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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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Sounds of Spain and the Americas
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Cantos de España: Asturias, Op.232 No.1 (1896) (transcribed Xavier Turull) [4:09]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Suite Popular Espanola (1914) (arr. Paul Kochanski) [14:11]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912-2002)
Cinco Canciones Negras: Canción de Cuna Para Dormier a un Negrito (1945) [2:46]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danse Espagnole, Op.37 No.5 Andaluza (1890) (arr. Fritz Kreisler) [4:11]
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra (1896) (arr. Ruggiero Ricci) [3:56]
Agustín Castellón CAMPOS (‘Sabicas’) (1912-1990)
Campiña Andaluza [4:00]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (1969) [16:57]
Sebastian See-Schierenberg (violin)
Ramon Ruiz (guitar)
Sophia Lisovskaya (piano)
rec. 2003/14, Air Edel Studios, London; Rimshot Studios, Kent

All is not quite as it seems here. I was expecting standard violin-and-piano performances of this repertoire but that’s not the intention of Sebastian See-Schierenberg who has enlisted pianist Sophia Lisovskaya and guitarist Ramon Ruiz to construct a most unusual, quite short recital.

Falla offers the violinistic focus but there is, inevitably, a twist. Some accompaniments are conventionally assigned to Lisovskaya but others are given to Ruiz, who also hoarsely sings Nana which was a song his grandmother sang as a lullaby. Canción is accompanied variously by both instruments. The rationale for this is to vest a greater flamenco quotient into the reading but don’t be alarmed by the timing of 9:41; no, this isn’t some massive extrapolation and quasi-improvisation on the song, it’s a mistake. It should be 1:47. See-Schierenberg plays quite attractively throughout but is tempted into some overwrought phrasing in Polo, which overbalances the expressive temper of the cycle. He is similarly a bit over-emotive in Asturiana and throaty in Jota where in addition to the piano we can hear some guitar chording. So, not unalloyed joy, but different.

One can appreciate the violinist’s husky lower register in a welcome arrangement of Montsalvatge’s Canción de Cuna Para Dormier a un Negrito, but maybe the Granados could be a touch lighter in texture. He also performs the fiendish arrangement by Ruggiero Ricci of Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra. If he’d taken it faster the lower voicings would not have sounded quite so motoric and predictable but it’s a brave fiddler who attempts the thing at all. Ricci was taped playing it in concert a couple of times, though I’ve never heard his performance. There’s an equally effective arrangement by English violinist Philip Newman, which he was taped playing in a coruscating, not always totally tidy performance.

Campiña Andaluza is a guitar solo and most attractively played before what the violinist honestly describes as ‘work in progress’ – Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas. Playing behind the bridge to get a really scratchy sound and playing with gritty rhythm shows he is thinking about the most effective presentation of the music. Ending with a passionate and romantically beautiful piano performance of Invierno Porteno ends the disc in a particularly warm glow – albeit the recording is a touch close and dry.

So, much to ponder, pro and contra, but at least there is a sense of real communicative spirit at work here.

Jonathan Woolf


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