RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Gerónimo GIMÉNEZ (1854-1923)
Intermedio from La Boda de Luis Alonso (arr. Kazuhito Yamashita) [6:02]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Soirée dans Grenade (arr. Carlos Trepat) [5:48]
Paco de LUCÍA (1947-)
Guajiras de Lucía [3:43]
Sergio ASSAD (1952-)
Spanish Impressions [12:33]
La puerta del vino (arr. Carlos Trepat) [3:35]
Manuel LÓPEZ-QUIROGA (1899-1988)
Francisco Alegre (arr. Carlos Trepat) [4:03]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Gran Jota [8:31]
Joaquín MALATS (1872-1912)
Serenata espanola (arr. Francisco Tárrega) [4:11]
Rafael Aguirre (guitar)
rec. 7-10 September 2011, St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
NAXOS 8.572916 [62:16]
28-year-old Rafael Aguirre has won so many contests at this point that he has actually already recorded a CD for the Naxos Laureate series. I missed that recital, but this one provides ample evidence of Aguirre’s talent. It’s a varied and interesting program that reflects the performer’s wide repertoire and good taste. It shows that he really is a complete performer. Virtuosity, sensuality, tenderness, and razzle-dazzle - it’s all there to enjoy.
There are a lot of good transcriptions here, beginning with an intermezzo from a zarzuela by Gerónimo Giménez. This opener immediately brushes aside any doubts about Aguirre’s technical ability and imaginative flair; it’s a total charmer. Carles Trepat, a Catalan guitarist born in 1960, supplies arrangements of two pieces by Claude Debussy, which Aguirre renders with a mystery and sunlit impressionism suited to the originals. ‘Soirée dans Grenade’ is notable for the soloist’s marvellous soft touch. Aguirre himself offers a virtuoso arrangement of a movement, ‘Triana’, from Albéniz’s Iberia. My favorite Albéniz on guitar is still the Trio Campanella’s arrangements.
Besides Debussy’s postcards from Spain (‘La Puerta del vino’ was based on a postcard sent to him from Spain, by Falla), we also have the Spanish Impressions of Brazilian composer Sergio Assad (b. 1952). This is a three-movement suite written for Rafael Aguirre. It’s an excellent contribution to the guitar repertoire - maybe the CD’s high point. For those unfamiliar with Assad, his style is distinctly ‘southern’ and spiced with unusual turns of phrase. Typically Spanish idioms rise up in dialogue with the composer’s own style, folksy and multicolored with the occasional hint of Latin America. Assad, a fantastic guitarist, does not stint on the technical challenges and his dedicatee more than rises to the occasion.
Other highlights include a short flamenco piece by Paco de Lucía, again allowing Aguirre to combine virtuosity of technique and expression; a Tárrega chestnut (‘Gran Jota,’ a delightfully wild romp and a favorite of Pepe Romero and Narciso Yepes); and an eight-minute Toccata by Joaquín Rodrigo, which is quite a rarity. According to an interview Aguirre gave along with Rodrigo’s daughter, the Toccata is so ferociously difficult that no guitarist would touch it. This can be confirmed by a search of guitarists’ Internet discussion boards, where the piece is described as “unplayable”! The Naxos liner notes by Graham Wade say that the manuscript was only located in 2005, adding to the mystery of the piece, but that since then “it has been recorded on various occasions”. That may be true, but my searches of Presto and ArkivMusic found only one previous recording of the work - and that, on Brilliant Classics, used two guitarists! As Aguirre manages to play the piece here, it does indeed sound like a taxing endurance test, though not without rewards for the listener. I enjoyed the episode after 3:20 especially.
The recorded sound, by Naxos guitar production team of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver, is as we have come to expect from one of the best guitar recording teams in the world. The excellent Alhambra guitar is ideally situated, sounding as naturally as if Rafael Aguirre was in your living room, provided your room has ideal acoustics. I suppose I have to move on to Aguirre’s previous recital, featuring Ibert, Poulenc, Villa-Lobos, and Rautavaara. I also have to look forward to his next album. This one is fantastic.
Fantastic. Showcases exceptional playing and all sorts of Spanish delights new and old.