Bridge 9188 mono, 59:37 (Distrib. Albany) ****:
From the very first notes played by Rey de la Torre (1917-1994), we acknowledge the sound of a master guitarist – an exacting, classical perfectionist and aristocratic stylist. I recall Rey de la Torre from his Epic Records made later in his career and introduced to me by Professor Paul Matthiesen of Harpur College, SUNY. This collation from Bridge splices transfers from two short-lived Philharmonia Records LPs, inscribed 1950 and 1952. Rey performs on a guitar made by Hermann Hauser I, and the instrument has a solid, burnished sound and brilliant luster. Rey recorded for the Philharmonia label in long, single takes without any edits. He opens with transcriptions of piano pieces which thoroughly adapt themselves to the guitar’s idiosyncratic figures and texture. The difference between Segovia’s renditions of these pieces and Torre’s is the difference between Perlman’s violin and Kogan’s, the romantic improviser and the chaste classicist.
Torre’s own teacher Migel Llobet transcribed the popular Danza Espagnola No. 5 of Granados. Recorded, as are all of the solo pieces, in the Village Lutheran Church, Bronxville, NY in July 1952, the Danza enjoys lingering reverberation. The Nin-Culmell 6 Variations on a Theme of Milan (1945) had their world premier by Torre at New York’s Town Hall 10 November 1947. The piece is a series of meditations on 16th Century Spanish rhythms and colors in modern dress. Luis Milan is also the spiritual guide for Rodrigo’s Sarabande. Falla composed his elegiac habanera for the memory of Debussy in 1920. Modal and intense, the piece quotes an excerpt from La Soiree dans Grenade. Julian Orbon’s Cuban style of Spanish guitar (1951) renders a musical hybrid – part etude, part toccata.
The major work on the disc is Boccherini’s charming D Major Quintet with the Stuyvesant String Quartet, recorded 6 December 1950, its first inscription. The restoration here used derives from an Elektra LP. The high tessitura for Sylvan Shulman’s first violin proves no obstacle, and Torre blends in like an old soulmate. Delicately scored, with liberal use of harmonics, the piece bounces along gaily. The Pastorale could have been composed by Gluck. For the fandango finale, Torre used his fingernails on the side of his new Hauser guitar to approximate the sound of castanets. Cellist Alan Shulman wanted to preserve the finish on his new Dalaglio instrument of 1800, so he took over the pedal figure. The single-minded verve of their performance, its village-band sensibility, is totally infectious. The last cut is a live encore, a Villa-Lobos Etude recorded 19 March 1961 in Great Neck, Long Island after a performance of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Composed in 1929, the Etude calls for rapid shifts in hand position and knotty arpeggios. The ensuing syncopations require an exact articulation of competing meters. Torre doesn’t make it sound easy, but it does make a searching, pensive moment of guitar mastery.