Angelo GILARDINO (b.1941)
Concerto di Oliena, for guitar and orchestra [28:00]
Studi di Virtuositą e di Trascendenza, for solo guitar (selections) [39:24]
Cristiano Porqueddu (guitar)
"Sardinia Chamber Orchestra" (electronically synthesised)
rec. Nuoro, Italy, 11-17 November 2010. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9208 [67:24]
Brilliant Classics should not be surprised if they elicit enquiries from their local Trading Standards office regarding this disc. Not only are two thirds of the disc taken up by material previously released by Brilliant only two years ago - a five CD boxed set of Gilardino's complete (60) Studies in Virtuosity & Transcendence (Brilliant Classics 8886) - but the so-called "Sardinia Chamber Orchestra" is, incredibly, synthesized: while Porqueddu's guitar in the Concerto di Oliena is real, the orchestral parts are computer-generated! And do Brilliant state this on the disc? No. In fact, the Orchestra is not listed or otherwise mentioned once in the documentation. On the Brilliant website then? Wrong again. Googling "Sardinia Chamber Orchestra" brings few rewards either, until the minimalistic official site of this disc reveals the 'digital' nature of this elusive ensemble. Curiously though, there is a YouTube video of the Orchestra playing live in a church in 2009, so quite what happened to them when it came to the recording of this CD is anyone's guess.
The essay in the booklet verges frequently on gibberish. A typical example: "The secondo tempo meditates for extreme registers and a weary thematic formula. A preciously polychrome script introduces the voice of the guitar, which at first adapts to the theme, and then, unquiet, begins to swarm with arpeggios that touch on the whole keyboard, but indulge on the over acutes: it allows itself be accompanied for a while by two wings of sombre arches and celesta, embroidering together with them an unstable polymetric counterpoint". Even Brilliant's publicity blurb, widely reproduced on various online stores' websites, refers to violins as "arches" and things like "dynamic [images] which purport the most genuine sensory-motor pleasure".
This shoddiness is a great pity, because both Angelo Gilardino and Cristiano Porqueddu deserve far better treatment. Porqueddu's technique, intonation and expressiveness are top quality in both the Concerto and the evocative, immensely imaginative Studi, which are not only frequently beautiful, but also extremely testing - often at the same time. And Gilardino, aside from his important musicological work restoring guitar repertoire (see this recent review, and also this review, for example), is evidently a fine composer for the instrument: the Concerto di Oliena - named after the Italian town - is a kind of late 20th century Concierto de Aranjuez, though much darker in hue; there is no vulgar virtuosity, but plenty of drama and animation, all in a very accessible neo-Romantic idiom. That is to say, as far as one can tell from the bogus, soupy sound of the 'orchestra', especially the strings, which sound appalling.
There are no good reasons to buy this disc - for the brilliant Studi, Brilliant Classics 8886 is a vastly superior deal - and several compelling ones not to. It can only be hoped that Brilliant receive so much negative feedback from this ill-conceived release that they are forced to reconsider the kinds of decisions that lead them to market products like this.
There are no good reasons to buy this disc.