LAGQ: Latin (UltraHD CD review)

Carmen suite and others. Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. FIM LIM UHD 070 LE.

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) is probably the best guitar ensemble since the Romeros. Which isn’t hard to understand when you consider that in 1980 Pepe Romero oversaw their formation. Since then, the LAGQ have recorded a slew of albums, winning a Grammy in 2005 for Best Crossover CD, Guitar Heroes. They recorded the present album in 2001 for Telarc, and FIM remastered it to the best possible audiophile standards in 2012. If you like guitar music, you’ll like the LAGQ.

Although Matthew Greif replaced Andrew York in 2005, the group has remained pretty much the same for over thirty years, this Telarc/FIM disc featuring original quartet members John Dearman, William Kanengiser, Scott Tennant and Andrew York. The fellows generally play on guitars using nylon strings in order to reflect the sounds of numerous other instruments and effects. Indeed, on some occasions they appear to be imitating the sounds of an entire symphony orchestra.

On LAGQ: Latin the quartet performs seventeen tracks, starting with Sting’s Latin-inflected tune Fragile in an arrangement that includes Tim Timmerman on percussion. The LAGQ’s rendition is gracefully touching. Next is Eduardo Martin’s Hasta Alicia Baila (“Until Alicia Dances”), a sort of Cuban rumba with an infectious beat.

Then we get the centerpiece of the album, a suite of numbers from Bizet’s Carmen. It’s delightful and should please guitar fans as well as Bizet admirers. The opening Aragonaise shows true panache, the Habanera has a lovely lilt, Seguidilla displays a sweet gentleness, the Toreadors provides a thrilling energy, the Entr’acte is simply gorgeous, and the Gypsy Dance closes the suite in a colorfully spirited fashion.

Following the Carmen Suite, we find a whole series of Cuban, Spanish, Central, and South American numbers. One fascinating item is Leo Brouwer’s Cuban Landscape with Rain, containing--you guessed it--the sounds of rain from the guitars. There is also a delicious performance of Aaron Copland’s Paisaje Mexicano (“Mexican Landscape”) that is quite lyrical. And so it goes, each tune a little gem, each one beautifully, expertly executed by the LAGQ.

The program ends with a reimagining of the second movement from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez that floats softly, poetically, as on a light breeze.

Telarc Record’s producer Robert Woods and engineer Robert Friedrich made the recording at Studio A, O’Henry Studios, Burbank, California in 2001, and FIM producer Winston Ma and the recording’s original engineer Robert Friedrich remastered it in 2012 using the Ultra High Definition 32-bit mastering system and FIM’s PureFlection replication process.

The sound is, not surprisingly, sublime, one of the better guitar recordings I’ve heard. Not only is it ultra clear and ultraclean, it’s ultrasmooth as well. Each plucked or stroked note stands out transparently, with its own richness and warmth. As important, the dead-quiet spaces between the notes sets off each sound in sometimes startling contrast.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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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