French composers. Roberto Moronn Perez, guitar. Reference Recordings Fresh! FR-709.
This is the second album in a series of Reference Recordings Fresh! albums devoted to music dedicated to or commissioned by the virtuoso Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia, this time the program presenting the music of mostly French composers performed by guitarist Roberto Moronn Perez. The disc contains selections from seven French composers and one Belgian, each having written music in a Spanish style. Edizione Musicale Bèrben originally published the music as the Segovia Archive Series, and Reference Recordings offer them on disc as a part of their subsidiary Fresh! label.
According to RR's notes, the "genesis for this unique project is a collection of pieces recovered in May 2001 at Segovia's home. Spanish-born Perez researched these newly recovered works and found some pieces that had never been recorded, and those that had were handicapped by poor visibility in the marketplace and limited distribution. This realization sparked the thought that here was an opportunity: a series of recordings organized around the nationalities of the composers in the Segovia Archive."
Anyway, just as other French composers have evoked the spirit of Spain--Ravel, for instance, Chabrier, Massenet--so do the composers represented here. More important, Perez does each man and his work fair justice. He plays with flair but also with nuance and subtlety. His guitar opens up each work and expands it seemingly beyond the limits of a single instrument. Although you won't find any (or if you are a dedicated classical guitar fan, many) familiar pieces here, if you are like me you will find each work entertaining, touching, or enlivening as the case may be.
Composer Raymond Petit (1893-1976) and his little Sicilienne opens the program. Its original title was Andantino, but a reviewer at the time of its première described it as a gentle, melancholic Sicilienne. So, of course, that's the way Perez plays it, hardly the usual blockbuster that often opens a show but certainly affecting. This one is slow, sensuous, and sweet.
Then, there is Henri Martelli (1895-1980) and his Quatre Pieces. These four selections appear more rhythmically varied than the first item, with rich harmonies nicely exploited by Perez. The second of the four movements takes extreme dexterity to pull off, and Perez is up to the job, giving us a fine display of his guitar mastery.
Pierre de Breville (1861-1949) and his Fantaisie is next. It derives its title from its changeable character, which surprises one at every turn. It's odd that this piece gets so little play; it's quite appealing, especially in Perez's capable hands.
Henri Collet ((1885-1951) and Briviesca follows. This is, for me, the first selection on the disc that sounds distinctly Spanish, with echoes of a Castilian landscape. Perez serves up the melodies with a warm, sensitive passion, making it one of the loveliest pieces on the disc.
After that is a three-movement Suite by Raymond Moulaert ((1875-1962). Moulaert is the only non French-born composer on the disc, Moulaert born, raised, and educated in Belgium. Close enough, I guess. His Suite is altogether the longest work on the program, yet thanks to Perez's insightful performance it seems rather short. Maybe it just went by quickly because I was enjoying it so much. This is also, interestingly enough, the most intense piece on the program.
Another three-movement work comes next, this one called Cuadros (Scenes d'Espagne) by Raoul Laparra ((1876-1943). The second and third of these "pictures" are the most colorful and enjoyable, with tunes directly aimed at pleasing a mass audience. Perez seems to be having fun with them, even if the music appears more derivative than that of Laparra's fellows on album.
The program closes with two brief selections: Spiritual by Pierre-Octave Ferroud (1900-1936) and Segovia by Ida Presti (1924-1967). The Ferroud number seemed more overtly "modern" to me than the rest of the music on the disc, which seemed more traditional and Romantic by comparison. In a booklet note, Perez says he isn't sure Ferroud's piece measured up to Segovia's taste, and that might explain why guitarists today don't play it much. Ms. Presti, on the other hand, was a guitarist herself and a favorite of Segovia. Perez imbues her musical portrait of the master guitarist with much intricate personality. Overall, it's another gentle, nuanced piece of music played with rich, strong feeling and sensitive shading, making a lovely ending to the album.
Audio engineer John Taylor produced, recorded, and edited the music at Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Hertfordshire, UK in 2013, with Grammy award-winning engineer Keith O. Johnson doing the final mastering. The guitar is fairly close yet never in-the-face close; just close enough to provide ample detail and focus. The sound comes across as well defined, with a moderately quick transient response on the plucked strings, yet warm and natural, with a realistic decay time thanks to the ambient bloom of the venue.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer
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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer
For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.
For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst
I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.
Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.
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. --John J. Puccio
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