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Francesco TRREGA (1852 1909)
Guitar Music
Preludios [16:40]
Las Dos (Dos valses) [4:27]
Adelita (Mazurka) [1:41]
Marieta (Mazurka) [2:32]
Mazurka (in G) [2:44]
Maria (Gavota) [1:38]
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [5:40]
Rosita (Polka) [1:46]
Pepita (Polka) [1:43]
Capricho arabe (Serenata) [5:19]
Paquito (Vals) [2:29]
Gran vals [3:24]
Alborada (Capricho) [2:21]
Isabel (Vals) (Johann Strauss II) [1:49]
Vals (in D) [2:32]
Pavana [2:32]
Estudio brillante de Alard [2:28]
Mats Bergstrm (guitar)
rec. Nilento Studio, Kllerud, Sweden, 20-21 October 2008
NAXOS 8.572365 [61:45]

Experience Classicsonline

Francisco Trregas compositions are well known to lovers of guitar music and even those with a fleeting interest in the instrument must have heard Recuerdos de la Alhambra, or Tremolo Etude, as it is also called. It is a wonderful melody and there are lots of the same kind in his oeuvre. Though he was breaker of new ground when it came to guitar technique his compositions were far from daring or innovative, rather deeply rooted in the mid-19th century Romantic currents. But they are wonderful to listen to provided the listener has a sweet tooth. They are equally useful as background wall-paper in company with a medium-rare steak and a bottle of Estremadura, as for concentrated listening with headphones.

I have some CDs with quite a lot of Tarrega pieces but none entirely devoted to his music. There are, however, at least two complete Tarrega sets, one with Giulio Tampalini, reviewed a couple of years ago by my colleague Zane Turner (see review), and one with David Russell, which Zane also discusses in the review. There is also a disc with twenty-nine pieces played by Fernando Espi (see review). I have heard none of these but have long been an admirer of David Russell. Why do I write complete with quotation marks? Well, Tampalinis collection contains 58 works, Russells 62 and, as ZT writes What represents the entire corpus of his original compositions appears to be the subject of academic debate. ZT was not exactly overwhelmed by the Tampalini volume but concluded In isolation this new offering of Trregas music capably addresses the key components that have made him a most celebrated composer of guitar music while David Russell still represents the gold standard for overall excellence. The verdict for Espis compilation was that his capable approach is very "period', among other things observing the glissandos. He is playing an instrument that is very close in design to the guitars by Antonio Torres, which Tarrega played. But Mats Bergstrms guitar, made by Swedish luthier Lars Jnsson, is a replica, of the Torres instrument built in 1888 which became Tarregas favourite.

Mats Bergstrm is a Swedish guitarist who studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and the Juilliard School in New York. He has been a professional player for more than twenty-five years, making his recital debut at Wigmore Hall in 1983. He is one of the most versatile of guitarists as soloist as well as ensemble musician in a wide variety of genres. As accompanist he has worked with numerous Swedish instrumentalists and singers, including baritone Olle Persson (they have recorded Schuberts Die schne Mllerin, which he also arranged), Anne Sofie von Otter, Tommy Krberg (of Chess fame) and Barbara Hendricks. He has a large discography but this seems to be his first solo record. Since Francisco Trrega died one hundred years ago it was natural for Mats to record this tribute to him.

Several of Tarregas pupils, including Llobet and Pujol, have described him as a charismatic romantic and a dreamer, unpretentious, kind and thoughtful. Llobet even called him angelic. If these descriptions are anything to go by concerning his own playing, I believe Mats Bergstrm is very close to the mark. Take the ubiquitous Recuerdos de la Alhambra as an example. From my collection I picked two earlier Naxos recordings, one with David Martinez, the other with Norbert Kraft. Just have a look at the timings:

Martinez 3:44
Kraft 4:18
Bergstrm 5:40

Before I had read Mats Bergstrms liner-notes with the descriptions of Tarrega, I had written on my notepad: A dreamy reading, which seems absolutely right. Recuerdos means remembrances and suchlike tend to be dreamy. It is slow, in real time, but one doesnt get the impression it is. Martinezs version almost two minutes shorter, which is a sensational difference for so short a piece is nervous and almost aggressive with heavy accents. His is a reading of the roaring 1990s, Mats Bergstrms is of the more genial 1890s. Norbert Kraft, always a reliable interpreter, is somewhere between, though considerably closer to Martinez than to Bergstrm. He uses more rubato and is a bit heavier. Mats Bergstrms is now my favourite version. Well, isnt he eccentric with that tempo? Andrs Segovia, who was the one who established this piece and made it the favourite it has been for so long, takes 5:13 an indication that Bergstrm is rather close to the original. And to round off this expos: Fernando Espi takes 5:48! Case closed but I must try to get hold of Espis disc.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which is the longest piece here, can stand as a symbol for the rest of the programme. Dreamy may not be a keyword for everything on the disc, but the beauty of the playing, the care over nuances and the technical assurance, which is no end in itself, are all the time in evidence and makes this one of the most satisfying guitar recitals I have heard for a long time. Readers who have no further acquaintance with Tarregas music, apart from Recuerdos, will find a treasure trove here: Endecha (prelude No. 15 in D minor), Lagrima (Prelude No. 11 in E), Adelita, the lovely Mazurka in G, Maria and Capricho arabe are only a few of the pieces here that I have loved for so long and which will hopefully be friends for life once one has heard them. I dont expect to hear them played with more elegance, warmth and charm and the recording leaves nothing to be desired. I hope Naxos will ask him for a volume two before long. As a bonus we are also treated to one of the most frequently heard tunes of our time: measures 13-16 of Gran vals is the ring tone for Nokia mobile phones!

Gran Forsling

Track listing:
1-16. Preludios [16:40]
   No. 1 in D minor [1:29]
   No. 2 in A minor [1:50]
   No. 3 in G [0:46]
   No. 4 in E [0:47]
   No. 5 in E [1:51]
   No. 6 in B minor [1:01]
   No. 7 in A [0:50]
   No. 8 in F sharp minor [0:44]
   No. 9 in B minor on a theme of Mendelssohn [1:04]
   No. 10 in B minor [0:32]
   No. 11 in E Lgrima [2:01]
   No. 12 in A minor [0:25]
   No. 13 in G [1:04]
   No. 14 in D [0:29]
   No. 15 in D minor Endecha [1:13]
   No. 16 in D minor Oremus (Robert Schumann) [0:34]
17. Las Dos (Dos valses) [4:27]
18. Adelita (Mazurka) [1:41]
19. Marieta (Mazurka) [2:32]
20. Mazurka (in G) [2:44]
21. Maria (Gavota) [1:38]
22. Recuerdos de la Alhambra [5:40]
23. Rosita (Polka) [1:46]
24. Pepita (Polka) [1:43]
25. Capricho arabe (Serenata) [5:19]
26. Paquito (Vals) [2:29]
27. Gran vals [3:24]
28. Alborada (Capricho) [2:21]
29. Isabel (Vals) (Johann Strauss II) [1:49]
30. Vals (in D) [2:32]
31. Pavana [2:32]
32. Estudio brillante de Alard [2:28]



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