CD 1
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) arr. Francisco Tarrega,
Fantaisie sur la Traviata in D major [5:33]
Mauro GIULIANI (1784-1849)
Rossiniana, No. 1, Op. 119 [15:57]
Alexandre TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Cavatine - ‘Hommage à Venise’ [14:58]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782 - 1840)
Grande Sonate in A major [18:46]
Sonate en hommage à Boccherini in D major, Op. 77 (1934) [17:27]
CD 2
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto in D major, arr. guitar and strings, RV 93 [10:02]
Mauro GIULIANI (1784-1849)
Concerto No. 1 in A Major for guitar and strings, Op. 30 [30:18]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Quartet for guitar and strings, No. 2, MS 29 [19:50]
Liat Cohen (guitar); Talich Quartet (CD2)
rec. June 2009, Studios de Meudon, Meudon, France (CD1) and April 2009, Prague, Czech Republic (CD2). DDD
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 68530-7 [72:58 + 60:12]

Prize-winning guitarist Liat Cohen here contrasts standard repertoire works for solo guitar alogside lesser-known works for guitar and string quartet. For the second disc Cohen has been fortunate in securing the services of the eminent Talich Quartet, a group that I have seen in recital on three occasions. They are one of the world’s finest string quartets.

The first disc comprises of five attractive and accessible scores for solo guitar. I especially enjoyed Francisco Tarrega’s single movement Fantaisie on themes on La Traviata by Verdi. Castellón-born Tarrega captures a myriad of emotions from his transcription of this Verdi masterwork mixed with a splash of the flavour of Spain. Mauro Giuliani’s Rossiniana, No.1, Op.119 is a single movement transcription of music from the Rossini operas: Othello; Italian Girl in Algiers and Armida. Lasting almost sixteen minutes this potpourri of attractive themes is constantly delightful and often exhilarating. The Polish-born composer Alexandre Tansman who adopted France as his home country for most of his life is represented here by an impressive and interesting solo guitar score Cavatine - Hommage à Venise’. Cast in five movements this homage to Venice contains a broad range of moods ranging from the moderately paced and rather serious Preludio to the noble strains and dance-infused rhythms of the final movement Danza pomposa.

Niccolò Paganini holds esteemed status as possibly the finest ever virtuoso violinist but it is often forgotten that he also played and studied the guitar. In addition to composing scores for the violin Paganini wrote a substantial amount for the guitar. Also well known in its version for guitar and violin the Grande Sonate is a considerable score full of thrills and spills with an attractive and gently melancholic slow movement. Florence-born Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is represented here by his Sonate en hommage à Boccherini in D major, Op. 77. In four movements there is so much hectic activity in the score which is an homage to the Italian composer Boccherini. Even in the slowest movement Andantino quasi canzone one is never fully able to relax.

Disc two contains three scores for guitar and strings with guitar soloist Liat Cohen joined by Talich Quartet. The Concerto for 2 violins, lute and basso continuo in D major, RV 93 from Vivaldi is a highly popular work. Here we have the concerto in an arrangement for guitar and string quartet. The melodic and memorable outer movements consist of an exciting and vivacious opening Allegro with a busy closing Allegro high on joie de vivre. The finest of all is the central movement Largo with its glorious melody that could certainly be regarded as one of Vivaldi’s greatest hits.

Mario Giuliani’s Concerto No. 1 in A Major for guitar and strings, Op. 30 is a three movement score that deserves to be heard more often. Light and exuberant the opening movement Allegro maestoso is bursting with melodies. Gloriously played the central Largo is calm and rather serious in mood and the finale Polonaise Allegretto is vivacious and ebullient. Paganini wrote some fifteen Quartets for guitar and strings. Here we have the Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 4/2, MS29. Paganini’s four movement plan consists of a melodic and entertaining opening Moderato followed by a dance influenced second movement Menuet, Andante The delightful slow third movement Larghetto is lullaby-like and sweetly lyrical. A high-spirited and ebullient Allegretto movement in the form of a Rondo concludes the score.

Throughout this attractive and accessible two disc collection Liat Cohen demonstrates her remarkable prowess on the guitar with a virtuoso performance high on charisma and polish. The members of the Talich Quartet hardly have to leave their comfort zone with these rather undemanding scores yet perform with all the style and expression that we have become accustomed to.

The very basic booklet notes contain virtually no information about the actual works being played; not even any compositional dates. The English translations are often poorly finished and not always complete. I found the closely recorded sound quality on the first disc to be crystal clear. Disc two is also closely recorded providing a sense of being placed right in the middle of all the instruments.

Michael Cookson