Imagerie Musicale

Johann Kaspar MERTZ (1806-1856)
Elegie [9:09]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata in A minor HWV 362 (c.1725-26) [11:16] *
Carlo DOMENICONI (b.1947)
Koyunbaba, op.19 (1984-85) [14:16]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Chaconne (from: Partita in D minor, BWV 1004) [13:35] *
Luigi LEGNANI (1790-1877)
Fantasie, op.19 [10:15]
Ástor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Milonga del Ángel (1965) [6:21]*
Primavera Porteña (1970) [6:08] *
*transcription for guitar
Maud Laforest (guitar)
rec. Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Southampton, England, 9-10 June 2011. DDD
MAUD LAFOREST 120811 [71:10] 

This is the latest solo CD of young French guitarist Maud Laforest, who also performs regularly as one half of Duo Transatlantique with fellow guitarist Benjamin Beirs. Her programme here is a collection of originals and transcriptions well-known to guitarophiles if not always to the general listener, ranging appealingly across the centuries: from Bach's famous 'Chaconne' to Carlo Domeniconi's Koyunbaba.
Chronologically she begins somewhere in the middle, however, with Johann (or János) Mertz's delightful Elegy, which is more wistfully delicate than mournful. Mertz was a 19th-century guitar virtuoso, based chiefly in Vienna, but today he is sadly almost forgotten, especially outside guitar circles - he does not even get a passing mention in New Grove. As it happens, with regard to biography and music the listener is pretty much on his or her own here, as no notes come with the digipak CD: nothing on the works beyond the tracklist, not a jot on any composer, nor even on Laforest herself. Her website yields no further information on the music.
Anyhow, back to Baroque for the next item - Handel's Sonata HWV 362, a staple of the recorder player's stock. For this transcription the recorder and keyboard lines of Handel's original are coalesced and transformed thereby into a genial guitar classic. Bach's Chaconne lies at the heart of every violinist's repertory, of course. Like the Handel, it passes in transcription for an original work for guitar, albeit curiously alchemised at times into something with an almost Mediterranean flavour by a Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
Italian guitarist Carlo Domeniconi's superb four-movement Koyunbaba op.19 derives its slightly exotic, yet still highly approachable soundworld both from scordatura tuning and the composer's love of Turkey, which has influenced much of his music - a catalogue, incidentally, which contains a possibly unrivalled 20-plus Guitar Concertos. Three versions of this originally improvised work exist - this is presumably the latest from 2008. One version or another has been recorded several times and Domeniconi himself plays all three on the same disc (Musica Ex Tempore MET1005, 2009).
Also an opera singer and later instrument-maker, Luigi Legnani is best known as a composer for his 36 Caprices for guitar, probably inspired by his friend Paganini's famous 24 for violin. His Fantasie, also op.19, takes the listener on a jaunty, tuneful frolic through early 19th century southern Europe.
Laforest rounds off stylishly with two pieces by Piazzolla, again transcribed for guitar. The pre-tango Milonga del Ángel is sensual and slightly jazzy, ideally suited for its new instrument. The final track is one of Piazzolla's four beautiful Estaciones Porteñas ('Seasons of Buenos Aires'), which, like the so-called "angel" series, were originally conceived as separate works. Primavera is greatly improved by any arrangement that differs from Piazzolla's original, and Laforest is thankfully not tempted to include any percussive effects.
Indeed, throughout her hugely entertaining recital Laforest's professionalism, technique and expression are exemplary. She plays with a dignitas that exceeds her years, and her mature attention to phrasing amplifies the beauty of the music she is interpreting. Weston's Holy Trinity church is rightly a favourite location for guitarists, and sound quality is excellent. With considerable variation in price, the album is available through Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes and certain other outlets - no music-lover should waver.  


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A hugely entertaining recital.