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Spanish Legends
Regino SAINZ DE LA MAZA (1896-1981)

1 Zapateado [2:23]; 2 Rondena [3:31]
Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)

Ten Canciones Populares Catalanas: 3 El Testament DíAmelia [2:27]; 4 Canco del Lladre [1:48]; 5 La Filadora [1:09]; 6 Lo Fill del Rei [1:19]; 7 Lo Rosinyol [0.52]; 8 Plany [1:52]; 9 El Mestre [3:57]; 10 LíHereu Riera [0.47]; 11 La Filla del Marxant [3:18]; 12 La Nit de Nadal [1:15]; 13 Scherzo-Vals [3:19]
Andres SEGOVIA (1893-1987)

14 Estudio Sin Luz [3:21]; 15 Anecdotas 2 [1:27]; 16 Anecdotas 5 [2:54]; 17 Remembranza (Estudio II) [2:48]
Emilio PUJOL (1886-1980)

18 Seguidilla [3:23]; 19 Impromptu [2:52]; 20 Triquilandia [1:13]; (Jugando al Escondite); 21 El Abejorro [1:33]; 22 Cancion Amatoria [2:37]; 23 Festivola [2:55]; 24 Tango [3:05]; 25 Tonadilla (Manola de Lavapies) [2;30]; 26 Guajira [4:06]
David Russell (guitar)
Recorded at Peggy and Yale Gordon Centre for the Performing Arts, Owings Mills, Maryland, June 11-13, 2004
TELARC CD-80633 [65:00]


Born in Glasgow in 1953, David Russell spent much of his youth on the small Spanish island of Menorca. Initially tutored in classical guitar by his father, at the age of sixteen Mr. Russell moved to London to attend the London Academy of Music.

His subsequent achievements are impressive. He has an extensive discography. He is held in high esteem by guitar aficionados worldwide. David Russellís new recording "Spanish Legends" may add little to the recorded repertoire but it is most enjoyable and does remind the listener of those key elements upon which his international reputation as a master guitarist was founded.

The programme comprises representative works of four Spanish legends of the classical guitar- Regino Sainz de la Maza, Miguel Llobet, Andres Segovia and Emilio Pujol. Such music has imbued this writer with a lifelong passion and love for the guitar. Many of the pieces are evocative of their motherland, intimate and more suited to the salon than to the concert platform where they appear with ever increasing rarity.

Regino Sainz de la Maza was Professor of Guitar at Madrid Conservatory from 1935 until his retirement in 1969. His fame abroad grew when Rodrigo dedicated to him the masterpiece, Concierto de Aranjuez. Many have wondered why the greatest orchestral masterpiece for guitar of the 20th century was never recorded by its most famous guitarist. Some have correlated this with the compositionís dedication to Sainz de la Maza who played the inaugural performance in 1940. (His recorded version is available on RCA VUCS-1322.) Another very famous composition by Rodrigo, Fantasía Para Un Gentilhombre, was dedicated to Segovia and coincidentally he did record this music. Conjecture may have in reality been truth!

The "salon" attitude to the guitar of Catalan Miguel Llobet was strongly reflected in his compositions and arrangements. Perhaps the most sublime of Llobetís contributions are the beautiful arrangements of Catalan folk songs of which a particular favourite, El Noy de la Mare is conspicuously absent on this recording.

Llobet considered the guitar a salon instrument, unsuited for larger concert venue recitals and this view he promoted with missionary zeal. Andres Segovia found this disposition inhibitory to his vision of the guitar as a true concert instrument.

The items by Segovia are typical of his composing style - charming and often with didactic components. The Five Anecdotes from 1947 are rarely recorded, but the versions of two and five here are preferred performances over those of Pablo Sáinz Villegas (Naxos 8.557596). Through enormous dedication and decades of global concertising Segovia was able to surmount the "salon myopia" typified by Llobet and during his own lifetime establish the guitar as a recognised concert instrument.

Emilio Pujol shared with Llobet discipleship of Francisco Tarrega, the "modern awakener" of the guitar. Pujolís contributions to guitar literature are significant and his compositions characteristic of the period. The Impromptu, track [19] is quite spell-binding and having listened to track [21], those less familiar with the works of Pujol will not be perplexed as to his reason for naming it " El Abejorro"- the bumble bee.

Mr Russellís performance of these period masterpieces is laudable, but given the large number of tracks it would be surprising if the odd one did not compare with a cherished favourite e.g. Llobetís Scherzo-Vals [13] receives a preferred rendition by Anabel Montesinos (Naxos 8.557294). A rather older but outstanding version of Segoviaís Study Without Light [14] is that of Eduardo Abreu, Decca SDD 219. However, all in all, the playing and interpretations are splendid - just what we have come to expect from this master guitarist.

And finally - a very first impression. The instrument used in this recording has a rather cold sound - big, voluminous but reminiscent of the "proverbial witchís elbow". This is not an observation of relative inferiority but one of difference representing a trade-off. The instrument used on the review disc is from the workshop of luthier Matthias Dammann. He is famous for innovations in lutherie which often sacrifice warmth for the "big sound" fashionable among many of the younger generation players. In relation to the observed lack of warm on this recording the particular choice of instrument may be causative or coincidental. If you are interested in a "temperature check" listen to the relatively warm sound from the guitar used on David Russellís recording of works by Francisco Tárrega, Opera tres CDS 1003/4

"Spanish Legends" may have insufficient programme "grunt" for hardened aficionados but if you have a smouldering penchant for the classical guitar it will be a catalyst, turning smoke into flame.

Zane Turner



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