, July 2005
"This new recording by guitarist Ricardo Gallén is his fifth for Naxos. On this occasion he plays music by Regondi and Mertz.
Ricardo Gallén, born in Linares in 1972, began playing the guitar at the age of four and made his first public appearance one year later. Having enjoyed initial tuition with Tomás Villajos Soler, he continued his studies at the Conservatories of Jaén, Madrid, Cordoba and Granada, augmented by master classes. He also studied early music at the Salzburg Mozarteum and at Munich University. He serves as professor at the Barcelona Escuela de Artes “Luthier.”
Both Regondi and Mertz carried on the composer-performer tradition of their predecessors Sor and Giuliani, as did their contemporaries Coste and Ferranti.
This was considered the norm, and not until the 20th Century, when Segovia and Bream approached other composers to write original works for the guitar did the repertory begin to establish a wider base.
The Regondi/Mertz combination is a good chronological and thematic fit, each being approximate contemporaries and guitarist/composers - coincidentally both died age fifty. However on this occasion it has a conspicuous downside for Mr Mertz.
Niccolò Paganini and the guitarist Luigi Legnani, each competent in the other’s instrument often played duets. Legnani complained constantly that the music composed by Paganini for these duets always had the violin in the leading role.
Paganini responded by writing new material that positioned the guitar in the leading role, but without informing Legnani, offered to swap instruments thereby placating his disgruntled colleague. Legnani readily agreed, ironically again finding himself in the subordinate musical role.
Were the music by Regondi/Mertz presented here in duet form, Paganini would instinctively choose Regondi for the lead and relegate Mertz to his colleague. Legnani would doubtless express the same frustration at finding himself in the subordinate role playing the Mertz part.
The approach to this music by Mr. Gallén is very “period” and employs an instrument made by Joaquin Garcia Malaga, a copy of a 19th century guitar.
This writer has always questioned the concept of slavish compliance with authentic performance practice at the expense of final sound. In the case of the violin and cello the fundamental structure of the instrument has changed little and one could argue that the sound of the Baroque instrument is not a compromise in authentic performance but an advantage.
Since the time of Regondi and Mertz the classical guitar has undergone monumental changes and improvements to both quality and volume of sound. At this very time luthiers are making design changes to improve the quality and volume of sound. While not all agree with the purported advantages of some modern innovations, the advantages of changes and improvements effected by Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) are unequivocal.
Mr Gallén is a fine guitarist with strong command of the recorded material. Whether or nor the use of a period instrument embellishes or detracts from the overall end result is a matter of personal preference. A comparison with the sound produced by a modern guitar in his recording Guitar Recital, Naxos 8.554832, suggests that if the sound per se is paramount, use of a period instrument is a compromise.
This is an important recording for those with a knowledge of and commitment to guitar music of the period. It is less relevant to those with a casual interest centring on the modern classical guitar."