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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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.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa