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Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide, August 2008

The guitar is apparently thriving in Chile. All but two of these works were composed in the last ten years, including two from 2006. The works are all stylistically nationalist, but each is interesting, and most are quite delightful. They draw on traditional Chilean song and dance forms, but they avoid the repetitive monotony that often mars such a recital.

Violeta Parra is the only figure here who is not still living. She was a distinguished singer, and her set of five Antecuecas, composed in 1961, are part of an oral tradition, transcribed for guitar from recordings. They are rather more stark than the rest of these pieces, but still quite moving.

Juan Antonio Sanches's Sonata, Homage to Vialeta Parra is the most substantial work here. It is set in the standard four movements of a sonata, each highly inventive and expressive. There is an extended passage in the finale for the left hand alone.

Jose Antonio Escobar is a Chilean native, currently a professor at the University in Santiago. He is an excellent player, with a fluent technique and an expressive imagination. He is an excellent advocate for this music.

Phil Richards
Readings Monthly, May 2008

With this disc, Naxos continue their support for the world of guitar music. There are now around 200 recordings on the Naxos label that feature the classical guitar. This exceIlent recording features works from composers I had never heard of and who are also very young. The exception is the five Anticuecas written by singer Violeta Parra in 1961. This singer's importance to Chile is honored in the sonata Homenaje a Violeta Parra written by Juan Antonio Sanchez, also on this CD. All pieces are played here by Chilean guitarist Jose Antonio Escobar and he plays beautifully. He is just one of a new generation of Chilean artists and composers, influenced by national folkloric traditions and the best of contemporary music. Highly recommended.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, April 2008

Outside a small group of specialists the music of Chile is pretty much unknown in Europe . Of the names mentioned on this disc only Victor Jara and Violeta Parra can claim to be – or have been – anything approaching household names and then only within a more popular genre with political and/or social undertones.

The five composers represented here – four of them contemporaries – have assimilated elements from popular music or folk music and amalgamated them with academic compositional principles. The outcome is a programme with evocative rhythms, beautiful melodies and in some cases harsh harmonies.

What is also evident from the outset is the technical flair and brilliance of the playing. José Antonio Escobar is a fabulous guitarist, whose playing is so assured that it sounds more or less improvised. It sounds effortless – and that is not a euphemism for bland and unengaged – but he gives the impression that technical intricacies are no big deal; he can concentrate on shaping the music.

Javier Contreras is the youngest of the composers on this disc and he is also the boldest, harmonically speaking. Euclidica is virtuoso music, also requiring the player to treat the guitar as a percussion instrument. That also goes for Tonada del Retorno and Tonada a mi madre, which is fluent and vital music. The homage to Victor Jara is tranquil and here the composer has adjusted to the style in which Jara himself played.

Horacio Salinas was in the 1980s leader of the group Inti-illmani, which cooperated with John Williams; Cristalino is a reminder of that relationship. It is a movement from a longer work that would have been interesting to hear complete. It is beautiful and melodious, changing directions constantly.

Antonio Restucci’s music is also virtuosic and he has a nice feeling for melody. It is rhythmically attractive and there is more than a whiff of Argentina about it.

With Juan Antonio Sánchez we find this mix of popular and serious elements mentioned above very pronounced. It is paired with a sense of improvisation, which turns out to be truer than I first understood. For this is exactly the case: he allows the player freedom to use his imagination. Chiloética has much of this sense all through, though I don’t know to what degree Escobar plays ad lib. The guitar sonata, like so much else on this disc very recent music, has an opening movement that is dominated by the rhythmic elements, often jagged and ‘backward’. The second, Dulce, is exactly that: soft and contemplative. The third movement is quickly walking but with sudden pauses, and in the finale rhythm is again to the fore – most of it is percussive.

The sonata is a tribute to Violeta Parra, who is herself represented by 5 Anticuecas from 1961. These pieces were not written down. They were transcribed from her recordings after her death. One can hear phrases that are reminiscent of her songs but by and large this is music that stands out as highly original, not sophisticated but ‘real’. The simile may limp but this might be seen as a Chilean variant of blues. No. 5 is especially intense and – yes, bluesy.

The last word goes again to Sánchez, whose Tonada por despedita is intimate and melodious in a popular vein. One almost expects the player to start singing. As in every good encore he adds zest to the end through a sudden dramatic outburst.

Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver have provided ideal sound as usual. Juan Pablo González, Instituto de Música, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, gives much useful information on the composers and their music, even though I wish he had been allotted more space, since this is a field that is largely unknown to me.

Guitar aficionados need to hear Escobar’s absolutely stunning playing. Having played the disc three or four times I have come to terms with the music and found that it opens up and has something new to offer every time.

Jeffrey Rossman
Classical Voice of North Carolina (, March 2008

Escobar is an expressive, mature artist who has transcended the nitty-gritty of technique and gets to the essence of the music. In addition, the reliably excellent engineering of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver makes this a sonic joy. Highly recommended. © Jeffrey Rossman & CVNC. Reproduced with permission. Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

Largely unknown in the international world of music, contemporary Chilean composers are producing a wide range of guitar works, a selection here stunningly played by Jose Antonio Escobar. Most were written in the last decade, the one major exception, and rather unusual contribution, coming from Violeta Parra. The distinguished Chilean singer was born in 1917 her life experiences related in five Anticuecas. It washer performances preserved on disc that were used after her death in 1967 to create the published scores. They seem like a series of short sound-bites that sometimes end in mid-air, but are harmonically fascinating. Generally the music on the disc would, in the classical world, be described as ‘light’, though it is often exceedingly difficult in its fast flowing intricacy. For an example turn to track 7, the Tonado del Retorno by the twenty-four-year-old, Javier Contreras, a gifted composer who flits between a classical and popular idiom. He is a major contributor to a disc that contains works by Horacio Salinas, Antonio Restucci and Juan Antonio Sanchez. It is Sanchez’s finale to his Guitar Sonata, with its percussive effects, that is certainly the most ear-catching track on the disc (track 18) and makes a good introduction to the disc in general. I suppose those outside the guitar zone will find the release in the mode of that rhythmically pulsating music they hear in trendy bistros. But anyone fascinated by the sheer technical brilliance of the performer will be blown away by the playing of Escobar, the one-time winner of many of the world’s great guitar competitions and now the young mentor to the next generation of guitarists. It is not simply the dumfounding speed of his left hand, but the precision of his right as fingers pluck out the most complex notation. Thankfully we hear little of the left-hand mechanics, the recording from Naxos’s Canadian recording team placing the guitar up-front with clarity the main benefactor.

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