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Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, January 2008

This is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding recorded guitar recitals that I have heard in quite some time. It would merit top marks (if MusicWeb went in for anything so crude as marks out of ten) for repertoire, for recording quality, for documentation and for the technique and musicianship of the performer.

When I have previously heard Llobet’s Variaciónes sobre un tema di Sor it has rather passed me by, pleasantly showy but undistinctive; at first hearing this performance made me sit up and pay real attention, made me get up and play it again. Aided by the clarity and warmth of the recorded sound, Viloteau brings out the considerable inventiveness of the music and articulates a greater range of mood than I had previously noticed. Particular pleasures include the way in which the ascending triplets of Variation 6 succeed the shorter semiquaver patterns of Variation 5. A thoughtful performance which has alerted me to the (now obvious!) merits of the piece.

The four movements of Tansman’s Cavatina begin with a harmonically rich Preludio, succeeded by a Srabande, the melodic poignancy of which Viloteau doesn’t perhaps catch perfectly, one of the few reservations I have about the disc. The ensuing Scherzino – a model of clear and witty exposition – and the closing Barcarole, given a delightfully limpid performance are, however, unqualified successes. I have always understood Tansman’s Cavatina to end with a fifth movement, ‘Danza Pomposa’ – why is it not included here?

Brouwer’s Rito de los Orishas is a masterpiece of Afro-Cuban music. An Orisha is a spirit in the religious/mythological system of the Yorubas of Nigeria and Benin, a manifestation of the God Olodumare; transported slaves took these beliefs with them to the New World and in Cuba they became fused with other belief systems such as Palo and even Catholicism. There is a real sense of mysterious religious rituals in the first of Brouwer’s two movements, a sense of both possession and exorcism; the second movement’s ‘Dances of the Black Goddesses’ are perhaps rather less spiritual in their nature, but benefit from a sensuous and beautifully coloured performance by Viloteau.

Ginastera’s Sonata – in four movements – is a work of real substance, richly various in mood, in tempo and dynamics. Viloteau shapes detail with loving attention and technical brilliance, but never loses his awareness of the work’s larger shape. Whether in the inventive effects of the second movement, evocative of the South American jungle, rich in quasi-insect-noises and evocative of heat and darkness, or in the last movement’s insistent Argentinian rhythms, Viloteau plays the music with passionate commitment and perfect technical control.

The Frenchman Roland Dyens is himself a guitarist of distinction, a teacher (he is Professor Guitar at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris) as well as a composer, almost wholly for the guitar. I remember reading an interview with him in which he insisted that he was essentially a classical musician, bit one whose appetites were “greedy and curious”. Certainly he is a musical syncretist, bringing together elements from a variety of traditions. Something of such a process is hinted at in the subtitles which the three movements carry: the first is designated ‘Takemitsu au Brésil’, the second ‘When Spain meets Jazz’ and the third ‘Gismonti au cirque’. In the first, Light Motif’, pointillist touches are grounded in some evocative Brazilian phrases; in the second quasi-jazz riffs are in dialogue with patterns more obviously part of the Spanish guitar tradition. The last is a tribute to Egberto Gismonti – another musical eclectic, a man who studied with Nadia Boulanger and Jean Barraqué, has played with musicians such as Charlie Haden, Ralph Towner and Jan Garbarek and has made his own unique contribution to Brazilian music as guitarist, pianist and leader of the wonderful group Academia de Danças. Fittingly, Dyens’ tribute is an extraordinarily inventive piece, full of unconventional effects, full of echoes of music from Bartok to Brazil, often fiercely percussive but also fed by sudden delightful melodic flourishes; Dyens is himself an accomplished improviser, like Gismonti, and there is a feeling of brilliant improvisation to this piece, which makes a fitting conclusion to an outstanding recital.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2007

I often wonder what happens to the multitude of guitar competition prizewinners that emerge each year, though the young French winner of the 2006 Guitar Foundation of America Competition, Thomas Viloteau is such an incredibly gifted performer at the tender age of 22, that he is a league apart from the others. He has enjoyed a top quality education, including time with Alberto Ponce and Roland Dyens in Paris to follow on three years study in Barcelona, and in every facet this shows through in his performances, though the ultimate artistry is in those unfailingly accurate fingers and alert musical mind. Just sit back and wonder how anyone could play Llobet’s Variations at such speed, brio and total accuracy. But he is not just a technician of staggering quality, for the fleshy notes are caressed from the instrument with such beauty. I could go on eulogising about the whole disc, his wide ranging colour spectrum lighting up the Tansman in all its multitude of bold and subtle hues; the elusive Ginastera sonata is thrilling in its virtuosity and he does his best for the Brouwer and Dyens pieces that I find rather cliche-ridden. As a programme I welcome the fact that he has chosen works originally for guitar rather than the usual series of arrangements. Of course, like all truly great guitarists, left had shifts are noiseless. The Canadian sound quality is superb, the whole package one of the most exciting and stimulating guitar discs I have ever encountered.

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