Albeniz: Spanish Music for Classical Guitar (CD review)

David Russell, guitar. Telarc TEL-32712-02.

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.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

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.

Mission Statement

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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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa