Joseph Bacon

Guitar Music of Villa-Lobos

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Classical guitarist Joseph Bacon's Guitar Music of Villa-Lobos seemed like the most atypical release on the 1750 Arch label when it first appeared on LP in 1978, given as that concern was most frequently associated with Conlon Nancarrow and other types of more obviously "experimental" music. Atypical, but not wholly out of place -- Heitor Villa-Lobos' small catalog of works for solo guitar were considered shocking and revolutionary in their time, and not everyone in the classical guitar realm was terribly enthusiastic about them when they were new. The discovery of an early manuscript of the Estudios in the mid-'90s revealed that legendary virtuoso Andrés Segovia refused to take on this now-famous cycle of pieces until Villa-Lobos agreed to radical changes in the musical text. This must have irked Villa-Lobos to no end, as he was a good guitarist himself who could play the Estudios as well as anyone.

Bacon's 1978 recital appeared at a time when there was practically nothing else in the market to challenge it. By the time it re-appeared on CD 25 years later on Mutable Music, Thomas Buckner's successor label to the by-then-long-defunct 1750 Arch, there were a few more instances of all-Villa-Lobos guitar discs in the marketplace, but not many, and none as desirable as this. Recorded in a small chapel in Anselmo, CA, with state of the art analog gear cum 1978, this recital of Bacon's has a lovely, warm, reverberant acoustic, but is not placed too far away in the distance. Neither is the guitar "in your face"; its perspective is right where it belongs, as if one were sitting the first or second row at an intimate recital. Bacon is simply without peer in the performance and interpretation of the Villa-Lobos guitar cycle as an entity unto itself. At 48 minutes the Mutable Music disc runs a tad short for many subscribers to the "music by the yard" theorem, but for an all-Villa-Lobos recital, with a good single-disc selection of the main repertoire, this is as good as it gets.

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