> Spanish Guitar Recital [TB]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Mallorca, Opus 202
Suite Española Opus 47
Cordoba, Opus 323 No. 4
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

La Maja de Goya
Nadza Española No. 4
Valses Poèticos
Danza Española No. 5
Joaquin MALAIS (1872-1912)

Emilio PUJOL (1886-1980)

Tango Espannol
Julian Bream (guitar)
Rec 1982-3, Wardour Chapel, Wiltshire
BMG 74321 68016 2 [74.58] Superbudget

Recorded in Wardour Chapel, near Julian Bream's home in Wiltshire, this 1982-3 recital finds the eminent guitarist at the peak of his form. Capturing the right balance and sound for the guitar is always tricky, and this is among the most successful recordings to have been made during the past two decades. In this new incarnation it sounds as good as ever. The problem is that too distant a perspective misses details, whereas too close a placing puts too much emphasis on the physical sounds of fingers and strings. Neither of these problems is felt here, with the result that the music and the magnificently characterful performances score a veritable triumph.

To gain such praise the music itself must be strong enough to justify the enthusiasm. And it is. The major composers are Albéniz and Granados. The former's substantial Suite Española, nearly twenty minutes long, has both beauty and expressive range. The same might also apply to the less well known Valses Poèticos of Granados, which are beautifully characterised and lovingly phrased, but without a hint of mannerism. The two Danzas Españolas show Bream's true understanding of the Spanish idiom, of which he has been a master for many years.

One of the strengths of a great artist is the ability to make people listen with fresh ears, not only to masterworks central to the repertory, but also to less well known works, from both the present and the past. This is precisely what Bream does here. Both the charming Serenata of Malats and the more substantial pieces by Pujol are given idiomatic performances that make the music sound its best, and make also a strong case for its wider appreciation. For this is one of the finest guitar recitals of recent times.

Terry Barfoot


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