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Alex Park (guitar)
Classical Guitar
rec: 2019, Audio Mechanics, Burbank, USA
Private Release 194171647703 [41:21]

Having auditioned this recording, the well-known aphorism (honoured more in the breach than in the observance) comes to mind: never judge a book by its cover. No liner notes accompany this CD; there are no timings and the rather drab, black and white graphics belie what adventurous listeners, who delve further, will discover.

Alex Park received his Arts degree from Pepperdine University under the tutelage of Christopher Parkening, a Masters of Music from the California State University, and undertook further studies with Andrew York. He is currently attending the University of Southern California to pursue a Doctor of Music Arts Degree under the direction of Scott Tennant. Alex serves on the faculty of the classical guitar department, Pepperdine University. He also has a private studio catering to dedicated guitar and piano students.

The programme is unadventurous, and rather traditional with ten items in total; it’s a recording programme with which Christopher Parkening would be comfortable, and indeed his mentor Andrés Segovia. The first item is the Gigue from Ponce’s Suite in A Minor. In this challenging music Park quickly establishes himself as a technically, and musically capable guitarist with the strong sense of rhythm required to make the music sing. The rendition of Recuerdos de la Alhambra does not include the smoothest tremolo on recording, but the speed and empathy for the music convey what one has always imagined was the composer’s intent after visiting this magnificent Moorish edifice.

Asturias by Albeniz is arguably the most famous item in the guitar repertory; it is a work horse and ubiquitous in guitar recordings. Originally for piano, it requires the considerable skills of a good arranger to allow credible performance on the guitar. On this occasion the adaptation by Segovia is employed, which has generally been supplanted by later, and more popular arrangements. Segovia’s version requires the guitarist to quickly move large distances on the fingerboard, inevitably interrupting the tempo and timbre of the music. Use of alternative inversions in higher positions can alleviate much of this.

Those familiar with the tremolo piece by Barrios, Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios (Alms for the Love of God), his last composition, will know that inspiration for this music came via a mendicant who knocked on Barrios’ door seeking alms. The repeated bass pattern throughout the music represents the knocking sound on the door. In this music Park plays a smoother tremolo and pays particular attention to the bass line in recognition of Barrios’ original intent.

One may question the objective of using a capo for Narvaez’s Conde Claros. If it is to make the guitar sound more like a vihuela, then modest success was achieved, but at the expense of some coincidental losses. The latter are easily identified through comparing the rendition by Paola Requena, who plays the same music splendidly, sans capo.

In 2019 Alex Park competed in the Christopher Parkening International Guitar Competition. He was 26 years old and it was the same year in which this recording was released. Of the fifteen participants, Park was not included in the six prize winners. Having listened to some of those who excelled him on that occasion, the result is surprising.

It may be that on that particular occasion, and at that precise time, others were able to demonstrate virtues that Park also possessed, but which evaded him. Or is it that sometimes we are aurally deceived by recording escamotage, the sounds of which cannot be replicated in live performances? Luminaries such as Franz Halasz and guitarist John Williams, place little value in guitar competitions which may reflect sentiments similar to the aforementioned.

Alex Park is an excellent guitarist and a sensitive musician. Whether he has the unique points of difference - not demonstrated in this recording - to elevate him above the copious and intense international competition, only time will tell. In the meantime, there is much enjoyable listening offered on this disc.

Zane Turner
Manuel PONCE (1992-1948)
Gigue [4:50]
Francisco TARREGA (1853-1909)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [4:15]
Traditional Irish
Spatter the Dew (arr. David Russell) [3:35]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Asturias [6:32]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1918)
Prelude No 2 [3:13]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
The Girl with the Flaxen Hair [2:38]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Allemande [1:38]
Luis de NARVAEZ) (1490-1547)
Conde Claros [2:50]
Agustin BARRIOS (1885-1944)
Alms for the Love of God [3:51]
G.F. HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sarabande and Variations [8:39]


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