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Paul Shoemaker
MusicWeb International, December 2006

This is an anthology compiled from many Naxos guitar recordings of Latin-American guitar music ranging from the most serious classical works, such as the Villa Lobos Concerto to popular tunes, such as, again, the Villa Lobos Suite Populaire, and the Ponce. As a rule the editor has sensibly found music which ranges towards as well as away from the typical hot latin rhythms you expect from the genre and preferred unusual pieces, more thoughtful, more structured, some more placid in mood, some more angular and experimental. Hence this collection will balance most other recordings of Latin-American guitar music you might have and help round out your collection.

The Lauro Joropo is high energy fun. Brouwer’s November Day is a lovely, sad, thoughtful tune in an interesting arrangement. Pereira’s Gathering in Planaltina is an angular depiction of a happy crowd with abrupt changes in rhythm, texture, and dynamics. Blazquez’s Kite Flying Dream is an intriguingly modern tuneful piece built on a flying dance rhythm over a varied ostinato. Simon’s Peanut Seller is a familiar tune freshly worked out with virtuoso multiple voices into a real show-stopper. Pujol’s Elegy on the Death of a Tango Player is a three movement suite based on simple, arresting harmonies, with a beautiful second movement in “raindrop prelude” style, and a joyous finale.

The Piazzolla pieces are uniformly disappointing. They are aimed exactly at American TV music pop aesthetic where just a touch of ethnic flavor must be swept away by familiar generic ‘swing’ before anyone gets frightened by the foreignness of it all or feels displaced by the unfamiliarity. They are the only pieces on the disks which pander to vulgar taste. At the other extreme are the Villa-Lobos pieces which represent a truly original mind, so abhorrent of cliché as to border on the astringent. Perhaps I should concede that Villa-Lobos may have been moving comfortably within native Brazilian styles but to others elsewhere it seems brilliantly and uncompromisingly original, rather like Bartók’s view of authentic Hungarian music. Villa-Lobos is an acquired taste but, once acquired, becomes compulsive.

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