Classical CD Reviews

ISAAC ALBENIZ: Suite Iberia – Arranged and played by The Brazilian Guitar Quartet – Delos

World premiere recording of the complete piano cycle transferred to four guitars

Published on July 12, 2007

ISAAC ALBENIZ: Suite Iberia – Arranged and played by The Brazilian Guitar Quartet – Delos
ISAAC ALBENIZ: Suite Iberia – Arranged and played by The Brazilian Guitar Quartet – Delos DE 3364, 76:16 ****:

Iberia is a major cycle of piano pieces in four books of three pieces each. Many pianists have recorded part of it or the complete series – including Claudio Arrau and Alicia de Larrocha. Some of the pieces have been arranged by both Arbos and Surinach for orchestra, and with their very colorful writing translate as though originally written orchestrally. Some of Iberia’s pieces evoke the sound of the Spanish guitar and therefore some also have been arranged for from one to three guitars.

This arrangement of all 12 selections in the collection appears to be the first for guitar quartet – carried out by the performers on this recording, the Brazilian Guitar Quartet. Since they first appeared outside of Brazil in 1999 they have become a much sought-after ensemble. Their previous Delos recordings include two albums of music by Brazilian composers and their own arrangement of Bach’s Orchestral Suites – as astonishing an undertaking as this Albeniz suite.

Albeniz made use of all the technical facilities of the grand piano in his original pieces, but the single guitar arrangements of some of them have become more familiar than the piano originals.  These arrangements took the guitar-like figurations found in the music – strumming, arpeggios, chording similar to flamenco music – and expanded on them to convert to playing on the guitar instead of the piano. The Spanish folk origins of the melodies are more strongly brought to the fore on the guitar than on the piano since the guitar is so central to Spanish musical culture.  The guitar quartet transcriptions just enlarge this approach and allow for filling out the “orchestrations” on the four instruments. Two of the members employ 6-string guitars and the other two play on 8-string guitars. This is an engaging and captivating musical experience.

The dozen pieces are: Evocacion, El Puerto, Corpus Christi en Sevilla, Rondena, Almeria, Triana, El Albaicin, El Polo, Lavapies, Malaga, Jerez, Eritana.

 - John Sunier




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