Albeniz: Spanish Music for Classical Guitar (CD review)
I've listened to several albums of music by Scottish guitarist David Russell, and he has always impressed me. He won a Grammy Award in 2005 for the CD "Aire Latino," and has deservedly become a world-renowned player. It's good to hear him here, playing a selection of fifteen short tunes by Spanish pianist and composer Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909).
Albeniz wrote most of the pieces represented on the disc for various piano suites, with Russell choosing, I assume, his favorites among them. The collection includes fifteen tracks as follows: "Torre Bermeja" from Doce Piezas Caracteristicas; "Granada" from Suite Espanola No. 1; "Zambra Granadina"; "Cadiz" from Suite Espanola No. 1; "Preludio" from Espana; "Rumores de la Caleta" from Recuerdos de Viaje; "Cordoba" from Cantos de Espana; "Cataluna" from Suite Espanola No. 1; "Capricho Catalan" from Espana; "Cuba" from Suite Espanola No. 1; "Tango" from Espana; "Pavana" from Doce Piezas Caracteristicas; "Zorzico" from Espana; and "Minueto a Sylvia" and "Zambra-Capricho" from Doce Piezas Caracteristicas.
These works are often hauntingly beautiful, and while Albeniz may have written them mainly for piano, they work wonderfully well on guitar. Indeed, they sound as though the composer should have written them for guitar. Russell plays them delicately, unhurriedly, caressing each note with loving care. There is a degree of melancholy in the tunes and in the playing that is hard to resist, yet it never crosses the line into mere sentimentality. Russell's playing displays a fine combination of virtuosity and sensitivity.
The highlights of the disc for me were the lovely, graceful "Granada"; the rhythmic "Cadiz"; the ultrasmooth and sophisticated dance number "Cataluna"; the slow Habanera titled "Cuba"; and the stately "Minueto." However, my absolute favorite of the bunch is Albeniz's "Tango." I could put the track in repeat mode and listen to the piece over and over again for hours. Russell's gentle handling of it is enough to bring tears to one's eyes.
Recorded at the Peggy and Yale Center for the Performing Arts, Owings Mills, Maryland, in April of 2009, the acoustic is rich and lightly resonant, giving the single instrument a pleasantly spacious sound. It is one of those recordings that makes you suspend your disbelief and imagine, if you shut your eyes, that the performer is there, on stage, a few feet away.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.