There are a great many very good guitarists around at present.
To stand out takes something really special. Good as he is – technically
proficient as he is, thoroughly musical as he is – I am not sure
that Carlos Pons i Altés, on the evidence of this CD, quite has
the kind of distinctive musical personality to distinguish him
from the crowd, to make him more than ‘just’ another of the many
very good contemporary players of his instrument. But if one can’t
quite give him some greater accolade than that, one can certainly
get a good deal of pleasure from a thoroughly enjoyable CD. The
choice of repertoire is interesting and varied and the recorded
sound is good.
will perhaps decide on the desirability (or otherwise) of
the CD on the attractiveness of the repertoire. It is unfortunate,
therefore, that the skimpy booklet that accompanies the recording
contains absolutely no information on the music, just a CV
of the performer.
There are two
world premiere recordings. One is of Anthony Sydney’s Sonatina
Portuguesa. Sydney, a New Yorker by birth, has lived and worked
in Tuscany for some years. His working background as a guitarist
includes rock and jazz as well as classical spheres. His Sonatina
Portuguesa is in two movements – a Preludio of some four minutes
and a Danza of some one and a half minutes. The thoughtful
Preludio makes subtle use of silence in its opening section
before developing ideas in a quasi-improvisational fashion
and finally returning to the short phrases of its opening.
Danza’s invitation to the dance is not altogether straightforward,
its rhythmic patterns less than insistent and its turns sometimes
quite oblique. The whole has a genuine poetry about it – it
is a piece that other guitarists might reasonably add to their
repertoire. The second premiere is of the piece that gives
the album its title, Bolero para un Ángel by the Chilean Mauricio
Opazo Muñoz. This is a slowly lilting piece of considerable
beauty, endowed with a graceful melodic accessibility that
would surely make it very popular if it was heard widely (and
not just with guitar specialists).
is an impish reading of Tárrega’s polka Rosita; the two popular
songs from Catalan are delightful, especially the version
of the Christmas carol El cant dels occels, though El testament
d’Amelia is also played with winning delicacy. David Qualey’s
One Time Swing goes with – aptly enough – a pleasantly infectious
swing and this is a performance which successfully handles
the piece with more restraint than one or two I have heard.
On a slightly more negative note, the particular charm of
Santiago de Murcia’s music seems to evade the soloist and
there are certainly better performances to be heard of the
pieces by Sor and Albéniz. Again, I should stress that this
is not to suggest that these are ‘bad’ performances, merely
that they are not outstandingly good.
Carles Pons i Altés
teaches courses and master classes in many parts of the world.
I have no doubt that his students benefit much from his intentions
– he is obviously a knowledgeable and talented musician, even
if, to my ears, he doesn’t quite have ‘star’ quality as a performer.