Kazu Suwa: Guitar Recital (CD review)

Kazu Suwa, guitar. KSR001.

What a lovely album.

According to his Web site, "Kazu Suwa is a London-based Japanese classical guitarist. His debut CD album 'Guitar Recital,' received 'Semi-Highest Honour' in the Japanese classical music magazine Record Geijutsu ("Art of Records") in April 2015. This album consists of 22 pieces of Spanish and South American music presented in an enthralling interpretation by Kazu.

Kazu has been described by one of the world's most respected music critics, Mr. Jiro Hamada, as a unique guitarist who 'knows the world of poetic sentiment' – a sentiment able to penetrate the hearts of listeners and move them profoundly.

Kazu studied classical guitar with the renowned classical guitarist Mikio Hoshido at the Nihon University College of Art in Tokyo. After graduation, he moved to Spain where he continued his studies at the Madrid Royal Conservatory as well as attending a number of master classes given by well-known maestri."

On his present, debut album Kazu Suwa plays twenty-two selections, much of it familiar, some of it not as much:

Francisco Tárrega: ¡Adelita! (Mazurka)
Francisco Tárrega: ¡Sueño! (Mazurka  Conchita)
Francisco Tárrega: Preludio (Una Lágrima)
Francisco Tárrega: Gran Vals
Francisco Tárrega: Capricho Árabe
Francisco Tárrega: Preludio (Endecha)
Abel Fleury: Estilo Pampeano
Abel Fleury: Milongueo del Ayer
Abel Fleury: Te Vas Milonga (Milonga)
Dilermando Reis: Se Ela Perguntar
Hector Ayala: Arco Iris (Zamba)
Agustín Barrios Mangoré: Choro da Saudade
Agustín Barrios Mangoré: Aire de Zamba
Garoto (Annibal Angusto Sardinha): Chôro Triste No. 2
Dilermando Reis: Eterna Saudade (Valsa)
Agustín Barrios Mangoré: Vals No. 3
Fernando Sor: Fantasia No. 6 Op. 21 Les Adieux
Frederic Mompou: Cançó i Dansa No. 11 (arr. Kazu Suwa)
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Suite  Populaire  Brésilienne: Mazurka-chôro
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Cinq Préludes: Prélude No. 5 in D major
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Suite Populaire  Brésilienne: Valsa-Chôro
Frederic Mompou: Cançó i Dansa No. 6: Cançó

The thing that strikes one from the outset of the program is not just Kazu's artistic abilities, his virtuosic talents, but his sensitivity. That is, Suwa's playing is passionate not just in the bigger, more-dramatic moments but in the softer passages as well. He is, above all, an artist of quiet contemplation, and you will hear this throughout the recital. This characteristic is evident from the opening Tarrega tracks, where Suwa's delicate touch on the strings is most engaging.

Kazu Suwa
Favorites? Under Suwa's thoughtful guidance, Tarrega's "Gran Vals" has an appealing rhythm to it, the feeling of a Viennese ball in evidence throughout. Then, in Tarrega's "Capricho Arabe" he provides an abundance of sweet, subtle nuances that make the music more enchanting than ever.

For Fleury's "Estilo Pampeano" Suwa employs a variety of techniques--mostly degrees of rubato and contrast--to emphasize the music's assorted moods. In Reis's "Se ela Perguntar" Suwa stresses the music's romantic nature but does so in a manner that never strays into dreamy sentimentality. He makes some welcome compromises here.

Garoto's "Choro Triste No. 2" comes off as both elegantly accessible and seriously meditative, a popular tune in a considered, reflective mode. Fernando Sor (1778-1839), the earliest guitar composer represented in the recital, sounds as modern as the rest of the program, which shows us how advanced Sor's compositions were for the day. Under Suwa, his "Fantasia No. 6 'Les Adieux'" is light and charming on the one hand, polished and sophisticated on the other.

I find the music of Villa-Lobos welcome anytime, but as Suwa plays it, it exhibits an additional touch of color and brilliance, while at the same time fitting into Suwa's generally subdued, intricate delivery.

In all, Kazu Suwa provides a pleasantly relaxing array of guitar tunes, masterfully crafted and expertly performed. As I say, subtlety, nuance, and delicacy are the order of the day in an album of beauty and emotion.

Kazu Suwa produced and engineered the album himself, recording the music at a private concert chamber, Sloane Square, London, in 2015. Unlike some guitar recordings that appear as though the instrument were six inches away and spread out from speaker to speaker, this recording seems quite lifelike. The guitar is still a little close for my taste, but if played back at a realistic level, it sounds warm and natural. A modest room ambiance helps this illusion nicely, as do some good, clean transients.

Among the places you'll find Kazu Suwa's recording is Amazon UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guitar-Recital-Kazu-Suwa/dp/B013CLHSMG, Amazon America below, or directly from Kazu Suwa's Web site at http://www.kazu-classicalguitar.co.uk/.


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

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
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 Jon 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.

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.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings 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 they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. 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 cell phone. 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.
The reader will find Classical Candor's Mission Statement, Staff Profiles, and contact information (classicalcandor@gmail.com) toward the bottom of each page.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Writer

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. 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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet DAC/preamp/crossover, Tandberg 2016A and Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa