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Leonard Link, August 2008

The Spectacular Marcin Dylla

I am a big fan of the Naxos classical CD label, mainly because they energetically pump out loads of new recordings every month, many exploring a wide range of previously unknown repertory that is worth exploring, and at budget prices.  …One of the most valuable series on Naxos is the Laureate Series of guitar music, presided over by series producer Norbert Kraft, a brilliant classical guitarist who inaugurated the series with some of his own recordings, but who has been busily producing debut international recital releases for the talented young folks who win guitar competitions (thus the title Laureate Series).  One of the things he does is to encourage them to include in their recital debut discs works that are not previously recorded or, at least, that are rare items, not part of the standard repertory one would encounter at almost any classical guitar recital.

He's really found a winner with Marcin Dylla, a 32 year old Polish guitarist who, according to the brief biographical sketch in the booklet, has taken first prize in 19 international guitar competitions between 1996 and 2007.  I can believe that after hearing this extraordinary recording.  And talk about unusual repertory: Joaquin Rodrigo - Junto al Generalife; Alexandre Tansman: Variations on a Theme of Scriabin; Nicholas Maw: Music of Memory; Manuel Ponce: Sonata romantica 'Hommage a Fr. Schubert'.  The only one of those pieces I already had in my collection was the Ponce.  I had never heard of any guitar music by Maw!  An entire disc of discoveries, beautifully played, with great sound engineering and informative notes by Graham Wade.  Anybody with an interest in the classical guitar is undoubtedly already systematically collecting each new issue on the Laureate Series as they hit the market, but this is too good to keep hidden among the guitar specialists.  Anybody with an interest in 20th century music should check out this recording.  (Indeed, with the exception of the Ponce, written to commemorate the centennial of Schubert's death in 1928, all the other pieces were written during the second half of the 20th century, but all are tonal, listener-friendly, and absorbing.)

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2008

After nineteen competitions packed into just eleven years, the Polish-born guitarist, Marcin Dylla, has landed the first prize in the highly prestigious 2007 Guitar Foundation of America Competition. On his Naxos debut disc he has chosen a bold, unusual and interesting programme with Nicholas Maw’s Music of Memory and Ponce’s four-movement Sonata romantica ‘Hommage a Fr.Schubert’ as the two extensive works. To ease us into such major scores we have the typically Spanish Junto al Generalife from Rodrigo and Tansman’s very attractive Variations on a Theme of Scriabin, the latter composed in 1972 but in a much earlier tonal style. The same could be said for the work by Manual Ponce, a composer working in the 20th century but by instinct a person from a previous generation. His quite extensive four-movement Sonata romantica does set out some technical challenges, but is mainly a lyrical work structured and shaped with a nice sense of style. Maw, on the other hand, is very much a composer of our time who dips into tonality and atonality as the mood takes him. He has used the Intermezzo from Mendelssohn’s A minor string quartet around which he has woven a set of variations in four movements, Maw using the work’s title as a long-term memory of a golden age. Having said that, I would have to add that it is not a piece of immediate attractions and needs some work by the listener to come to terms with his personal manner of composing. Dylla’s performance is most persuasive, the technical hurdles never made apparent. True there is the sound of left hand shifts but they are not exaggerated, and his playing is clean, intelligent and well conceived. Good sound from Naxos’s Canadian regular team.

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