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ÉVENTAIL Masters of the Spanish Guitar
Zarabande Lejana Fandango
Romanza del Pescador Danza del Molinero
Preludes 1-5.
Sonatina Meridional
Olivier Chassain - Guitar
MET CD 1022 [70:00]
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All the composers included on this disc have strong associations with the guitar. Whether it is as Joaquin Rodrigo, composer of that most famous guitar concerto the "Aranjuez" or, as in the case of Isaac Albeniz, many of his pieces arguably better known in transcription for guitar than that for his original piano scores. The other connection that these composers have is that although none of them are French, all of them studied in Paris, mostly between 1905 and 1933 under Paul Dukas and Paul Iíndy; Ponce and Rodrigo even attending the same classes and it is this fact that Olivier Chassain has made a pivotal point in this recording.

However, even if these composers did share a common grounding in their early musical training, the evidence of their work is such that I doubt anybody with even a passing interest would mistake a Villa-Lobos prelude for one of those by Ponce or a piece by Albeniz for one by Rodrigo for instance, so different are all these composers from one another, and their individual contributions to the rich fabric of the repertoire so immense. That said I must say that the inlay notes by Olivier Chassain himself are extremely well written and very informative, putting forward his case well.

The opening work, the three movement "Sonata" of Joaquin Turina is heavily influenced by Flamenco and abounds with the use of the Lydian mode, which is such a vital ingredient of that musical tradition. Manuel de Falla wrote only one original work for the guitar, the "Homenaje, Pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy"(not included here) but a number of his pieces are transcribed well for the guitar and Olivier Chassain plays two, the beautiful "Romanze del Pescador" from "El Amor Brujo" and the more raucous "Danza del Molinero" taken from Fallaís ballet "El Sombrero de Tres Picos"; this, like the Turina, is based on Flamenco, in this instance a dance, the Farruca. Isaac Albenizís piano pieces have long been favourites for guitarists and this disc boasts two of his best known, "Cordoba" with its evocative Moorish overtones has been described as a jewel of the guitar repertoire, and "Asturias" the piece all guitarist love to play (with varying degrees of success due to its difficulty). For this recording Chassain has gone back to the original piano version rather than use an existing guitar transcription.

The name of Joaquin Rodrigo will always be linked with the "Concierto de Aranjuez" but he did write a number of solo pieces for the guitar: the "Fandango"(here separated from its two companions the "Passacaglia" and "Zapateado") plus the "Zarabande Lejana", Rodrigoís first work for the instrument, are excellent examples. For me it was probably Heitor Villa-Lobos and Manuel Ponce that were most influenced by their experience in Paris. From their native homes across the Atlantic, Brazil and Mexico, their music for the most part is devoid of the heavy Hispanic traditions of the other composers on this disc and rely more on a European approach, though this is channelled through the folk traditions of their respective countries. This combined with their association with Andres Segovia was an overriding factor in both of their visions for guitar composition.

Olivier Chassainís performances on this recording are competent rather than great and although very listenable fail to wholly satisfy, but should not be dismissed out of hand. There does seem to be an inconsistency in the recordings, particularly of the Villa-Lobos compared to the rest of the disc. Also there is a distinct change of ambience from track to track, notably between "Zarabande Lejana" and the "Fandango" of Rodrigo. This is acceptable to some extent in compilations but not on a disc of this sort. So, an interesting disc up to a point, but with some reservations.

Andy Daly


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Allegro vivo


Zarabanda lejana





Romanza del Pescador

Danza del Molinero




Prelude 1

Prelude 2

Prelude 3

Prelude 4

Prelude 5

Sonatina meridional




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