Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Sonata K. 280 in F
Benjamin BRITTEN
Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70
Johann Sebastian BACH
Cello Suite No. 4 in E flat
Bajo la Palmera
Maurice RAVEL
Le jardin féërique
Johann Sebastian BACH
Chorale Organ Prelude in “Ich Ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”
Paul Galbraith (guitar)
rec. March 2007, Capitol Studio A, Los Angeles.
Picture format: 16:9, NTSC; Sound format: LPCM stereo; Region Code: 0 (Worldwide)
MASHULKA PRODUCTIONS (No catalog number) [74:00]

Paul Galbraith plays a unique guitar: it has eight strings, with an extra high and low string, and he holds it like a cello. The instrument has a metal endpin, and stands on a wooden resonance box. He is probably the only guitarist to play such an instrument. I have long appreciated his recordings, notably his transcriptions of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin, which I reviewed here in 2001 (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/Dec01/Bach_Partitas_Guitar.htm).

On this DVD, Galbraith presents three works by Mozart, Britten and Bach, as well as three “encores”. Since this was not recorded live before an audience, but in a studio, the choice of the word “encore” is a bit odd, but these three “little” pieces round out the recital.

This is a low-budget DVD, with some cheesy title screens and filming, which, in the first Mozart piece, annoys slightly. Since it’s hard to film a solo artist performing on such an instrument, the camera moves around a lot, even in an arc in front of Galbraith. There are many close-ups of his hands, and lots of cuts, with shots above and below the performer. After a while, I just ignored the visuals, though, and focused on the music. Galbraith is such a fine guitarist, and his unique instrument has a full, rich sound, that listening to this recording is a joy.

I especially like Britten’s Nocturnal, and found it quite interesting to see it performed - notably because, back when I played a bit of classical guitar, it was a piece I tackled. The cameras are less excited during this work than the Mozart, and watching Galbraith play here is more interesting. His transcription of Bach’s fourth cello suite is also interesting and quite attractive. And the encores are nice short pieces, making this a fine recital.

You probably won’t buy this DVD for the video, but rather for the music. In fact, unless you’re a guitarist, it might be better to buy the CD, which contains the same music. It’s not clear if it’s the same takes that are on the DVD or not. But Galbraith is a fine performer, and seeing him play a unique instrument such as his eight-string guitar will certainly interest other guitarists.

Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville (http://www.mcelhearn.com).

An attractive guitar recital from a fine performer, on a unique instrument.