Nicholas Ciraldo

Guitar Music of Villa-Lobos Including the "1928 Manuscript"

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This album is the result of a good combination of two artists: guitarist Nicolas Ciraldo and late Brazilian legendary composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Two groups of works are included on this CD: preludes for guitar and etudes for guitar. Both require a tremendous level of technical mastery and a keen sense of musicianship, as Villa-Lobos works with unusual tonalities and harmonies that somehow magically please the ear (much like, for an odd comparison, Richard Strauss). Ciraldo confidently begins the first prelude, going right to the heart of the music with his precise, active, athletic style. Fans of classical guitar may recognize this first prelude and how Ciraldo chooses to interpret it more vigorously than other, more melancholy interpretations. This sunny quality continues into the second etude, in which the guitarist's technique is unmistakably solid. His skill is also visible in the perfectly executed rapid runs in the fourth etude. Yet Ciraldo is not only a guitarist of rapidity and liveliness; in the third etude, he presents a very different mood and character, one that is rather introspective. The Etudes for guitar are a lengthier work, with 12 short pieces in a variety of keys and atmospheres. The second etude is clearly demanding, and the ninth is quite exciting as it climaxes and crescendos. Villa-Lobos takes the listener on an auditory tour, featuring sometimes rather curious melodies and tonalities, such as in the 13th and 15th etudes. The 14th etude is very tender and poignant; Ciraldo shows that he truly understands the composer's music. Similarly, on the 16th etude, the guitarist seems to savor the chords at the beginning, and one has no doubt that Ciraldo has chosen a composer who truly suits his musical style. The final etude is supremely athletic: it is not an easy feat to be able to play this piece. Yes, Ciraldo clearly performs the piece as though it is an etude, and on occasion one might say that he tends to play the notes very exactingly and not in an extremely legato fashion. But somehow, this never seems to detract from the music anywhere on the album; the pieces do not sound merely like exercises for the guitar. The repertoire, though all by the same composer, never becomes dull or monotonous. This is the sign of a talented composer and a talented guitarist who can bring his work to life.

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