Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite in E minor BWV 996 [16.53]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Five Preludes (1940) [21.42]
Choros No 1 (1920) [4.51]
Manuel PONCE (1892-1948)
Six Preludes [7.32]
Federico MORENO TORROBA (1891-1982)
Sonatina (1953) [13.00
Massimo Stefanizzi (guitar)
rec. Novina Studios, Vienna, December 2008
SHEVA SH038 [64.01]

This disc contains an absolutely superb performance of the Villa-Lobos Preludes, and the superbly resonant recording captures the sound of the guitar with fine precision, even if with a fair ration of the inevitable instrumental scrapes and squeaks. The Fourth Prelude with its initial passage on the open strings is quite haunting, if a trifle fast, and the harmonics have a superbly ‘other-worldly’ ring. Villa-Lobos’s largest single work for solo guitar was the Choros No 1 - first of a long series for all combinations of instruments and voices. Segovia made what I think was its first recording on 78s under the composer’s supervision. Stefanizzi is less brilliantly virtuosic than that, but Villa-Lobos can take a number of different approaches; and Stefanizzi is convincing and solid. He phrases with affection and understanding throughout. His sly lead into the main material of the piece is delicious. The liner-notes state that he is also a composer, and his approach to the music is creative as one might expect.
The pieces here by Ponce and Moreno Torroba are lesser works than any of the Villa-Lobos tracks, but they are equally well played and again the acoustic of the recording reflects the music well. The Ponce Preludes are not separately tracked.
The Bach suite is unfortunately rather less convincing. Stefanizzi’s forthright style and the resonant recording here tend to be rather overpowering for what was originally lute music. A greater sense of phrasing might not come amiss; presumably the player was trying to reflect modern sensibilities on period practice. Given the fact that Bach would never have considered the guitar as an instrument for his suites a greater degree of interpretative licence would be welcome. In the same way Bach on the piano demands a different approach from Bach on the harpsichord. For this performance Stefanizzi uses a ten-string guitar, so as to avoid any of the disadvantages which are entailed by transposition from the original lute part. He is shown playing this unorthodox and somewhat cumbersome-looking instrument on the disc cover.
This is really a very good recital by a player whose career seems to have been largely confined to Italy and Austria. He currently teaches in Vienna. He should be better known further north.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
A very good recital by a player who should be better known.