This is Rich Barry's third album which is simply titled Guitarist. In the fall of 2014 Mark Edwards and he entered a Seven Day Adventists Chapel in Spencerville, Maryland with audio engineer Edward Kelly of Cedar Knoll Media to record this collection at the highest sonic fidelity. There are seven different guitars used to compliment the character of the collection. The plethora of instruments include guitars by David J. Pace, Jean Rompré, Matthias Dammann, Boguslaw Teryks, Robert Ruck, Stephan Connor and Jim Holler.
Barry plays the Evocacion of José Luis Merlin's dreamy Suite del Recuerdo (Suite of Memories) slowly and with a languid manner that make the listener think of a mid-day siesta under the cool shade of an ancient tree. His Zamba is a dignified African dance, and no relation to the Brazilian samba. The simple melody and inviting dance rhythms of the Chacarera make it rural Argentina's answer to the tangos of Buenos Aires. Picture a father taking a small son to a visiting carnival that only comes once a year -- it looks small to adults, but the child sees it as a magnificent array of delights. After the Carnavalito Barry plays the Evocacion again on track 5, but with a slightly different emphasis. The Joropo, a Venezuelan dance that alternates three-quarter and six-eights time, provides the finale for this charming suite.
Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios (An offering for the Love of God) and La Catedral by guitarist/composer, Agustín Barrios Mangoré. He is generally believed to have been born in Paraguay, but records of his birth are lost. Una Limosna is a breathtaking beauty, a prayerful song without words over a rapidly finger-picked self-accompaniment that resembles something similar to barriolage technique on a bowed string instrument. The Bach-inspired La Catedral so moved guitarist Andrés Segovia when he heard Barrios play it in 1921 that he requested a copy of the piece, but Barrios never sent it.
With two exceptions, the Paganini and Bach, this program is tilted towards the Latin American/Spanish side of the guitar repertoire. And the Paganini, although more Classical in some respects than the other 19th/20th century works, note the similarity in the quick-moving accompaniment figures to Mozart and his contemporaries, still wears its heart on its sleeve: It's plaintive, Italianate song is Romantic in every sense. Here, as elsewhere, Barry's fine tonal gradations, subtly inflected phrasing, and stylistically appropriate rubato fit the expressive melody like a glove. Although many of these pieces could be overly sentimentalized, he wisely allows the music to speak for itself without excessive or arbitrary interference. Structural proportions are respected, tempos are sensible, rhythms felt but not forced. That's not to say that those pieces that thrive on more accentuation -- the robust sections of Piazzolla's tangos, for example -- are smoothed over: try the emphatically strummed chords in La Muerte del Angel, the incisively delineated introduction to the same piece or the Andean folk rhythms in Jose Merlin's Suite. At the same time, the slower interludes in the tangos -- sensuous, melancholic but not morbid -- sound freely improvised.
Also, the well- wrought Piazzolla arrangements -- somewhat like Bach's, Piazzolla's music seems to flourish in an endless variety of transcribed environments. Speaking of Bach, in this company he's the odd man out. Still, where it is written that a recital music conform to an particular "logic" in its construction? Manuel Barrueco's transcription preserves the soul of the piece, only adding occasional notes to fill out chords. Since I find solo violin music problematic on occasion -- while granting the instrument's superior vocal capability I find the almost inevitable scratchy sound and imprecise intonation in certain passages irritating -- hearing this on the guitar provides a pleasant alternative. Barry is assured and serious in the Grave, vigorous in the Allegro, and his sensitively played Andante flowing connects the two outer movements.
Francisco Tárrega, another famous guitarist-composer of the Romantic period, wrote, as far as I know, exclusively for guitar, and his Recuerdos de la Alhambra is a real beauty.I'm not alone in thinking so, for ArkivMusic lists over 150 entries, not all, however, in its original guitar version. Rachel Barton Pine plays a transcription of it on violin. But pretty much the Who's Who of the guitar world has recorded the piece -- Andrés Segovia, Alexandre Lagoya, Julian Bream, Pepe Romero, and Narciso Yepes, to name just a few.
Spanish compatriot and almost exact contemporary of Tárrega, Isaac Albéniz was, of course, a much more diverse composer who, in fact, wrote comparatively little for guitar. Asturias (Leyenda), performed by Barry as a solo guitar piece, was originally scored for solo piano. Leyenda (Legends) was appended as a subtitle by the work's German publisher, who included it in an unauthorized edition of Albéniz Suite Español, for which the composer never intended it. While there's not a piece on this that is anything less than alluringly beautiful, the beauty of the Albéniz is of a more complex and sophisticated nature. I don't mean to imply that the other numbers are musically artless or simple, but you can tell immediately from the boldly original harmonic progressions and unfolding developmental logic that with the Albéniz your're in the presence not of a master guitar/composer, but of a major composer.
Last, we come to Stanley Myers, primarily a British film composer whose name rolls with the credits to over 60 films, including Conduct Unbecoming (1975), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977), Absolution (1978) staring Richard Burton, and a winner of five Academy Awards, The Deer Hunter (1978). Myers composed the Cavatina in 1970, long before it was appropriated as the theme for The Deer Hunter. It was originally written for solo piano, but John Williams prevailed upon Myers to rework it for solo guitar. Like just about every other piece on the disc, you;ll find it melting beauty.