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Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Fantasias y Estudios
Estudio en Mi menor, op. 6 no.11 [3:02]; Estudio en La mayor, op. 6 no.6 [1:47]; Estudio en Re menor op. 31 no.16 [1:53]; Estudio en Mi bemol mayor, op.29, no. 22 [3:58]; Estudio en Fa mayor, op. 29 no. 14 [4:29]; Estudio en Sol mayor, op 29, no. 23 [2:24]; Fantasia no. 7 op. 30 [6:27]; Estudio en La mayor, op.6 no. 12 [5:23]; Estudio en La menor, op.31, no. 20 [1:07]; Estudio en Si bemol mayor, op.29, no.13 [3:53]; Estudio en La mayor, op. 31, no.19 [1:41]; Estudio en Mi mayor, op.6, no.3 [1:31]; Estudio en Do mayor, op 29, no. 17 [3:13]; Fantasia Elegiaca, op. 59 [16:13]
Manuel Babiloni (guitar)
rec. 2008. DDD
EDITS E.G. TABELET 1017 [65:52] 


Experience Classicsonline

Great musicians who elect to teach become immortalized not only in their music, but also through students that become famous in their own right. The review disc embodies the fruits of such an alliance.

The great Spanish master of the classical guitar Jose Luis Gonzalez (1932-1998), in addition to being a fine concert and recording artist, was also a prolific teacher. His temperament was well suited to the role of teaching and those students who became close, loved him for his special qualities. During a tenure in Australia from 1962 to 1968 he taught a nucleus of 95 pupils from all over Australasia. On return to his native Alcoy, Spain, Jose Luis later established a private school there to which students from all over the world came. Many Japanese students would attend the Madrid Conservatory and having completed their studies, then go to Alcoy for master classes. He also taught advanced courses in Estella (Navarra) and Gandia (Valencia) and was later appointed to teach at what became the Conservatorium of Alcoy 

The disc liner notes are devoid of biographical details, however Manuel Babiloni is one of Gonzalez's most successful and respected pupils. Babiloni first met Gonzalez in 1981 when he had just completed the seventh level in High Grade Studies at the Conservatorio Superior de Musica in Valencia. After an audition he was invited to study privately with him and the two subsequently established a close relationship. At the 1983, 18th International Guitar Contest 'Francisco Tarrega' held in Benicasim, Babiloni was awarded the Special prize for the best performance of works by Tarrega. At the 1986, 24th International Course of Spanish Music in Santiago de Compostela, he received the 'Ruiz Morales" award for the most outstanding pupil and the 'Ramirez " prize for the best player. After the premature death of Gonzalez in 1998, Babiloni assumed responsibility for the master class at Estella. He currently teaches at the Professional Conservatoire of Music in Castellon.

The programme chosen for this disc is original guitar music from the pen of Catalan composer Fernando Sor. No name is more famous in guitar repertory than his. Over half of the 21 tracks are dedicated to studies for the guitar. In addition to being highly didactic they are some of the most musically beautiful and popular works ever written for the instrument. Educated and brought up in the age of classicism, Sor was sensitive to the birth of Romanticism in which he played a part. Manuel Babiloni's perspective on Sor is closer to Schubert than to Haydn. This motivates him to pursue a Sor of great expressive intensity. In his playing we experience a freedom that arises from profound understanding of the works that are being presented.

A number of tracks represent the very best Sor to be found on record. Track 16, Study in B-Flat, no. 19 from the Segovia collection, is played with an expressive intensity and a technical perfection that is without peer in recorded music. Track No. 14, Study in A Major from op. 6, demonstrates that although a close disciple of the Maestro, Babiloni pursues his own interpretive path.` Beautifully recorded by Gonzalez back in 1965 (CBS BR 2351128) that rendition of Study in A-Major op 6, no. 12 reaches sublime perfection, however includes arpeggiated chords. Some musicologists conveniently ignore evidence in guitar tutors of the era that recommend such expressive devices as chordal arpeggiation, now considering them anachronistic to modern interpretations of 'period' music. As well played as Babiloni's version is, I am still very partial to arpeggiated chords as judiciously employed by Gonzalez, and am not uncomfortable being out of fashion.

There is meticulous attention to every aspect of the music, and technical challenges are embraced with true mastery of the instrument. Although no maker is specified, the guitar used has an excellent balance across the entire register, and the tone that Manuel Babiloni extracts from it is redolent of the Maestro.

String squeaks are an intrinsic part of the guitar but for those sensitive to this phenomenon, the review disc will be especially appealing since the playing is so clean and relatively devoid of string noise. It is also very well recorded with a strong sense of presence on appropriate quality reproducing equipment.

This is an important new disc that every student of the classical guitar and aficionados of Fernando Sor should own. There is no finer recording of this Sor repertory available.

Zane Turner


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