Guitar Music of Latin America. David Russell, guitar. Telarc TEL-31979-02.
The music is ravishing. There is really little more one needs to say about it. If you enjoy the guitar, playing or listening, you stand a good chance of enjoying this disc, which features a master guitarist playing some of the finest Latin-American guitar music ever written.
For his program, guitarist David Russell has chosen works from five famous Latin-American composers, and he organizes them by composer in the approximate order of their age. Because there are almost two dozen selections involved, I won't try to cover them all but, instead, highlight a few that caught my attention.
The recital begins with the music of Paraguayan composer Augustin Barrios Mangore (1885-1944). Of the five pieces represented, all of which I enjoyed, I played the lively "Maxixe," the hauntingly beautiful "Confesion," and the sprightly, catchy waltz "Tu Imagen" again. And again.
Next, we have the Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce (1882-1948), whom the great Andres Segovia inspired to write any number of tunes. Probably the standout is "Estrellita," a melody that became so popular Jascha Heifetz made it a hit in a violin transcription. It contains hints of Robert Schumann's "Traumerei" throughout, which is always a good thing. Russell plays the piece with obvious affection.
After several works by Ponce, we find the Argentinean Hector Ayala (1914-1990), known for his tangos. Involved here is a series of pieces he did reflecting the styles of various South American countries, Series Americana. They are all lovely, if not quite so expressive or inspiring as the music of Ponce.
Following those pieces, of the two works by the Brazilian Armando Neves (1902-1976), I enjoyed the "Valsa No. 3" best, a delicate waltz.
Finally, we get music from the only living composer on the program, the Argentinean-American Jorge Morel (b. 1931). If you are a guitarist, you already know him. He is a highly popular musician/composer, with over a dozen solo albums to his credit. Two of the pieces David Russell plays are ones Morel dedicated to him. Of the five Morel pieces here, the poignant "Barcarole" stands out for me.
What's more, the sound of the guitar is as radiant as the music and the playing, the Telarc engineers recording it fairly close up. Yet it retains a warm, smooth, almost mellow quality that nicely complements the music. As I said in the beginning, ravishing.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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