young relatively unknown musicians, victory in an international
music competition may be a harbinger of future fame.
the world of the classical guitar the International Francisco
Tárrega Guitar Competition is highly regarded and irrespective
of what the future may hold, it justifiably endows first-prize
winners with connotations of excellence.
among past first-prize winners are such famous guitarists
as David Russell who won in 1977. More recent there has been
Anabel Montesinos - 2002, and featured artist of this review
disc Michalis Kontaxakis, winner in 2005.
is one of Greece’s leading young guitarists and the first
to win the Tárrega Competition. He studied with Vassilis
Mastorakis and graduated from Costas Cotsiolis’s class. He
also studied at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule in Dusseldorf
with Joaquín Clerch, and preceding his achievement in the
Tarrega Competition already had a number of wins in other
the music by Ponce, Tarrega and Martin is familiar, less
familiar is the Prelude for Guitar by Khachaturian
and the Suite Op. 164 (1957) by Ernst Krenek. One
could be excused for not recognising the Homenaje a Francisco
Tárrega by Joaquin Clerch (b.1965), because this is its
Clerch is both a capable guitarist and composer. Since 1999
he has held a professorship of guitar at the Robert Schumann
University in Dusseldorf. Born in Cuba he began his studies
in Havana and then continued at the Salzburg Mozarteum under
the tutelage of Eliot Fisk. His homage to Tárrega is a set
of seven short pieces each dedicated to a friend or member
of the composer’s family.
Krenek was born in Vienna in 1900. He became a student of
Franz Schreker at the Vienna Music Academy. At the Berlin
Musikhochschule, where be followed Schreker in 1920, his
musical style developed in other directions with compositions
earning him the reputation as an ‘enfant terrible’. He
won international success with his jazz opera, Johnny
spielt auf. His suite for guitar comprising five short
movements was written in 1957 and dedicated to guitarist,
teacher and composer Theodore Norman.
reviewer once noted that the great Venezuelan guitarist Alirio
Diaz played J.S.. Bach in the same manner as he played the
Venezuelan waltzes of Antonio Lauro. Having listened to his
recording, Alirio Diaz Plays Bach (EMI HQS 1145)
I have empathy for this point of view. Rather than detracting
from the music it is an interesting and enjoyable departure
from the academic norm. The same could be said of Maria
Kliegel’s unique use of pizzicato in the Sarabande movement
of Bach’s Fifth Suite for Unaccompanied Cello (Naxos 8.557280-81)
apoplexy for the academics, but music to the ears.
cannot be so sanguine about the rather sedate style that
permeates much of the music on the review disc. Technically
the playing is impeccable, and tonal qualities produced on
the guitar evocative of what one imagines Tárrega may have
sounded like. This is all very relevant in the music of Tárrega,
but applied to some of the other composers, borders on the
soporific. In the Ponce there are deviations from this,
and manifestations of the spirit and attack that falls within
the capabilities of Michalis Kontaxakis.
guitarists are capable of being chameleon-like by contrasting
the way they interpret and execute over a rage of different
music, and even within a single composition.
written originally for piano, Granada from the Suite española
by I. Albéniz is a frequently recorded treasure from the
guitar repertory. The several versions in my collection all
receive similar appropriate interpretations with some more
sedate than others, but none being singularly memorable.
Except one: in his recording, Five Centuries of Spanish
Guitar Classics (Denon CD 75715) Alexander Sergei Ramirez
delivers a rendition which is memorable above all others.
Albéniz is purported to have preferred the guitar version
by Tarrega over his original, and my preference is strongly
in favour of the Ramirez version over that for piano by Alicia
de Larrocha (Decca 417 887-2).
Ramirez’s version, while beautifully executed, is fairly
standard until it reaches the point marked energico in
the second E major section. Here he becomes a chameleon utilizing
atypical dynamics and a spirited attack that in retrospect
seems ‘just right’. It is this delicious use of contrast
that gives the music a whole new appeal. Embracing this type
of approach at relevant times would give the review disc
a broader and more instant appeal.
is no one guitar that could be considered ideal for all periods
of music, and all composers. Some guitarists employ different
instruments by different makers to try to capture the individual
spirit of the period or the composer and on recordings more
than one instrument may be used. In his recording, Guitar
Music From Brazil (Naxos 8.557295) Graham Anthony Divine
used instruments by Hernandez Y Aguado and Andres D. Marvi.
the review disc Kontaxakis patriotically employs an instrument
by the Greek luthier Alkis that unfortunately only contributes
to the overall sedateness of the recording. An instrument
with a wider tonal palette such as that played by Marco Tamayo
on his recent recording of Paganini (Naxos 8.557598) would
excellent credentials, what Kontaxakis delivers on this occasion
is insufficient to make him stand out in a crowded field.
The programme is interesting and refreshing, however the
very capable playing is overall too sedate.
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