For those who, like this reviewer, inveterately add new CDs
to an already burgeoning collection, a correlation between available
music and time for listening can be sobering. A modest collection
of five hundred discs represent in excess of five hundred hours
of music. If three hours were available each day for serious
listening, it would take six months of listening time to cover
the collection just once!
Given time constraints, favourites emerge that inevitably consume
a disproportionate amount of time. The review disc is one for
which such a bias exists. It is selectively accessed from an
embarrassingly large collection of classical guitar recordings
when a ‘fix’ from this genre is mandatory.
David Martinez was born in Granada, Spain in 1975. He commenced
study of the guitar at the age of seven and furthered his studies
at the Conservatory of Music in Granada under Carmelo Martinez.
After graduation, he studied in master-classes with Eliot Fisk
and Joaquin Clerch. Martinez has won many international guitar
competitions including the coveted Francisco Tarrega, Benicasim
in 2004. He now teaches guitar at the Conservatory of Music
As part of its evolution the guitar has, of necessity, embraced
contemporary guitar music. It has been suggested that a turning
point came with the inaugural performance of Benjamin Britten’s
Nocturnal Op. 70: when the music was published in 1965,
guitarists were forced to review their repertory. But Segovia
was immutable, and in reference to the avalanche of contemporary
music written for the guitar he expressed a need to ‘isolate
the guitar from those microbes’. The great Spanish master,
Jose Luis Gonzalez (1932-98) also expressed little empathy for
this genre and continued to record and play the repertory that
he dearly loved: Spanish masters and romantic guitar music -
music that reflected the folk music and lore roots of the guitar.
Antipathy toward contemporary music was not unique to the guitar
repertory. Asked if he ever conducted Stockhausen, Sir Thomas
Beecham responded: ‘No but I trod in some once’.
The review disc presents music that shows the guitar at its
traditional best. With minor exceptions it could be a recital
programme for either Segovia or Jose Luis Gonzalez. In a highly
competitive environment one must acknowledge the courage - and
taste - of a young player who is working to establish a career
as a concert guitarist. Slavish compliance with fashion and
trends sometimes does more damage than good to inaugural recordings
by young relatively unknown players. Not so with Mr. Martinez.
One of the surprises is the inclusion of a Tarantas by
flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, which is essentially a not-for-note
transcription. The majority of classical guitarists are not
technically equipped to play flamenco so wisely avoid it.
The playing of Martinez is impeccable. He is technically adept
and, more importantly, his musicianship is impressive. Scarlatti’s
sonata K27 has long been a personal favourite, particularly
the piano interpretation by Murray Perahia - Sony SK 62785.
Despite its origins, the version by Martinez seems more idiomatic
to the guitar. The challenging Prelude, Fugue and Allegro
by J.S. Bach, from BWV 998, are given an empathetic reading,
although some may like the Prelude at a slightly faster
tempo. The embellishments are not those typically heard in guitar
arrangements but are most appropriate; the same is true of the
music by Scarlatti.
There are no traditional buzzing strings or metallic tonal sounds
in the Tarantas so flamenco purists may grizzle. In all
other aspects this is splendidly played, and demonstrates a
finely developed, mature technique. Tarrega’s immortal
Recuerdos de la Alhambra appears at the end of the programme.
One wonders how many times this piece can be heard before being
overcome by ennui? I have lost count but in the hands of a master
like Martinez, all the evocation with which Tarrega imbued it
appears again exquisitely unfamiliar. Played a little faster
than one may speculate was Tarrega’s intention, it nonetheless
conveys the inspiration that he expressed on its presentation
to doña Concha for her birthday in 1899. The relatively
fast rendition time of 3:44 is distorted by modification of
the repeat pattern.
Fortunately David Martinez does not succumb to the current fashion
and fad of playing lattice and radially-braced instruments.
His guitar is from the hands of Paco Marin, Granada. It embodies
the warmth and beauty of tone that is exclusively characteristic
of instruments made in accordance with traditional design. One
must acknowledge that regardless of the instrument’s intrinsic
capabilities, its full potential can only be accessed by the
likes of Martinez.
In the discography of most instruments there are undiscovered
and under-recognized treasures. In the guitar genre this is
one; you will return to it often.
see also review by Göran