preludio
  • Sarabande
  • Scherzino
  • Barcarole
  • Danza Pomposa

  • J.S BACH (1685-1750)
    Suite in E minor, BWV 996
  • Praeludio-Presto
  • Allemande
  • Courante
  • Sarabande
  • Bourrée
  • Giga

  • FERNANDO SOR (1778-1839)
    Variations on a Theme of Mozart, Op.9
    BRYAN JOHANSON (b. 1951) Variations on a Finnish Folk Song
    (1886-1948) Thème Varié et Finale
    (1901-1999) En Los Trigales
    Martha Masters (guitar)
    NAXOS 8.555720

    The classical guitar has always been indebted to Andrés Segovia's efforts in inviting contemporary composers of his day to expand the repertoire of the instrument. Along with Manuel Ponce, Fredrico Morreno Torroba and Maria Castelnuovo-Tedesco et al., was the Polish composer Alexandre Tansman. Tansman's use of rhythm and harmony was obviously Polish in its origins and added an Eastern European flavour to Segovia's concert programmes.

    In recent years Tansman's music has become somewhat neglected. His name does not occur so frequently in recitals or on recordings; certainly not as frequently as some of the other composers associated with Segovia. It is therefore nice to hear Martha Masters play the five movement "Cavatina", this being not only her first recording for Naxos, but also the first time that the name of Alexandre Tansman appears in the Naxos catalogue (although there is at least one disc of his in the collegiate Marco Polo catalogue. Ed.). Of course musical tastes change with the passage of time and Martha Masters does not try to emulate Segovia's individual style but with her use of tone colour, at times markedly sweet, she does in her own way capture the spirit of Tansmans music remarkably well.

    J.S Bach's "Lute Suite No.1, BWV 996" is a much-recorded work. With any new version the question is 'Does another interpretation offer anything new?' In this case I think that it probably does. Masters gives a solid yet refreshing view. The repeats of the Allemande, Courante, Bourrée and Giga are ornamented in a most delightful way and the general atmosphere of the Baroque is well maintained throughout.

    Like Jean Sibelius, Bryan Johanson has taken myths and legends of the "Kalevala", the epic poetry of Finnish literature, as inspiration for his "Variations on a Finnish Folk Song", albeit not on the grand symphonic scale of Sibelius. He has however composed an intriguing piece. It evokes much of the mystery of these heroic tales. The atmospheric beginning eventually takes us to a more rhythmic central section, which employs tambora and harmonics but this only gives a brief respite before returning to the ethereal world of the opening.

    Ponce's "Thème Varié et Finale" and Rodrigo's "En Los Trigales", both popular works of these composers are treated to dignified readings, Masters' playing is full of conviction.

    On this disc the only slight disappointment for me is the Sor. Fernando Sor's "Variation on a Theme of Mozart" must be one of, if not the most well known of that composer's works. Guitarists enjoy playing it not only because of its technical demands, but also because it is immensely entertaining and also fun to play. These days, however, in concerts and on recordings it is regarded as a "bit old hat". Although Masters is assured technically it just does not hold the magic of some performances.

    The introduction, where Sor used Mozart's "O Cara Armonia" from the 2nd act of "The Magic Flute" is played slowly but thoughtfully. She plays the following "Theme" a little too quickly, the result being that the arrival of the 1st Variation lacks the impact it should have. The 2nd Variation (in the minor) is taken suitably slowly and works well. Returning to the Major, a broader contrast is required when going into the 3rd Variation which needs more pace than Masters gives it. Variation 4 is well articulated. The brisk note clusters are even and precise as are the pull offs used in Variation 5. This brings us to the final Variation which again could have been played with a little more gusto. Variations 1 through to 5 are each in two sections, and each in turn are repeated. I would have liked a touch more variety on these repeats. This would provide the work with the wit and charm that it requires. As it is Masters seems to be content to simply give us practically a carbon copy of her first time deliveries.

    Despite my reservations about the Sor, taken as a whole, this disc should be no disappointment to those purchasing it. The Tansman and the Johanson being worth the outlay.

    Andy Daly

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