David Russell is a Scottish guitarist, veteran of more than 20 album releases, a master technician, and a performer with an instinctive hold on an audience's attention. Though not known as a Renaissance specialist, he delivers an effective Renaissance program here -- not entirely one of the "favorites" advertised on the cover, and that's what makes the program work. He plays them all on the guitar, somehow (probably with a capo and tuning adjustments of some kind) making it sound rather like a lute. There are indeed some favorites here, by John Dowland, including the lugubrious Semper Dowland Semper Dolens and Lachrimae pavan. One English rock star said that the beauty of England is that there you can be gloomy if you feel like it, an attitude that goes all the way back to Dowland. That composer's works are surrounded, however, by Spanish and Italian works of a different tenor, resulting in a three-act structure that moves through dark-colored, quasi-improvisatory pieces, variations, contrapuntal works called fantasias (or "fancies"), and dances. Russell does not put himself front and center as a virtuoso; his approach is quieter, but his skill shows itself in the flawlessly smooth ornaments that decorate the Dowland pieces. Another attraction of this disc is its sound; recording a solo guitar is the black belt of recording engineering, but Telarc manages to put you in the front few rows listening to Russell without putting you inside his shirt sleeves.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The woods so wild, variations for keyboard, MB 85|