Firstly I must say I am not a
great lover of the music of Johann Kaspar Mertz. I find it too pianistic
in nature, as are his contemporaries in guitar composition, Napoleon
Coste and Giulio Regondi, although to a lesser degree. To some extent
this is understandable as the popularity of the guitar was on the wane.
So perhaps Mertz, himself a multi-instrumentalist, was driven in some
way to compete with the piano on a technical and harmonic level to re-establish
the guitar’s status. In doing so he could not help losing the guitar’s
individual character. That said, Adam Holzman has done an admirable
job in his recording of the work. (Which I must say I prefer to James
Reid’s offering of an almost identical programme that lacked a certain
conviction. Soundset SR1014).
The Bardenklänge, Op.13
was influenced by a work of Romantic poetry, popular at the time. This
has conflicting sources of origin but appears to be the work of one
James McPherson (1736-1796) also known as Ossian. Mertz has used
various musical genres such as dances, sets of variations, characteristic
pieces, studies. When played in its entirety it consists of thirty individual
pieces and is one of Mertz’s longest works. Adam Holzman has chosen
nineteen of them for this recording, which is up to Naxos’s usual high
standards but which I also find less than compelling listening.