, July 2008
CD of the Month
These two well known works composed originally for Pablo de Sarasate are given wonderfully refreshing new clothes in these tasteful and thoroughly idiomatic arrangements by guitarist Lars Hannibal. This is one of the more delightful surprises to cross the desk in some weeks, and it has received the unusual honor of repeated plays in a household that is near capacity with unheard compact discs.
The wonderful delight here is just how well these arrangements work, and how well the orchestral accompaniments suit the guitar. Couple this with the splendidly reverberant acoustics of the recording venues, and the careful balance that is achieved by the recording engineers and you get a completely winsome combination both musically and sonically.
Mr. Sjøgren keeps sheer virtuosity at bay with his abundant good taste, never letting us know that this music actually takes some work to pull off. His tone is warm and with the exception of a rare miss in intonation in the very highest registers, this is playing of immaculate accomplishment and panache. Mr. Hannibal’s guitar tone is full and rich and the two work very well together as an ensemble.
The music itself is pure poetry, and I was thrilled to discover the Fantasie Norvégienne, a work heretofore unknown to me. It is full of sweeping melodies and lush harmonies, replete with crystalline beauty and thankfully devoid of romantic gush. This work alone is worth the price of admission.
Packaging and presentation are long on pretty pictures and short on content. One might have wanted a bit more meat in the program notes, but no matter. The music and these fine performances speak well for themselves, and more information about the music is but a few keystrokes away in this day and age. This recital would be a fine addition to any collection, a wonderful sojourn off the beaten path.