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Latin Images
Antonio LAURO (1917-1986)
Natalia [1:44]
Jose Manuel LEZCANO (b. 1960)
Antonia Zarate [2:32]
Raul Garcia ZARATE
Wayno de Ancash [2:44]
Agustin BARRIOS (1885-1944)
La Catedral, Preludio:[1:54]; La Catedral, Andante religioso [1:33]; La Catedral, Allegro solemne [3:11]; Vals in D minor [4:43]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in E minor, K 11 [1:40]; Sonata in E Major K. 380 [2:57]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Andante Largo [4:59]
Jose Luis MERLIN (b.1952)
Evocacion [1:27]; Zamba [1:22]
Frederico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
Torija [2:36]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
La vida breve (duo) [4:02]
KIRCHNER Cancion (duo) [1:51]
Ernesto LECUONA (1895-1963)
La Comparsa [2:10]
José Manuel Lezcano (guitar)
rec. 2005
No catalogue number allocated to this disc. [41:27]

With its lack of sustain and evolutionary design no concert instrument is more adversely affected by ambient conditions than the guitar. Humidity, temperature, venue and audience size together with acoustics may combine to adversely affect instrument and player. Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) recognised this and, although later to be proven myopic by Andrès Segovia (1893-1987) relegated the guitar to the status of a salon instrument.
In his biography, A Life On the Road Julian Bream noted: ‘I was just saying that because the humidity in Dartington is so high it is an extraordinary bad place for trills. The tips of your fingers become so soft it’s like playing with bits of damp blotting paper.’ After another particularly long concert attended by over 2000 people, Bream made the following observations: ‘ My left hand was sluggish …. no inner rhythm ….. the instrument uncertain …. Another evening of spine-tingling excitement.’
Most concert guitarist have had similar experiences where conditions and circumstances combined to result in a below anticipated performance.
In a recording environment most of the elements that play havoc in a live concert can be tamed, compensated for and controlled. It is uncommon, if not rare, to hear in concert a guitarist who sounds as good as on recordings. If you happen to be well to the rear of a large venue and there is no amplification, you may even miss some of the detail.
That said the review disc imparts a strong aural impression that it was made in a live concert environment rather than in a recording studio. The overall presentation suggests it may have been recorded privately rather than commercially, and it bears none of the hallmarks of having been manicured and edited in the studio to provide ‘air-brushed’ perfection. After listening to this recording I doubt that anyone would be disappointed with the same programme played by José Lezcano in live concert, extreme untoward circumstances aside.
José Manuel Lezcano was born in Cuba in 1960. He studied guitar with Aaron Shearer and Christopher Berg. He later augmented these studies with master classes by Michael Lorimer, Sharon Isbin and Cuban composer/guitarist Leo Brouwer. In 1982 he won the MTNA National Guitar Competition and in 1998 received a Fulbright Award in Ecuador to teach, perform and research indigenous guitar traditions. He holds a Ph.D. in music theory from Florida State University and a B.M. (guitar) from Peabody Conservatory. Mr Lezcano is currently Professor of Music at Keene State College, New Hampshire, USA.
The programme here is an eclectic mix of composers most of whom are well known to guitar audiences: Scarlatti, Sor, Barrios and de Falla. Included with one or two other less familiar composers is the guitarist himself and Antonia Zarate (2) is from the pen of José Lezcano. Interestingly the three-part La Catedral by Barrios is presented as three tracks (4-6) of discrete music rather than just one as per an earlier recording by John Williams. On tracks (14) and (15) Mr Lezcano is joined by guitarist John Mantegna.
New Millennium Guitar described José Lezcano as a ‘superb guitarist’ and in absolute terms there are plenty of occasions in the programme to justify such a claim.

Things gets off to a good start with strong rhythmic attention to Lauro’s Natalia with its engaging 3/4:6/8 patterns. There are times when Lezcano displays the emotion, empathy and sensitivity toward his readings that is emulated in the dedication of this recording to his parents Hipolito (1932-2003) and Raquel; his rendition of the beautiful Evocacion by Merlin (10) embraces these characteristics and more. The cross-string trills in the Scarlatti sonatas, often excluded from these pieces in favour of single-string ornamentation, are an artistic inclusion.
However in comparative terms the solo playing on this occasion does not consistently compare with a number of other recording artists from the younger generations of guitarists.
One could easily be distracted and misled by the recording per se which has bass string buzzes, heavy breathing and some of the most conspicuous string squeaking I have heard on recording, but the presence of these factors evokes a feeling of listening to a real live musician not an edited, clone of perfection. On balance, close scrutiny of a standard such as Vals in D minor by Barrios (13), based on the performance here, excludes Lezcano from an apotheosis achieved by the aforementioned guitarists.
This is an enjoyable recording with an interesting, entertaining and well-played programme, albeit rather short at 41:27. For perfectionists it may fall short of the mark because of a refreshingly honest presentation.

Zane Turner

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