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David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

The winner of the 2008 Guitar Foundation of America (GFA) Competition, Gabriel Bianco, has chosen a program that crosses three centuries to demonstrate his rare talent. The young Frenchman already has a long list of competition successes, and has concertised around the world for the past five years. His choice of music by Johann Mertz allows a far reaching demonstration of technique from singing and lyric quality through to left hand agility. Born in the city we now know as Bratislava, Mertz was an international touring guitarist who wrote a quite large catalogue of guitar works, some obviously to demonstrate his brilliance. Yet it is his quiet Elegy that finds Bianco using his sense of shape to mould it into a strongly emotional piece contrasting with the outgoing fireworks of the following Hungarian Fantasy. Regular readers will know of my aversion to guitar transcriptions of Bach, however the bits he does relish are those where he takes us a long way from purist Baroque thoughts. The interesting score comes from the Russian guitarist, Nikita Koshkin, with his 1997 Sonata. Exceedingly complex for both performer and listener, highly proactive outer movements require extremes of activity in both hands, all showing the brilliance of Bianco. Even the central adagio does not release the performer from technical hurdles, only momentarily reaching peace as it comes to a close. The whole visualises a composer at unease with the world, striving to find something that is totally elusive. A most promising debut release, immaculately recorded.

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