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Novecento Guitar Preludes
Boris ASAFYEV (1884-1949)
Preludes (12) (1939) [18:58]
Manuel María PONCE (1882-1948)
Twenty Four Preludes (1929) [25:50]
Henk BADINGS (1907-1987)
Preludes (12) (1961) [26:24]
Henri SAUGUET (1901-1989)
Preludes (3) (1970) [10:54]
Ferenc FARKAS (1905-2000)
Exercitium Tonale
24 preludes (1982) [33:26]
Cristiano Porqueddu (guitar)
rec. Nov 2010-Mar 2012, Chiesa della Solitudine, Nuoro, Italy
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9292 [3 CDs: 46:17 + 37:55 + 33:26]

These seventy-five guitar preludes were written during the last century and are largely unfamiliar. They make a most compelling collection from five composers, none of whom were guitarists. The reefs and shoals of stultifying academicism that might have been expected are avoided. We are rewarded instead with coruscating variety, fine recorded sound and lovingly shaped playing. These are world première recordings of the Asafiev, Badings and Sauguet.
 
Asafiev's 12 Preludes were written in a single day and were probably intended as a single piece. Hispanic character is to be heard alongside trembling romance for example in Prelude 6. The final Prelude evokes a dark healing pool with gorgeously plangent sound. Ponce wrote a stunning Guitar Concerto (1941) recorded for CBS-Sony by John Williams, by Sharon Isbin for Warner and by Alfonso Moreno for ASV, not to mention rewarding concertos for violin (1943) (Miranda Cuckson, Henryk Szeryng) and for piano (1910). His 24 Preludes are in the major and minor keys and arranged in a circle of fifths. There is much to value here: No. 5 with its delicate sparks and shards; No. 12 - a study in healing tremolo that becomes a tidal race; No. 14 - a Moroccan water garden in the high sierras; No. 18 - A Granada palace that vies with Rodrigo; and a No. 21 - a cheery folk song.
 
The second disc introduces us to Henk Badings who may be better known to some of us for his symphonies on CPO. These Preludes were written for the municipality of Amsterdam. They are not Iberian in accent - no reason why they should be. Instead we hear an extremely inventive launching-out into original sounds with the transparent writing incorporating - but slowly - intoned discords in No. 1. No. 6 is reflective but creates an image of a world distant from humanity. No. 9 is an eminent immersion in muscular complexity and rasping virtuosity. The final piece offers music that is exciting, percussive and sanguine. It plays outright to the gallery to draw applause - it drew mine. It is sensational and ends with a slow flourishing gesture. This cycle is rich in mercurial eccentricities including some strikingly bleak episodes.
 
French composer Sauguet might be recalled from his symphonies, valiantly recorded by Marco Polo. His three preludes offer a slow curdling in the first two but in the last a fast-pulsed complex and a knot of nerves. The final disc has Ferenc Farkas’s Exercitium. These 24 Preludes take in a world of invention including along the way Bachian patterning, a subtle turning into strange and sometimes chilly harmonic realms (1) - rather like the Badings; the grace and slow pulsed romance of No. 6; and in No. 20 an intriguing cocktail of ingratiation and tension.
 
The adventurous Porqueddu lives and teaches in Nuoro. He has been recording since 2002. His CDs have been distributed by Brilliant Classics since 2008 and this is his sixth. His Brilliant Classics discs include Barrios (BC 9204) and Sor (BC 9205). Readers who have had their appetite whetted for more information are referred to his website at www.cristianoporqueddu.com. Porqueddu’s playing is miraculously clean and there’s very little fret noise. Here he plays on modern guitars made by Livio Lorenzatti (2009) and Giuseppe Guagliardo (2005).
 
The notes are by composer Angelo Gilardino who dedicated his Concerto di Oliena to Porqueddu who has recorded a Gilardino collection for Brilliant Classics (BC 8886). I must hear it.
 
It seems mean-spirited in the face of such delightful invention and music-making to point out that we could have had this set on two discs rather than three but at Brilliant Classics’ prices what can one say.
 
What a pleasure to come across an unhackneyed collection rather than the usual snatches of this and that. Here the guitar is placed on a par with other classical instruments - something to be treated seriously. A lovely set.
 
After this initiation I would be very pleased to be introduced to Porqueddu’s other recordings.
 
Rob Barnett 

Experience Classicsonline