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Manuel PONCE (1882-1948) Sonata Romántica (1929) [23:21]
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999) Sonata Giocosa (1958) [12:55]
Leo BROUWER (b. 1939) Sonata (1990) [14:44]
Hermann Hudde (guitar)
rec. August 2007, Blink Music Studios at Cambridge MA, USA
CENTAUR CRC 2974 [51:02]

Experience Classicsonline

This program could make a fine recital: three interesting guitar sonatas, coming from the great axis of guitar music - Spain and Latin America. Retrospection is another unifying trait. 
Manuel Ponce was born in Mexico, but his Sonata Romántica is called "Hommage à Franz Schubert" for a good reason. It is as close to Schubert's music as possible, though without Schubert's magic. Imagine some of quieter of Schubert's piano sonatas like op.120 transcribed for guitar, with something like Aire de Zamba of Barrios inserted as the third movement. Thus it goes: Schubert-Schubert-Latin-Schubert. The music is relaxed and conflictless, a set of quiet Musical moments ... OK, along with genuine Schubertian breadth you get long musical moments, but they are beautiful and well worth it. Take your time and float with it. The emotional Latin part comes as welcome refreshment exactly when needed. This is after two rather static movements. The finale has the feeling of a finale, but without a raising of the voice.

If you know Rodrigo's guitar concertos, then the Sonata Giocosa will not be a novelty for you: it stands right there between the Aranjuez and Andaluz, only without the orchestra. In the first part a coquettish, feminine melody lightly weaves its way between the pillars of loud, masculine stomping. It has a flamenco air - but gentle and playful, not fiery. As so often in Rodrigo's tripartite works, the heart of the music lies in the slow middle part. Here it is a solemn sarabande. Emerging from medieval mists, with Greensleeves-like modal turns, it has the beauty of an old castle. The giocoso is back in the third movement, a vigorous Spanish dance. You hear the tambourine and the castanets, and the texture is fuller - it was more of a one-liner in the first movement. The music may remind one of the first movement of Aranjuez - even ending in the same quiet way, leaving you with a question: "Is this all?" However, it is not at all predictable: jolly dissonances jump at you from nooks and corners that once seemed so cozy and harmless. As with the Rodrigo works it is never boring.

Leo Brouwer's Sonata is significantly more modern, and very interesting. The first part is entitled Fandangos y Boleros. It shows something of the process of gestation, germination of the two dance rhythms, one around the other. This is done in a swirling, misty cauldron under the constant clicking of a mysterious clock. The music is fascinating in its progress: fragments of rhythms and of the motifs rise to the surface and fade from view as if particles in a lazy kaleidoscope - one of them quotes Beethoven's Pastoral. We don't see the result of the gestation: instead we peek into the cauldron and close the lid again. The short second part is named Sarabanda de Scriabin. I don't quite hear a sarabande, but Scriabin's enigmatic splashes are definitely there. The music is almost static, like an enchanted forest lake or a candle's flame. Then, suddenly awake, we enter the tumult of the last part, La Toccata de Pasquini. We could still be in Scriabin's world, but now it's all movement, all a flutter of little wings, all flight to the light. There is a quotation from seventeenth-century Italian composer Bernardo Pasquini's Toccata con lo scherzo del cucco (Toccata with Cuckoo Scherzo) woven into the tapestry. The sonata ends with a feeling of reaching the goal.

Ponce's sonata is played beautifully, but you really hear a lot of extra noise: the guitar is complaining about every other move of fingers like an old grandpa about his joints. It is more noticeable if you use headphones. There is less of it in Rodrigo, and I can't say anything about Brouwer, because the music really enthralls me every time. It's, like, wow.

The recording quality is good, the documentation tells a lot about the guitarist, but I would like to have read more about the music.

Oleg Ledeniov

see Leo Brouwer pages


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