Album Review: Guitar Recital by Kazu Suwa

I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to over the last few weeks to the latest recording by London-based Japanese guitarist Kazu Suwa. Incidentally, Kazu’s website is one of the websites I feature on my “Links To Other Stuff” page: http://www.kazu-classicalguitar.co.uk/releases.html

And it’s a cracking recording of 22 delightfully played pieces including classics of the repertoire alongside some fantastic guitar arrangements of Catalan composer’s Frederic Mompou’s piano works, one transcribed by Kazu himself. More on those in a bit.

The classics on the recording including much-loved favourites such as Adelita, Lagrima and Capricho Arabe amongst six pieces by Francisco Tarrega. The latter two are particular favourites of mine on the recording I have to say. As well-loved as they are there can be a tendency for these pieces to be over-played and over-recorded. However I do feel that Kazu’s interpretation is really quite fresh particularly on the Capricho Arabe – a deft, delicate yet virtuosic touch with a lovely lilting musicality, really bringing out the essence of that Romantic style without overdoing it and being overly schmaltzy. Spot on.

The Tarrega pieces are followed by three Abel Fleury pieces – again played with a beautiful touch. The little Estilo Pampeano is my favourite of the three for sure – gorgeous, and proving he’s equally at home with the Latin side of the repertoire as he is with the Romantic stuff. And this is reinforced by the equally beautiful Choro de Saudade by Augustin Barrios Mangore.

The album also features other pieces by Barrios, So, Garoto, Hector Ayala, Villa-Lobos and Reis (of which Eterna Saudade (Valsa) is definitely worthy of a mention – rich lush tone, aching melody played with a clear sense of longing. You can just feel the heartbreak coming through your headphones!

The standout favourites for me on the recording, in amongst all this beautiful playing, are Kazu’s interpretations of two Frederic Mompou pieces – Canço i Dansa No. XI (arranged by Kazu) and Canço i Dansa No. VI: Canço (arranged by Alirio Diaz). Both arrangements, and of course the playing, are just divine.

My favourite of the two is the Canço i Dansa No. XI (arranged by Kazu) and it sounds like it really is naturally at home on the guitar, rather than piano. A triumph of arrangement no less! And it’s a fantastic piece, beautifully played, with this perfectly balanced sense of musical aching that Kazu seems to be master of in the first section of the piece. It then moves into a section of the piece with a sunnier disposition, with that Kazu plays with equal style and musical direction.

And there are couple of chords, one around the 1:44 mark, one around the 2:44 and 3:34 mark in the recording, that are just so rich and juicy I want to eat them!

Overall this is a fantastic recording that deserves to be heard by as many guitar aficionados as possible, and much wider. Some sensitive, tasteful and well-informed playing of well-known favourites, wonderful arrangements and interpretations of lesser known works, paired up with just downright gorgeous playing.

This is a truly beautiful recording.

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Info on where to get your copy of the recording, and listen to some snippets, can be found here: http://www.kazu-classicalguitar.co.uk/releases.html

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Album Review: Homenaje by R.C. Kohl

It’s been a few months since my last review of a recording and I have a cracking little one you today, folks – a disc called Homenaje by guitarist-composer R.C. Kohl.

This latest recording from R.C. Kohl is a collection of 20 compositions and arrangements by the relatively little-known Mexican guitarist Octaviano Yañez (1865 – 1927?), who hailed from the city of Orizaba in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. According to the liner notes Yañez was one of the very first ever guitarists to be recorded, apparently having done so for Edison and Victor recording companies during the turn of the 20th century.

And it certainly sounds as if he could write a half-decent tune, and some possibly with potential didactic intentions. The disc kicks off with a really nice couple of study-like preludes (Preludio en mi menor and Preludio en la menor). They’re lovely short little pieces that whet your appetite for Yañez’s musical style, I was quite disappointed that the first prelude was so short in fact (clocking in at only 45 seconds!).  Things develop out from there on with some equally lovely, quite delicate and really charming pieces. Último Amor was a particular favourite of mine, with a feel slightly reminiscent of Tarrega, perhaps Sor.

I found the second half of the disc most interesting, with the penultimate track El Encanto de un Vals, a Yañez arrangement of a piece by Viennese composer Oscar Strauss (born just five years later than Yañez). Again a really lovely little piece that, like most of this recording, certainly would not be out of place at a house or salon concert. And in terms of R.C. Kohl’s playing this piece is my favourite – a gorgeous rounded tone, with some nice coloured touches, and a delicately sensitive rubato.

Simply a lovely guitar recording, played with an understated musicality, fine tonal quality and a real appreciation of the composer and his style. Definitely recommended.

For those of you who may not be aware of R.C. Kohl, he is a classical guitarist and composer and is a professor on the Music Faculty of the the Universidad Veracruzana in Mexico. Kohl studied initially at the University of California at Santa Cruz, followed then by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, before moving to the Universidad Veracruzana, in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He has been awarded scholarships and grants in music performance and research from Mexico’s Secretaría de Educación Pública, the East-West Center of Honolulu (EWC) and the Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura (IVEC) (a grant from which enabled this latest recording). He’s also been a member of many prestigious research institutes and universities. Not too shabby!

You can download your own copy of Homenaje (and R.C. Kohl’s other works) over at CD Baby and iTunes.

Click on the hyperlink text to take you right through or copy and paste the following URLs into your browser:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rckohl6

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/homenaje/id984141625

Ooh and yes, before I forget, you can check out my 2012 review of some earlier R.C. Kohl recordings HERE.