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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas
1. Primavera Porteña
2. Verano Porteña
3. Otoňo Porteńa
4. Invierno Porteña
Leo BROUWER (b.1942)

El Decameron Negro
5. El Arpa del Guerrero
6. La Huida de los Amantes por el Valle de los Ecos
7. Ballada de la Doncella Enamorada
Aleksander TANSMAN (1897-1986)

8. Preludio
9. Sarabande
10. Scherzino
11. Barcarole
12. Danza Pomposa
Agustin BARRIOS-MANGORÉ (1882-1944)

13. Choro da Saudade
14. Un Sueňo en la Floresta

Carlo DOMENICONI (b.1947)

Koyunbab - Suite for guitar, op.19
Robert Horna (guitar)
Recorded between December 2004 and January 2005 in Enschede (Netherlands)
CD ACCORD ACD 138-2 [73:20]
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Robert Horna is a young Polish guitarist who has been picking up glowing reviews and plaudits for his playing. This is his second CD, and contains a particularly interesting programme. The music is not well-known – to non-guitarists anyway – but is all well worth hearing. Horna’s playing is stunning; there is a technical assurance which is transcendental, allied to an unusual ability to transmit powerfully the character of the music he interprets.

The first tracks of the CD are given up to the wonderful suite by Piazzolla which gives the CD its name. The title means ‘The Four Seasons of the Portenas’, Porteñas being the name for inhabitants of Buenos Aires. The liner notes tell us that what we are hearing is an arrangement by Robert Horna of a work written for Piazzolla’s quintet. That may be the case, but it sounds quite superb on the guitar, and is an altogether delightful item. For those who expect nothing but tangos from Piazzolla, this will be an eye and ear opener. This is sophisticated yet wholly engaging music, full of invention and melodic charm. Track 4, with its distant echoes of the Pachelbel Canon, is especially memorable.

Brouwer’s El Decameron Negro (‘Black Decameron’) may be a little more challenging to listen to – the style is more fragmented – but it is full of fruitful ideas, and develops them in an extended and improvisatory way. I don’t hear much ‘serious’ Cuban music, so this was a real find.

Appropriately, given his background, Horna includes a piece by the distinguished Polish composer Aleksander Tansman. Like a lot of Tansman, this Cavatina in five movements has a Neoclassical flavour, as well as distinctly Polish melodic inflections. The central Scherzino is a splendid example of Horna’s technical and musical control, while the wistful Barcarole and good-humoured Danza Pomposa bring more enjoyment.

Barrios-Mangoré was a Paraguayan guitar virtuoso, and these two pieces of his are written with a wonderful idiomatic feel for the instrument. Many listeners will know and love Tárrega’s exquisite Recuerdos de l’Alhambra – Memories of the Alhambra – known to guitarists as the ‘tremolo study’ because of its rapid repeated notes, so difficult to sustain. In Un Sueño en la Floresta, Barrios-Mangoré attempts something similar, possibly in the nature of a tribute. The layout of the music is so similar to Recuerdos, yet the mood is subtly different, with delicate sensibility, yet less of its model's intense nostalgia.

The concluding item is by the youngest composer represented on the disc, Carlo Domeniconi. This a suite called Koyunbaba, though the movements run continuously so that the whole thing occupies one track. There are some remarkable though very beautiful sounds created here; not being a guitarist, worse luck, I have no idea how they are produced, but they are magical and evocative nonetheless.

The recording of this CD is exceptionally good. With the guitar, you have to be prepared to accept the sound of the left hand shifting across the strings. But there’s not much of that, though the microphones are close enough to allow a real sense of intimacy. Highly recommended for sheer musical pleasure as well as considerable interest and novelty.

Gwyn Parry-Jones




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