Reinventing Guitar = BACH: Lute Suite No. 3 in G minor; GREGORIADOU: Balkan Dances (2); JOSE: Sonata for Guitar; KERTSOPOULOS: Some colour’s rhythms; DOMENICO SCARLATTI: Keyboard Sonata in E major – Smaro Gregoriadou, guitar – Delos

by | Jul 16, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

Reinventing Guitar = BACH: Lute Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 995; GREGORIADOU: Balkan Dances (2); JOSE: Sonata for Guitar; KERTSOPOULOS: Some colour’s rhythms; DOMENICO SCARLATTI: Keyboard Sonata K 380 in E major – Smaro Gregoriadou, guitar – Delos DE 3398, 66:02 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Greek guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou performs these six works on three different instruments, one with three different tunings. She is a student of Yorgos Kertsopoulos, who directs Kertsopoulos Aesthetics, an organization which has a specialization with guitar construction in an historic context. On this album she uses three different guitars by inventor Yorgos Kertsopoulos, a triple-double-single-course guitar with a right-hand pedal, a single-stringed guitar in ordinary tuning or low tunings with right-hand pedal, and a single-stringed high-tuned guitar with right-hand/movable back pedals and scalloped fingerboard. The contention here is that much of the ancient or even just old music from the various periods that were played on the guitar, or a guitar variant, must be performed on as close an instrument as can be found or created in order to rightly present the artistry of those composers of that age.

It’s an old argument. And here they essentially blame Segovia because of his introduction of nylon strings, which changed everything.  And there may be some truth in that. The question is, does it matter?

Yes and no. Every generation must reinterpret the music of the past in accordance with the mores of its own time. This is what makes music a living art and not just an archeological one, something that the early period performers didn’t seem to get. I have been moved by Mozart on a harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano, but each time the performances were excellent and the music is Mozart. Same with Bach—who has been more shaked and baked than the Leipzig genius? But each time he comes through shining as only he can. I have heard period instrument performances that made me cringe not because of the instruments—though that has happened too—but because of the performers. So I am not convinced that any instrument, no matter how authentic, can usurp the place of great artistry, which is why Segovia will be so lionized forever, and would be if he was using a 12-metal-string guitar!

But this should not detract from what Gregoriadou is trying to accomplish. It is an interesting field of study, and the guitars she selects are quite varied and excessively revealing in sound concept. Her program starts with Scarlatti and works its way to her own wonderful Balkan Dances, and she plays with a clean and scrubbed technique that is perfectly fitted to each style. It is obvious that she plays with a passion that belies any concern about “historicity” in that the music comes first and the performances must reflect this concern.

It’s always difficult to judge an instrumentalist on one hearing. But there is brightness to this recording that may reflect an engineering concern rather than the guitarist’s preference as to tone, or even the instruments themselves. I’ll leave it at that, and add that it doesn’t detract from any enjoyment of this disc—many might prefer it. But guitar lovers will want this for all kinds of reasons, and good music lovers have a good reason as well.

—Steven Ritter

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