Wallace, Frank. Four Extraordinary Spanish Guitars
Reviewed by Al Kunze
Works by Aguado, Giuliani, Schumann, Diabeli, Mertz, Tárrega, Falla and the artist.
Gyre 10182, 2015
Frank Wallace is a musical Renaissance man: guitarist, lutenist, composer, singer. On this fascinating disc, two of these areas are on display. Wallace the guitarist is a powerful player, possessed of an unfailing musicianship, and the composer makes a welcome entrance at the end of the program. The focus here is on a set of four “extraordinary Spanish guitars.” And they are certainly that: Manuel Gutiérrez from 1854, Manuel de Soto y Solares from around 1875, a 1910 Manuel Ramírez, and a 1964 Ignacio Fleta. It is quite a mouth-watering list. And, astonishingly, they all belong to the performer. (Long break to feel epically jealous….) Wallace has included a satisfactory program note on the relationships between these builders. If it were many times as long, I would be even happier.
So what do these historically interesting instruments sound like? In a word, great! Wallace does not play them like museum pieces. Rather, he goes all out for powerful performances with a wide dynamic range, and the guitars cooperate beautifully. Of course the whole thing would be for naught if the music were disappointing, but that is not the case. From the opening Fandango Variado by Aguado—one of the most exciting works of its period, played on the Manuel Gutiérrez—to his own works played on the Fleta, the music is wonderfully executed, with power or lyricism as needed. There is beautiful music of Mertz, Tárrega, and others, including a lovely rarity, Shaker’s Dance by W.O. Bateman (teacher of William Foden). Interestingly, Wallace plays Falla’s Omaggio rather slowly, but the sound of his Ramírez guitar brings an almost symphonic range of colors and articulations to the work. Using the Fleta, Wallace plays two of his woks to conclude the program. I particularly like Débil del Alba, whose somewhat mystifying title comes from a poem by Pablo Neruda.
Recorded sound is good, an absolute necessity for a disc like this. This will be a most enjoyable addition to your library.