Michael Erni

Francisco Tárrega: Jota

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Once known only to fans of Segovia or perhaps a few other classical guitarists, the music of Francisco Tárrega has received a flood of recordings. Optimists would point to the general revival and positive revaluation of Spanish music as the reason, cynics to the fact that a solo guitar recording poses few financial and logistical challenges to a recording label in a time of financial crisis. No doubt the truth lies somewhere in between, but anyone who enjoys guitar music has benefited from this development. Known as the Sarasate of the guitar, Tárrega used Spanish rhythms more as a seasoning than as a structural principle, but his short works are very attractive, with grand gestures and memorable melodies. One of those melodies, a snatch of the consequent phrase in the opening bars of the Gran Vals (track 3), was memorable enough to have been adopted as the default ringtone for Nokia cell phones, thus making it into one of the most familiar snatches of music on the planet. The performance here by Swiss guitarist Michael Erni, intentionally or not, treats the passage in a way that obscures the familiar tune; he plays the opening eighth notes of the melody's three 3/4 measures almost as grace notes. That's about the only complaint to be found, however, in hearing this fine Tárrega recital, which gets across the feeling that this was music intended to be played for large crowds. Erni effectively contrasts heavy, taut rhythms in the opening Jota with delicate, sensitively hesitant rubato in the slower, more melodic passages. A bonus here is the presence of five transcriptions by Tárrega at the end of the program; these would have been part of any recital played by the guitarist himself but are less familiar than his short solo pieces. These are interesting for the way they completely remake the music involved to suit the guitar and its recital settings, the final Bach/Gounod Ave Maria especially so. With superb sound (the location is cryptically specified only as "Umo, CH-4654, Lostorf") that makes you feel the guitarist's presence but doesn't wear you down with extraneous noise, this is a standout among Tárrega releases of the new millennium's first decade.

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