Zoran Dukic

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: 24 Caprichos de Goya

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The back cover blurb for Naxos' Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: 24 Caprichios de Goya for Guitar, Op. 195, informs us that Croatian guitarist Zoran Dukic has "won more first prizes in international competitions than anyone else in the world." Really? Naxos does afford its artists a good amount of latitude in preparing the booklets, and here Naxos has extended more credit to Dukic than many, including, on its own individual page, each of the 24 Goya illustrations that inspired Castelnuovo-Tedesco to the create the 24 pieces making up one of the longest solo guitar cycles in history. This makes for a thick booklet that is hard to get in and out of the case without causing some damage to it. In addition to being "long," 24 Caprichios de Goya is also difficult to program as its common performance time of about 80 minutes is just slightly longer than a standard CD is able to accommodate. Here it is divided between two CDs in a performance lasting 82 and a half minutes.

Dukic's chest-thumping is not without some merit; he certainly is a very good player with technique to burn, and Dukic plays Castelnuovo-Tedesco's cycle with grand flourishes and more than a little virtuousness; double stops flare outward, parallel passagework sounds exactly together, single-note lines sing out cantabile. However, 24 Caprichios de Goya is not, at least in its entirety, a virtuoso piece; a fair amount of it is relatively simple and even plain, and playing it as though it's going to stop the show -- without some measure of sensitivity -- makes those plain parts stand out. Overall, Dukic's recording is fine -- it's a little shallow on the low end -- but Lily Afshar's Summit recording, made in 1994, still rather rules the roost when it comes to the 24 Caprichios; it is warmer, there is no hot-dogging, it has more depth, is sparkling when it needs to be, and holds back when that's appropriate. Neither of these last attributes can comfortably apply to Dukic's recording, yet this important work of Castelnuovo-Tedesco is recorded so infrequently that no one can reasonably object to any recording of relative merit, particularly one as proficient and professionally polished as is Dukic's.

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