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Christina Antoniadou
MusicWeb International, July 2005

"This CD is a big boost for the career of young Pablo Sáinz Villegas who has the following to his name: 2003 Winner: Certamen Internacional de Guitarra ‘Francisco Tárrega’, Benicásim. The programme, covering a range of ‘folk’ to impressionism, sounds from serene to darkly disturbed, from sensitive to energetic bursting, reveals a dimensional performing style. All the great Spanish composers of the 20th century can be heard. Amongst them there’s a small and sweet composition by Tárrega who contributed mostly to the improvement of the guitar technique and whose compositions rank among the best in the late nineteenth century.

The 20th century was a time when the guitar was eventually accepted as a musical instrument of significant artistic expression. Segovia, who maybe was the most significant Spanish composer of the 20th century, improved Tárrega’s technique. On this CD one can hear in a world première recording his Cinque Anecdotas. The claim of a world première recording of the Sonata-Fantasia by Torroba is dubious as this piece was recorded by the guitarist Schoeppe in February 2004, some months before Villegas’s recording. This piece, quite ‘infected’ by impressionism, is ‘... a full-fledged sonata ... among Torroba’s most ambitious and masterful works.’ The Cinque Anecdotas by Segovia with humoristic gestures in between, is music ‘…with enough originality to invite investigation’.

Villegas’s interpretations are quite mature and his playing is wide in its variety of dynamics and dramatic range. He delivers a very good technical control. With the help of the CD editor, one can be pleased by the clarity of Villegas playing, which makes the more virtuosic pieces even more dazzling. His playing has precision and some good musical phrasing. Occasionally though he sacrifices expression and rhetoric in favour of his tempos, which give a feeling of rushing.

The booklet is informative but covers only the basics. There is information about Spanish Romanticism and its effect on compositional style. Comparisons with composers who lived more less during the same period would have been welcomed.

It is always interesting to follow from the very beginning the career of young musicians who give signs of true promise to the music profession. Certainly Villegas is amongst them so we await his next CD."

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, December 2004

"And still they come: these fantastic, young guitarists, winners of important guitar competitions and then picked up by Naxos and presented in their ever-growing Laureate Series. Spanish born Pablo Sáinz Villegas, still in his mid-twenties, is merited indeed: he is a winner of fourteen (!) international competitions, the booklet text tells us, most recently last year’s (2003) Francisco Tarrega Competition, so it is fitting that he ends this generously timed recital with Tarrega’s Maria, probably the most well-known piece on the disc. The rest of it is filled with music by many of the great Spaniards from the last century, but not much belongs to the standard repertoire, which also shows that Pablo Sáinz Villegas is an adventurous programme setter, even including two substantial works that are world première recordings. One of them is the Sonata-Fantasia by Federico Moreno Torroba, which was found as recently as in May, 2001 among Segovia’s manuscripts . The 17-minutes-long work is in three movements, where the first takes 10’.It is rather impressionistic and colourful, just as is Torroba’s orchestral music. There is a Homenaje (Homage) à la seguidilla for guitar and orchestra by Torroba, which was recorded by EMI in 1982 with Angel Romero as soloist and the composer conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. Torroba was 91! I don’t know if it is available today; I have it in LP format, but it is well worth seeking out in second-hand shops.

Mark Delpriora, author of the very informative and valuable booklet text, states that the Sonata is a masterpiece, but he tends to be over-generous with superlatives about the quality of most of the works here. Anyway it is attractive music, as is his Suite castellana, also a three-movement work. His Torija (Elegy) from Castillos de España is a very beautiful simple little song, filled with melancholy.

The other world première recording is a piece (or rather five pieces) by the master guitarist himself, Andrés Segovia. He is not very well known as a composer, but pieces by him, notably Estudio sin luz appear in recitals now and then. The 5 Anecdotas premiered here were published as early as 1947. It is agreable and, of course, highly guitaristic music with some unexpected humoristic turns, but hardly indispensable masterpieces. Still it was a good idea to have these two world premières on this same disc, since there is a connection between them. And that’s not the only connections on the disc. We also get Rodrigo’s Invocación y danza, which is a homage to Manuel de Falla, directly followed by de Falla’s homage to Claude Debussy. Both of them are fine compositions, both are mainly dark in character; the Rodrigo piece partly dissonant. Early in the recital Villegas plays Turina’s Hommage à Tárrega, an appropriate choice for a winner of the Tarrega Competition, so there is a lot of sensible programming on the disc. Turina didn’t write much for the guitar, he is most known for his colourful orchestral music and his songs, but when writing for the guitar he is influenced by the flamenco.

Roberto Gerhard is in a way the odd man out on this recital, since he certainly was born in Spain but of non-Spanish parentage. Still he regarded himsalf as Catalan, he studied with Granados and later with Schönberg, whose assistant he became. The Fantasia, played here, is actually an interlude for his Cantares, a set of songs. It is a fascinating work, showing several different styles and it is partly almost hypnotically rhythmic.

I have so far only mentioned the music and not the musician, who of course is the main concern in a recital like this one. Sometimes when I listen to a musician, be it a pianist or guitarist or any kind of instrumentalist, I am either impressed by the technique or annoyed by some less beguiling feature. In this case the playing felt so at one with the music that I didn’t think of the player, just what he played. And isn’t that what really good music making is about?

With good sound, as always when Norbert Kraft is involved, an interesting, unhackneyed programme and, as I have implied, a superlative young artist, this is yet another feather in Naxos’ already well-filled cap. And there is more already in the can: he has, also for Naxos, recorded Berio’s Sequenza XI for a complete issue of the Sequenzas. I can’t wait to hear it!"

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