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Jeremy Nicholas
Classic FM, March 2008

Don't let two unfamiliar names put you off. This selection of 18 tuneful, tonal works by Venezuelan Antonio Lauro (1917-86) is played with melting warmth by the Argentinian Victor Villadangos.

Rad Bennett, March 2008

Musical Performance:
Sound Quality
Overall Enjoyment

When I heard the Naxos release of Venezuelan waltzes by Antiono Lauro (1917-1986), I was so excited that I wrote urging the company to put out more. Three years later, my wish has been granted, and this set is every bit as beguiling as the first one. Lauro was the first Venezuelan to finish formal guitar studies at the National Conservatory in Caracas, and though his music became familiar in South America, it was not until guitarist Alfrio Díaz played it on tour that the rest of the world became aware.

Lauro is best known for his many waltzes, but this CD shows that his talent went far beyond that genre. He wrote chromatic music, and the eighteen-and-a-half-minute Sonata on this disc is a prime example of that, as is the ten-minute Suite (Homanaje a John Duarte) that closes the program. He also wrote polyphonic music in which he explored the fugue and other European compositional forms as they could relate to the guitar. His Estudios en imitaciones are prime examples of this style.

No matter the type of music, Lauro’s compositions show him as a supreme melodist. His melodies have a singing quality that immediately establish identification with the soul of any new listener. His passion for choral music, as composer and performer, no doubt plays a great part in this impression of his purely instrumental music. Guitarists Victor Villadangos seems to breathe this music as if it is a part of his being, and the recording is intimate, crisp, and clear. No wonder -- its producer is Norbert Kraft, himself a fine guitarist.

This CD will take a listener on a new musical voyage of such exquisite beauty that he might be reluctant to return!

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, March 2008

Venezuelan guitarist and composer Antonio Lauro was little known outside Latin-America. This was until Andrés Segovia recorded his waltz Natalia in 1955. He then became one of the selected few composers for the guitar from his continent to be honoured in that way, the others being Villa-Lobos and Ponce. Lauro was greatly influenced by the folk music of Venezuela and his aim was to integrate the rhythms and melodies with structures derived from the European tradition.

On this disc there are principally three types of composition: those based on or influenced by folk songs, those harking back to renaissance and baroque and finally the largest work here, the Sonata. In this 18-minute work his exploration of the thematic and harmonic material is quite wide-ranging and it is a composition that requires some active listening. The first movement is in continuous forward movement whereas the second movement is a kind of resting point, calmly singing. Then he takes us on a thrilling journey in the third movement with the rhythmic elements from his folk music heritage constituting the backbone.

The Pavana (tr. 6) from 1977 is a tribute to 16th century composer Luis Milan and it is dedicated to John Williams, and the concluding Suite is a homage to another great guitarist, composer and critic, John Duarte. It was written in 1981 and is a fine work, taut and thrilling,  in baroque tradition; the Giga is a show-stopper. The four Estudios are studies in counterpoint and here it is unavoidable to think of Bach.

The rest of the programme is made up of – mainly – melodious, easy-listening pieces of the kind that is so eminently suitable to the sound of the guitar, the lullaby Ana Florencia already a great favourite in our house. The swinging Virgilio is another hit and the group of five pieces (tr. 18-22) are a perfect unit of contrasting moods, Cueca chilena with reminiscences from his stay in Chile. It should also be mentioned that the waltz Flores de la montaña was composed by his teacher Raúl Borges and arranged by Lauro.

Victor Villadangos belongs to the elite of guitarists today with a couple of superb earlier issues in Naxos’s growing catalogue of guitar recordings (Volume 1 of Lauro's music is on Naxos 8.554348). Bearing in mind that this is a genre that doesn’t sell large quantities, we guitar lovers have to be extremely grateful for the continuous additions to this catalogue. Technically assured, rhythmically precise and with tonal beauty to match this player is a winner and the recording is what one has come to expect from Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver. Alejandro Bruzual’s notes are a fascinating read but I wish that he, like some other writers of liner notes, would present the music in the order it is played on the disc.

Antonio Lauro may not be the most important of 20th century guitar composers but his music is always eminently listenable.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Orphaned before he was six years old, the young Venezuelan of Italian parents was to lead a colourful life that began as a student of the piano before moving to the guitar under the tutelage of Raul Borges. A move to a life touring as a popular entertainer took him around South America with particular popularity coming in Chile. Returning home he entered into a period studying composition, playing as an orchestral percussionist and appearing as a classical singer to fund those years. Time spent in prison during 1951 for opposing the dictatorship in Venezuela marked the beginning of a further chapter in his life and a more serious look at guitar composition. The years that followed brought the Sonata, Estudios en imitaciones and the Suite en homenaje a John Duarte, the three major works in this second volume of his guitar music. All are of substance, the studies being practical rather than concert works. The remaining tracks, including Crepuscular, Virgilio, Oriente, Cueco chilena and the delectable Romanza are cameos and of easy attraction. They contrast with his more extensive scores that show a composer of earnest intent, though at the same time never quite finding the melodic invention to sustains such extended compositions. He died in Caracas in 1986, his compositional output having contained vocal, chamber and symphonic music, though it was largely dominated by his guitar output. The soloist is one of the most distinguished Argentinean guitarists, Victor Villadangos, whose concert career has taken him around much of the world, and today is also enjoying a busy teaching career. He is a performer with a clean technique, that moves effortlessly around the instrument, intonation right in the centre of every note. The music seldom poses major technical hurdles, Villadangos brushing aside those few moments. The sound quality from Canada is to the usual immaculate standard, the disc as a whole offering pleasures that would appeal to a wide audience.

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