Fanfare Magazine, Maria Nockin, May-June Issue
More about Cuatro
“On this recording, the members of the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet—Michael Baker, Vasilis Bessas, James Jervis, and Rory Russell—play music about Spain and Spanish culture. Some pieces are by Spanish composers such as Fernando Sór (1778–1839) and Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909), others are by composers from other countries who loved native Spanish music and wrote about Spain. The opening work is Sor’s Grand Solo, and the Quartet plays most skillfully in a delightful arrangement by Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad that gives an individual part to each player. The best-known piece on this disc is Capriccio Espagnol or, as originally titled, Capriccio on Spanish Themes, by Rimsky-Korsakov. The composer scored it for strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, so cutting it down to four guitars while maintaining the sound picture heard in the full orchestral setting was a monumental job. Surprisingly, when we listen to the quartet we hear almost all of the sonorities we would expect to hear in the tonally flamboyant orchestral version. Even the percussion is there, whether it is beaten on the guitar with an open hand or with fingernails that sound like castanets. Aquarelle’s guitars are the perfect medium with which to pay justice to the music of Europe’s most colorful nation. Beginning with a festive dance from Asturia that celebrates the sunrise, the Capriccio continues with variations before it returns to the original theme. Rimsky-Korsakov called its fourth movement “Scene and Gypsy Song” because it offers a song-like tune before resolving into the sprightly melodies that permeate the Finale, a magnificent fandango from Asturia.
Although he came from the land of the guitar and made use of a great many of his country’s folk idioms, Albéniz wrote for the piano. However, many arrangers have found that his pieces adapt to the guitar very well, and they have made works like his Spanish fantasy, La Vega, available to guitarists worldwide. Folías by Ian Krouse, the Professor of Theory and Composition at UCLA, makes use of one of the oldest musical themes on record, La Folia. The title means crazy or empty-headed, possibly because of its connection to a fast, energetic, seemingly mindless dance. Krouse wrote his piece for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, who premiered it in 1992. Two years later they recorded it on An Evening in Granada for Delos. Their performance is slightly slower and more deliberate than that of the Aquarelle Quartet, and the Chandos recording has clearer, more intimate sound with the ambience of a small, intimate concert setting. You can hear that there are four guitars because they seem to be sitting in a row across the front of the stage. Their sound is always well balanced. I fully enjoyed this recital of music about Spain from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and think readers will like it as well. ..”