The review disc presents two genres with common roots. There
are numerous examples of fine players who play flamenco
and classical guitar, however among the truly great players,
historically none has managed to reach an apotheosis of
While the classical
and flamenco guitar appear the same, there are fundamental
and important differences in structure and material that
affect the instrument’s playability and sound. The technique
used to play flamenco is different and one with which the
average classical player would struggle. Flamenco music
is highly improvisational and few players read music. Like
fado it is a music form that is in evolution.
a great admirer of flamenco and with reference to the improvisation
of a contemporary Paco Lucena said ‘it is proof of the depths
and simplicity of his noble style’. He even went to the
length of transcribing examples of Lucena’s improvisations.
However part of his stated mission was to rescue the guitar
(Grisha) is a native of St. Petersburg. In none of the information
accessible are we made privy to his date of birth; from
the photographs supplied with the accompanying notes, somewhere
around 1976-80 would be a reasonable estimate. He began
playing the guitar at the age of seven under the tutelage
of his father Dimitry, an acknowledged master and teacher
of the instrument. Since going to the USA Grisha has performed
in master-classes taught by such luminaries as Christopher
Parkening, Manuel Barrueco and Sharon Isbin. No mention
is made of his apprenticeship in flamenco guitar and it
is hard to conceive that in this genre he is an autodidact.
At present Grisha continues to balance international concert
obligations with study at the New England Conservatory of
Music in Boston where he is earning his Doctoral degree
under Eliot Fisk.
Paco de Lucia, the two players whose music is represented
in the flamenco programme, are magnificent exponents of
their art. In their respective periods of performance they
were never equalled. Sabicas was exclusively a flamenco
player, however Paco de Lucia ventured into classical repertory:
he has made recordings of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez
and of music by de Falla. While different and most enjoyable,
they are not the best examples of classical guitar playing
and in reality were probably never intended to be.
companionship for the flamenco repertory from among classical
composers, Albéniz makes for a logical and ideal choice.
His compositions were strongly influenced by folk music
that he heard played on guitar. The four works from his
opera selected for inclusion in this programme, were all
originally arranged for guitar by Francisco Tarrega. They
are idiomatic of that instrument and, in comparison with
the piano for which they were written, many believe sound
superior played on the guitar
Here the attack
with which these works are approached is ferocious. Whatever
romantic elements Albéniz may have infused into his originals
are expunged via displays of speed, technical pyrotechnics
and liberties with timing. This is all technically impressive
but often musically shallow and at odds with the original
intent of the music.
In 1886, speaking
of his serenata Granada, Albeniz wrote to a friend Enrique
Moragas: I live and write a Serenata…. sad to the point
of despair, among the aroma of the flowers, the shade of
the cypresses and of the snow of the Sierra. I will not
compose the intoxication of a juerga. I seek now the tradition…
the guzla, the lazy dragging of the fingers over the strings.
And above all, a heartbreaking lament out of tune…I want
the Arabic Granada, that which is art, which
is all that seems to me beauty and emotion.
sound like arrangements for the flamenco guitar and were
they not fairly consistent with the essential elements of
the original guitar transcriptions that would be a reasonable
When we arrive
at the music of Sabicas and Paco de Lucia everything changes
and Grisha is seen in his true element. That he has a strong
command of the essential elements of flamenco is without
question and there are many born in Spain who could not
play to the same standard. The attack is tenacious, rhythms
compliant and the picado truly outstanding. Execution of
long sequences of single notes played in rapid succession,
especially ascending the fingerboard, is technically very
challenging; few do it as well as Grisha and even fewer
do it better. Over-employed it sounds showy and becomes
boring; used judiciously it adds a dimension of excitement
and can be quite mesmerising. But this is only part of playing
flamenco. The music by Sabicas and de Lucia is essentially
that taken note-for-note from their recordings; per se
this is a significant achievement. However before making
a definitive decision about Grisha and whether or not he
deserves accolades such as ‘one of the world’s greatest
flamenco guitarists’ we need to hear his own falsetas and
was made to variations in material and construction, which
give the classical and flamenco guitars different sounds.
Although other woods are used, the traditionally preferred
timber for the back and sides of a classical guitar is rosewood
of various varieties; this imparts a deeper tone to the
final sound. Cypress is traditionally preferred for flamenco
guitars and imbues the sound with crisper and sharper characteristics.
The guitar used
in the review disc is by American luthier Stephan Connor.
If the instrument appearing in the photographs with the
accompanying notes is the same as the one used on the recording,
it is of the classical variety with rosewood back and sides.
In the context of music by Albéniz it is not an instrument
that endears itself to this writer; there are many recorded
examples of significantly superior guitars. Grisha obviously
has preference for this type of instrument in his execution
of flamenco music. Although atypical, he shares that preference
with the great flamenco guitarist Mario Escudero who also
used a classical guitar to play flamenco.
All in all this
is an enjoyable disc and one of the best recorded examples
of outstanding technical facility. It is indicative of what
history has already taught us: while some may play both
flamenco and classical guitar well, no one guitarist has
ever become famous as an outstanding exponent of both. If
fame and fortune are to be Grigory Goryachev’s companions,
based on this recording, it will be as a flamenco not as
a classical guitarist.