Various Artists

The Ultimate Most Relaxing Guitar Music in the Universe

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Many of Denon's Ultimate double-disc compilations feature examples of guitar music, but The Ultimate Most Romantic Guitar Music in the Universe is the collection most fans of the instrument should consider first. This twofer is worthwhile for a couple of reasons, namely, its generous representation of the label's premier guitarists and its surprising mix of familiar classics and less obvious selections. Such fine artists as Sharon Isbin, Shin-ichi Fukuda, and Machiko Kikuchi provide the lion's share of the program, though Alexander-Sergei Ramirez and Vladimir Mikulka are also included on this 27-track album, so there is considerable variety in the interpretations and playing styles. The best-known composers in the guitar repertoire are accounted for, as well, notably Francisco Tárrega, Fernando Sor, Joaquín Rodrigo, and Isaac Albéniz, among a number of other classical composers whose original guitar pieces and arrangements of their keyboard works fill out the survey. The chief problem of the recordings is the inconsistency of sound quality, which alternates between clean and focused on the one hand, and hazy and highly echoic on the other; furthermore, either the guitar is heard absolutely clearly, or it is somewhat obscured by heavy breathing or other extraneous sounds. These problems may be overlooked if the discs are played softly as background music, but they are quite noticeable when heard on headphones or at a high volume.

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