ALBÉNIZ: Serenata = Prelude, Cordoba, Oriental; Granada, Sevilla; Mallorca; Zambra Granadina; Torre Bermeja – Stephen Marchionda, guitar – MDG

ALBÉNIZ: Serenata = Prelude, Cordoba, Oriental from Cantos de Espana, Op. 232; Granada, Sevilla from Suite espanola, Op. 47; Mallorca, Op. 202; Zambra Granadina from Danse orientale, Op. 181; Torre Bermeja from Doce piezas caracteristicas, Op. 92 – Stephen Marchionda, guitar – MDG multichannel SACD (2+2+2) 903 1739-6, 66:47 [Distr. by E1] ****:
Stephen Marchionda has been on the scene for many years now, but I will wager only a few have come across his recorded work. Perhaps his most noted disc occurs on another MDG release of his transcriptions of Scarlatti sonatas, eminently recommendable. For this new album he has chosen the piano music of Isaac Albéniz, that noted straddle-master that crossed the lines from Spanish salon music into the very first leanings of Impressionism, in arrangements of his own creation. Marchionda is rightly concerned with the transferal, being well aware that something could easily get lost in music that uses the piano as a way to imitate the Spanish guitar being taken directly to the imitated instrument. It’s as if part of the original intent, of suggesting another medium through the use of a completely different one, gets lost once the music is reformatted.
Fortunately Marchionda, working with the urtext originals, avoids this difficulty by sticking as closely to the prototypes as possible and including all of Albéniz’s rich and varied harmonies, along with the inimitable colors they produce. Indeed, the tone-poem-like richness of this music and its borderline flirtations with the Impressionists suggest a perfumed sonic flora that is almost unique in music, certainly one of a kind in his own day and age, and copied with some success by composers like Ravel, who nonetheless never quite scraped the Frenchness out of his own work, Spanish-influenced though it is.
Marchionda possesses superb technique and a wide range of colors in his instrumental palate that are quite capable of manifesting the unique Albéniz sound. Some people refuse to hear this music on guitar for the reasons mentioned, even though guitarists have pretty much co-opted the repertory for years. It is their loss. MDG gives him excellent surround sound that uses the five speakers judiciously, even though just solo guitar.
—Steven Ritter

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