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Nicolò PAGANINI (1782 – 1840)
Guitar Music

Grand Sonata in A major [21:35]; Sonata No. 4 in D major [3:51]; Ghiribizzi [8:56]: Nos. 15; 16; 37; 38; 22; Sonata No. 30 in A major [3:11]; Sonata No. 6 in F major [4:15]; Sonata No. 14 in F major [5:09]; Three Caprices (originally for solo violin) [14:06]: Nos. 11; 5; 24
Marco Tamayo (guitar)
rec. St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 10-13 June 2004
NAXOS 8.557598 [61:04]

The Naxos series for classical guitar is historically and musically important for that instrument. It has also provided a vehicle for many fine, but relatively unknown young guitarists to gain commercial exposure. This is challenging in an industry generally dominated more by economics than musical excellence.

A recent offering in this series is ‘Guitar Music’ by Paganini featuring Marco Tamayo. It is his third recording for Naxos.

While Paganini’s fame centres on violin virtuosity and compositions for that instrument, less known is his similar relationship with the guitar; each instrument being an integral part of his unique personality. The programme here largely comprises music written originally for guitar or guitar ensemble. The music on the last three tracks are transcriptions for guitar from the original violin music.

The most substantial work presented is the Grand Sonata in A major. This was originally written for violin and guitar with Paganini’s friend, guitarist Legnani, performing the guitar part. It could be described as unusual because it has three movements and is the only ensemble work which Paganini wrote giving the guitar a predominant role. Averaging around four minutes in length the other two-movement sonatas are miniatures but nonetheless most enjoyable. Ghiribizzi (whims, fancies or caprices) here comprising five short pieces, seems to have been written in or around 1819. It is probably best described as Paganini’s ‘Album for the Young’.

Marco Tamayo was born in La Havana, Cuba; his year of birth appears nowhere in the accompanying notes or on his personal website. Given his impressive list of achievements, including numerous wins in major international guitar competitions we may assume he is in his late twenties.

He commenced playing the guitar at age three under the tutelage of his father. He also studied with Antonio Alberto Rodríguez, Leo Brouwer and Harold Gramatges. He subsequently studied violin with Rainer Schmid and harpsichord with Anthony Spiri and Kenneth Gilbert. Since 1995 he has lived in Salzburg and since 2000 has taught at the Mozarteum there, having taken out Austrian citizenship. He is also professor at the Klagenfurt Landeskonservatorium and the Barcelona Luthier Academy.

Tamayo is a fine musician and a superb guitarist. His renditions, especially of the Grand Sonata and Caprice No 24, are impressive; they exhibit a technical excellence that allows seamless interface between technical execution and unencumbered musical interpretation.

It is interesting to compare older recordings of the Grand Sonata in A major by guitarists such as Julian Bream and John Williams. The recording made by Julian Bream in 1970 (RCA VR4-71587) personifies the musicality of this great guitarist. While the approach may be seen by some as dated, others will appreciate it as timeless. John Williams recorded the Grand Sonata several years before (SBR 235112); it reflects his technical mastery of the guitar but the interpretation is rather stolid. Tamayo manages to incorporate the best of both and an excellent arrangement as a bonus - including those beautiful cross-string trills.

The American-born guitarist Eliot Fisk, now teaching in Salzburg, was also a teacher of Tamayo. Fisk has recorded various of the 24 Caprices for violin. Some of these recordings convey a feeling that either the musician is playing right at the limits of his technical faculty or the original music is unsuitable for adaptation to the guitar. In either case the music is compromised. As executed by Tamayo, one is under the illusion that the programmed three caprices are original compositions for guitar.

The sonic quality of this disc is rather striking and on good reproducing equipment gives the listener a strong feeling of presence. Although not mentioned in the accompanying notes the guitar used in this recording is by Australian luthier Simon Marty; such are the beautiful tonal qualities produced; those who play the guitar will be keen to know. An added bonus is production by Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver who have co-produced some of the best classical guitar discs available.

There is no finer recording in existence of Paganini’s music for solo guitar.

Zane Turner

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