Gerard Hoffnung CDs
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
Sevillana op. 29 [6:48]
Carlo DOMENICONI (b. 1947)
Koyunbaba op. 19 [13:35]
Nikita KOSHKIN (b. 1956)
Merlin’s Dream [6:10]
Phillip HOUGHTON (b. 1954)
Kinkachoo, I Love You [2:42]
William BLAND (b. 1947)
Rag Nouveau [4:42]
Ernesto CORDERO (b.
Tres Cantigas Negras [8:55]
Antonio LAURO (1917-1986)
Vals Venezolano No. 3 [2:03]
Alejandro Nunez ALLAUCA (b 1943)
Koribeni No. 2 [6:51]
Dilermando REIS (1919-1967)
Si Ela Perguntar [4:07]
Astor PIAZZOLA (1921-1992)
Verano Portento [5:12]
Francis BEBEY (1929-2001)
The Magic Box [2:23]
rec. March 2003, Neustadt-Mandelsloh, Lower Saxony (Germany),
474 2082 [71:09]
not always evident in what they record, a key objective of
guitarists should be to entertain their listeners. Choice
of programme is important and as the well-known adage suggests, ‘variety
is the spice of life.’
review disc scores well in a number of areas not least of
which is the programme. Guitarist Alexander-Sergei Ramirez
selected twelve quite disparate original compositions for
guitar by composers of twelve different countries (see below).
The guitar goes on a voyage of discovery, an odyssey. Once deemed
be an instrument with a paucity of repertory, relying heavily
on transcriptions and arrangements, the review disc is testimony
that this is no longer the case.
than any other single recording I recall hearing, Odyssey demonstrates
the quite breathtaking variety of sounds and timbre of which
the guitar is capable in the hands of a master. We hear the
rasqueado of flamenco; drum-like and percussive sounds made
by striking the guitar body with the thumb and fingers; étouffées wherein
the strings are damped with the heel of the right hand and
then plucked with fingers or thumb; rapidly repeated notes
of the tremolo; emulations of the koto that sound deceptively
authentic and sounds that mimic those of forest birds. Some
may regard this as instrumental gimmickry but in the context
of these compositions, the sounds are germane and highly
indigenous music is identifiable by its rhythms, harmonies
and special effects.
can associate the majority of the programme items here with
a specific country, a notable exception being (12) Kinkachoo,
I Love You by Australian, Phillip Houghton. The liner-notes
explain that Kinkachoo refers to a bird held sacred by Australian
this is complemented by the guitarist’s command of tonal
nuances and dynamics. Tone varies from crisp, bright ponticello made
by playing in close proximity to the bridge, to soft, sonorous
sound achievable when the strings are caressed well to the
left of the sound-hole. Wide contrast in dynamics can be
challenging on the guitar but Ramirez achieves this admirably,
particularly in such pieces as (9). A chameleon-like approach
to dynamics - a hallmark in Ramirez’s recorded music - never
leaves one bored but constantly in a state of anticipation;
nothing soporific about this playing!
is impossible to isolate any one highlight of this recording.
The Spanish spirit with which Turina’s Sevillana is
played is memorable. The strong rhythmic emphasis in Vals
No 3 (13) by Lauro, especially in the minor section,
heightens awareness of the 3,2/2,3 patterns; the major section
is executed with a lyricism that is quite beguiling. The
playing here reminds one more of a pianist rather than a
typical guitarist. Many guitarists play this Vals at
breakneck speed demonstrating technical prowess, but sacrificing
is well equipped as a musician and instrumentalist to embrace
the challenges of this programme. He was born in Lima, Peru
in 1962 and commenced his musical career as a cellist later
changing to guitar. He subsequently studied guitar with Professor
Maritta Kersting, Pepe Romero and the inimitable José Luis
González. His musical education includes participation in
master-classes given by violinist Dénes Zsigmondy, tenor
Luigi Alva and piano pedagogue Karl-Heinz Kämmerling.
winning the Alhambra International Guitar Competition in
Spain, he has concertised internationally in solo recital,
chamber music, and as a duo with pianist Sheila Arnold to
whom he is married. Since 1997, Ramirez has taught guitar
at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Dusseldorf.
guitar used on this occasion is by Antonio Marín-Montero
of Granada, made in 2000. It is unfortunate that the beautiful
intrinsic sounds of this instrument and the extent to which
Ramirez exploits its capabilities, are sometimes compromised
by recording techniques. Sonically this disc is acceptable
but not up to the same standard set by several other companies
that specialise in guitar music.
stand out in a crowded field is not easy. With a carefully
crafted programme that is entertaining from the first to
the last track, augmented by technical mastery and outstanding
musicianship, Alexander-Sergei Ramirez achieves this well.
One of the best-known Spanish
composers of his time, Turina, was also a pianist and a conductor.
He studied with Vincent d’Indy in Paris where he became friendly
with Ravel and Debussy
A guitarist and composer,
he studied in Italy and Germany before spending a number
of years teaching and composing in Turkey. Koyunbaba (shepherds),
describes the great sense of calm and almost meditative atmosphere
of the countryside of southwest Turkey.
A Russian guitarist and composer,
Koshkin studied guitar with Alexander Frauchi and composition
with Victor Egorov. In Merlin’s Dream, tremolo and
a glass tube slid over the strings create the unreal atmosphere.
Yocoh initially studied dentistry
but gave this up to devote himself exclusively to the guitar
and composition. Sakura (Cherry Blossom) is his best-known
Painter, guitarist and composer,
Houghton studied guitar with Sebastian Jorgensen. As a composer
he is self-taught.
American composer and pianist,
William Bland studied composition with Ernst Krenek, Sir
Richard Rodney Bennett and Earle Brown. He has written extensively
for solo guitar and in combination with chamber formations.
Guitarist, and composer,
Cordero was bought up from infancy in Puerto Rico. He studied
guitar with Regino Sainz de la Maza, Alirio Diaz and composition
with Roberto Caggiaro and Julián Orbón.
Inspired by legendary guitarist
Agustin Barrios, Lauro gave up the piano and devoted himself
entirely to the guitar. As a composer he is best known for
Venezuelan waltzes of which No.3 is one of his very
best and well-known works.
Alejandro Nunez Allauca
A native of Peru, Allauca
studied at the Conservatorio Nacional de Lima and at the
Instituto Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires. Koribeni
no. 2 describes the young composer’s journey to the Indian
tribe of the Koribeni in the Amazon regions of Peru
Reis lived most of his life
in Rio, and was in great demand as a guitarist. His works,
totalling over one hundred, include many waltzes, and choros.
Composer and bandoneon virtuoso,
Piazzolla studied with Alberto Ginastera, Nadia Boulanger
among others. He is regarded as ‘the king of tango’ which
he established as a legitimate form of music in concert halls
throughout the world.
Bebey studied in Douala,
Paris and in the USA. He was self-taught as a guitarist and
was known as the ‘Segovia of Cameroon’. He also wrote several
works for that instrument. His best-known work is ‘The
Magic Box” (referring to the gramophone)
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