Verdi’s Guitar: Fantasias for Guitar by J.K. Mertz — Alan Rinehart, guitar — Ravello Records, RR7975, 71:00

This release brought to light for me the role Josef Kaspar Mertz had in the cultivation of music appreciation to romantic audiences. In Verdi’s Guitar, guitarist Alan Rinehart performs Mertz’s fantasias based upon different operas by Giuseppe Verdi. Six operas are represented in this recital; the earliest is Nabucco from 1842 and the latest is Il Vesperi Siciliani from 1855.

Mertz’s compositions helped condense the highlights of these operas into a form that could be further enjoyed in a new setting in the hands of a virtuoso guitarist. The range of style across these revues ranges from fast and furious to slow and tender. The guitar is of course capable of this range.

As a performer, Rinehart is up to the challenge. The recording is clear, capturing just enough of the sounds of fingers on strings. The reverb is appropriate, allowing the sound of Rinehart’s two guitars to breathe.

In some cases, as in the arias from La Traviata, the guitar has the tough role of playing accompanist and as soloist. It’s less about the art of Verdi than the art of Mertz to translate these into pieces for one instrument. In other arias, the pieces are more integrated.

This release will appeal to fans of Verdi’s operas. In short, these are some “best hits.” And these will be of interest too to guitarists and fans of the guitar after Boccherini.

— Sebastian Herrera