Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Sonata No. 1, Mexicana [13:03]
Leo BROUWER (1939-)
Julio César OLIVA (1947-)
Vicente Emilio SOJO (1887-1974)
Five Pieces from Venezuela [6:32]
Tres canciones populares mexicanas [6:42]
Cecilio Perera (guitar)
rec. 9-11 February 2012, St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
NAXOS 8.573025 [68:37]
Cecilio Perera’s debut guitar recital is a caring homage to Latin American music. There are many treats here, some you may know and some you won’t. The familiar names of Manuel Ponce and Leo Brouwer are paired with the Mexican guitarist Julio César Oliva and the Venezuelan musician (and later politician) Vicente Emilio Sojo. The result is an hour-plus of enchantment.
Highlights are many, but they include Oliva’s Tangomania, here recorded for the first time, a sonata comprising four love letters to the tangos of Piazzolla. They’re utterly wonderful takes on the tango medium, with breathtaking melodies that sometimes teasingly stop mid-sentence, letting the listener hungrily imagine the rest, before resuming. The titles, all romance-themed, are indicative. “Te llevo en mis venas,” very literally “I wear you in my veins,” probably best translates as “I’ve got you under my skin”. Vicente Sojo’s Five Pieces from Venezuela are another set of delights, each only about a minute long. At least two - the lush, aria-like opening “Cántico” and the jovial final dance - are perfectly suited for greatest-hits collections or radio airtime.
Leo Brouwer’s Sonata contains an evocative homage to Scriabin and a quotation from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Add to this some soulful bolero dances, a rhythm which is part of the everyday pulse of Brouwer’s native Cuba. The finale is more surprising, a percussive and rigorous toccata, full of snaps and surprises, which Perera digs into with real flair. The Brouwer is the most popular work on the album: Perera is the fourth artist to record this piece for Naxos alone! Johannes Möller, the most recent entrant on this label, may have a slight edge on Perera, since his finale has a darkness and savagery which recalls Ravel’s Scarbo.
Bookending all this are works by Manuel Ponce. The last three are arrangements of popular Mexican songs from the 1920s, but the first three are works that he for decades passed off as having been composed by baroque lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss. Since Weiss wasn’t especially famous at the time, Ponce got away with it, but now that Weiss’s sonatas are being sumptuously recorded by Naxos, the difference is more readily apparent.
The Naxos Guitar Laureate series is one of the most reliable in the industry: produced, recorded, and supervised by guitarist Norbert Kraft and his pianist wife Bonnie Silver. This consistently produces highly talented performers and recorded sound which presents them in the best possible light. Again the presentation is excellent, and as so often before, I can’t help but wish for more from Cecilio Perera. He joins Johannes Möller, Rafael Aguirre, Srdjan Bulat, and still others as exciting new guitarists highlighted in this series in the past two years alone. The main thing is the repertoire here, and though you may have heard the Brouwer sonata before, the combination of faux-baroque music by Ponce, Venezuelan ballads by Sojo, and four loving tributes to the tango by Oliva should be irresistible. I know I can’t turn it down.
The combination of faux-baroque music, Venezuelan love ballads, and four big-hearted tributes to the tango is irresistible.
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