MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Franz Halasz (guitar)
rec. August & November 2020, Albert-Lempp-Saal, Gemeindezentrum der evsangelischen Kreuzkirchengemeinde, Munchen-Schwabing, Germany
BIS BIS-2565 SACD [81:58]

As implied by the title, all the music on this recording is from the pens of Spanish composers. Of the twenty-three tracks, twelve are original compositions for the guitar, the remainder being arrangements or transcriptions. Given that all the pieces are ubiquitous within the recorded guitar repertory, some may be surprised that, in such a crowded market, a recording of this specific music would appear in 2021.The key issue in gaining attention, and adjunctive sales, is to have a point of difference, unique if possible. This conundrum becomes more soluble as we look further into the factors influencing this release.

Franz Halasz is an American-born German guitarist who began his international career winning First Prize at the International Andrés Segovia Competition in Spain and the Seto-Ohashi International Competition in Japan. In addition to a successful solo career, he has shared the stage with musicians such as Siegfried Jerusalem, Patrick Gallois, Ingolf Turban, and worked with orchestras such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra and the Polish Chamber Orchestra. His is a prolific recording artist, both as a soloist and as a duettist with his wife, pianist Debora Halasz. He is currently Professor of Guitar at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich.

Halasz is an interesting guitarist from a number of perspectives. Attending his first Segovia concert as a youngster, Halasz’s initial inspiration derived from hearing the very first sound Segovia made. Even though a winner of guitar competitions, he feels that they are generally a bad thing in that one can, as a competitor, lose the sense of being a musician; this general disapproval he shares in common with guitarist John Williams. However, unlike Segovia who recorded and played primarily only the music he liked, and excluded much excellent music including that written exclusively for him, Halasz has a different philosophy: irrespective of whether a guitarist likes specific music or not, he believes that a professional should be able to record anything, as required. He uses the analogy of an actor who can undertake any role, irrespective of personal preferences. There is also strong evidence in his playing of a broad musical involvement, and performing with other musicians in a variety of contexts, especially as a duettist with his wife. The guitar is a beautiful, polyphonic instrument that lends itself so well to imbuing players with ecstasy in splendid isolation, albeit potentially much to their overall musical detriment.

In addition to his commitments as a professional recording artist, Halasz also refers to that music which is a ’perfect synthesis of emotion and rational thought’. These sentiments pre-empted choice of programme for his last two albums, Bach Lute Suites and Spain. Despite it being very familiar and rather over-recorded, Halasz chose the programme for his Spain album because he is emotionally committed to the music, and is not just executing a commercial commitment. He is also aware of how this element affects an album’s overall success; if it does not sell well, the opportunities of the future will be limited.

BIS recordings are renowned for their high-fidelity characteristics; this facilitates greater insight and appreciation of performance detail. Probably more than any other solo concert instrumentalist, a guitarist cannot be comprehensively evaluated via a recording; one has to hear the performer live. However, reviewing and evaluating all guitarists from recordings at least provides a level playing field; subsequent attendance at live concerts may change opinion considerably. The sound of Halasz on this recording is big and dynamic but not particularly warm. Venue and recording techniques may affect this; however, a bigger factor may be that he uses rather long, false fingernails. Most would disagree, but Segovia’s opinion was that those without ideal fingernail strength/texture should adopt another instrument. That said, his magnificent tone, live and on recording, assigns a degree of credibility to his comment. Another factor contributing to the warmth issue on this recording is the employment of a Matthias Dammann 2019 guitar. These instruments, with considerable divergence from traditional construction, are very loud, but often have a nasal-like tonal quality redolent of a banjo. David Russell’s similar adoption of these instruments has resulted in a rather less attractive tone from his later recordings.

When a German guitarist plays an exclusively Spanish repertory, the question of interpretation invariably arises. In principle, Julian Bream recognized this when he stated that his renditions of Spanish music, especially Granados and Albeniz, ‘were un-Spanish for the Spaniard, but for others it was an image of Spain they could understand, comprehend, and be charmed by’. There is no doubt that Halasz has much empathy for the music on this SACD. He has previously recorded the definitive works of Regino Sainz de la Maza, and assigns him as one of the top composers for guitar. However, especially in these highly-idiomatic pieces, although technically well-played, the essence of their genealogy is often missing. A gold standard for this Spanish music is Jose Luis Gonzalez (Julia), The Maestro from Alcoy. A single audition of this music, played by Gonzalez, provides impressions of its roots which most fail to convey. If there is a thorn among the roses on this SACD, it is the interpretation of Granada by Albeniz: rather too syrupy for this listener. Additionally, there appears no overall musical advantage to the bespoke arrangement above that penned by Segovia. One struggles in giving any credence to the hyperbole that: ‘Halasz is able to deliver Turina’s message as no one ever has before- no, not even the great Segovia’.
In reviewing performances of any highly familiar music, there is inevitably a temptation to truncate tracks and just advance the process; not so with this SACD. Once commenced, the quality of what one is listening to is rather fixating. The general standard of musicianship, technical facility and excellent recording parameters ensure that this SADC will enjoy wide success.There are minor aspects which are less appealing, but overall this recording is another winner for Franz Halasz.

Zane Turner
Regino SAINZ De La MAZA (1896-1981)
Rondena [3:58]
Meditacion [2:36]
Solea [3:24]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
La maja de Goya [3:58]
Luys de MILAN (c1500-c1561)
Six Pavanas [14:22]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Introduction and Variations on ‘Malbroug’ Op 28 [5:52]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Homenaje [3:07]
Danza del molinero [2:45]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1901-1982)
Toriga [2:31]
Fancisco TARREGA (1852-1909)
Lagrima [1:51]
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [5:38]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Granada [4:53]
Capricho catalan [4:13]
Cadiz [4:49]
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
Sevillana [5:19]
Guitar Sonata Op 61 [10:33]

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing