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Kristina Vårlid (guitar)
An Idea
rec. 2018, Utstein kloster, Norway
SIMAX PSC1369 [50:50]

“Music written by guitarists constitute a significant area of the guitar repertoire today, and Kristina Vårlid has devised a programme where those two branches intersect”, writes Fabio Zanon in the liner notes to this issue. The other branch is of course those composers who are not guitarists, and he mentions Falla, Torroba and a few others. Kristina Vårlid’s “Idea” is to juxtapose those two categories, and of the five composers represented here two were not guitarists (Malcolm Arnold and Antonio José) while the other three were important guitarists. The title “An Idea” emanates from Leo Brouwer’s composition that concludes the recital.

Least known of the five composers is Russian Sergey Rudnev, who became a guitar professor at Tula. He was raised in a village near the Volga and has written a large number of pieces which try to rescue his native country’s folk and popular song tradition. The Old Lime Tree is such a melody, which here is developed in a set of variations. The melody is beautiful and the variations are fascinating. Kristina Vårlid plays them with masterly intensity. Malcolm Arnold who started his career as principal trumpet in the London Symphony Orchestra before he in 1948 became a full-time composer. His oeuvre is enormous and encompasses, besides the nine symphonies that are his greatest achievements, lots of music in most genres, including a batch of film music scores, where the Oscar-winning The Bridge over River Kwai is the best-known. The great British guitarist Julian Bream commissioned a large number of works from distinguished composers, among those two concertos for guitar and orchestra from Malcolm Arnold and Fantasy Op. 107, which Bream for some reason never recorded. It was premiered in 1971 and is a riveting suite in seven movements. In the prelude one can trace Arnold’s origin as a trumpeter with a fanfare and there are jazzy moments – Arnold as well as Bream were admirers of Django Reinhardt. But there are also references to Bach, and at the end the fanfare theme returns. That movement is a hilarious march. It is a mystery that Bream never recorded it.

Paraguayan Agustin Barrios was one of the greatest guitarists of the 20th century and today his compositions are part of the standard repertoire for guitarists. La Catedral is one of his greatest works, first performed in 1921, and it evokes the memory of a visit to the San José Cathedral in Montevideo. There are reminiscences of both Bach’s and Franck’s organ music. Antonio José’s life was cut short when he was executed, together with Garcia Lorca, in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War at age 33. He left behind some choral and orchestral works and this great sonata, where there is also some influences from the baroque, primarily in the opening Allegro moderato. The Minueto is melancholy and the Pavana triste is self-explanatory, but there are some powerful passages that break the gloominess. The finale is fast and virtuoso with some calm moments as resting-points.

Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer is possibly the greatest living composer of guitar music, and a photo in the booklet shows Kristina Vårlid together with him at a concert in 2017. The meditative An Idea with the subtitle Passacaglia for Eli was an Homage for Professor Eli Kassner, the doyen of classical guitar in Canada, and it is a suitable conclusion to this fascinating recital. Kristina Vårlid’s playing is technically immaculate and deeply involved. Guitar enthusiasts should invest in this issue without delay.

Göran Forsling

Sergey RUDNEV (b. 1955)
1. The Old Lime Tree [6:52]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921 – 2006)
Fantasy for Guitar, Op. 107 (1971) [12:26]
2. I. Prelude [1:22]
3. II. Scherzo [2:34]
4. III. Arietta [2:30]
5. IV. Fughetta [1:23]
6. V. Arietta [1:54]
7. VI. March [1:30]
8. VII. Postlude [1:13]
Agustin BARRIOS MANGORÉ (1885 – 1944)
La Catedral (1921) [7:27]
9. I. Preludio saudade [2:06]
10. II. Andante religioso [1:54]
11. III. Allegro solemne [3:27]
Antonio JOSÉ (1902 – 1936)
Sonata Para Guitarra [20:26]
12. I. Allegro moderato [6:47]
13. II. Minueto [3:12]
14. III. Pavana triste [5:47]
15. IV. Final [4:40]
Leo BROUWER (b. 1939)
16. An Idea (Passacaglia for Eli) [3:36]

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