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Guitar Recital - Jérémy Jouve (guitar) Joaquín RODRIGO (1901 – 1999): Sonata Giocosa; Joaquín TURINA (1882 – 1949): Sonata; Francesco da MILANO (1497 – 1543): Ricercare I; XVI; XXXVIII; LVII; Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 – 1976): Nocturnal, op 70; Julián ARCAS (1832 – 1882):
Fantasy on Themes from "La Traviata".
Jérémy Jouve (guitar)
Rec. 6–8 May 2004, St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
NAXOS 8.557597 [59:02]

Quite recently I reviewed a disc in Naxos’s Laureate Series with winners of important guitar competitions. Then it was the young Spaniard Pablo Sáinz Villegas; here comes another disc in the same series with the even younger Frenchman Jérémy Jouve. Both were recorded on consecutive days in May 2004 in Ontario, Canada with the experienced production team Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver, although in different venues. The change of location does, not change the quality of the recording: this is the warm, rounded and yet transparent sound we have come to expect from this team. When it comes to the quality of the playing I have to say again that I have still to hear a merely good player on a Naxos guitar disc. They have all been superb and Jérémy Jouve is no exception.

While Villegas limited himself to Spanish composers, Jouve throws his net a bit wider, even if he also chooses Spain as his starting point with two attractive sonatas by Rodrigo and Turina respectively. The Rodrigo composition is just as joyous as its title suggests Sonata Giocosa; at least in the outer movements which literally bubble; the slow middle movement is in total contrast to this joy and sounds almost sacred. Turina’s Sonata, from 1931, is clearly influenced by flamenco; he even uses the golpe, which is when you tap on the guitar’s body.

Then Jouve takes us back to the renaissance and perhaps the greatest of 16th century Italian lutenists, Francesco da Milano. Four of his ricercare are performed here, chosen to fit together as a suite. This is restrained music, noble in character, no big gestures. It’s a big leap from the early 16th century to the early 1960s and to Britten’s masterpiece Nocturnal, written not long after his War Requiem. This music was originally also conceived for the lute but Julian Bream, himself a noted lutenist, talked the composer out of that idea. There are other references to early music as well, since the seven short variations and the long concluding passacaglia are based on John Dowland’s song Come, heavy sleep. It is a many-faceted work, dramatic and thrilling and played with brio by Jouve. My only regret is that Naxos (or the producer) hasn’t given each variation a separate track. It is, after all, a long piece, close to nineteen minutes.

As a kind of lollipop Jouve serves a Fantasy on Themes from "La Traviata", by the Spanish guitarist Julián Arcas. He belonged to a generation even earlier than Tarrega, to whom the piece has wrongly been attributed. This is a genre that was immensely popular in the nineteenth century - among pianists: Liszt and Thalberg of course; but also among guitarists: Johann Kaspar Mertz and Napoléon Coste to mention just two. Since the choice of melodies is concentrated to Violetta’s music it is partly tear-jerkingly elegiac but partly also almost parodically jaunty and virtuosic. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously and as a late night entertainment it is charming.

Jérémy Jouve is a vital and robust player who makes the most of the many dramatic and lively passages but he can also spin thin threads of golden tone in quieter music, notably the renaissance pieces.

Apart from Britten’s Nocturnal this is not everyday fare even for seasoned collectors, so if the programme is attractive, give it a try. The execution is beyond reproach.

Göran Forsling

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