Mauro Giuliani – Guitar Concerto No1 in A
Maria Castelnuovo-Tedesco – Guitar Concerto No1 in D
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra
Narciso Yepes, Luis Antonio Garcia Navarro (cond.) LSO/ECO
Pentatone/Philips (Original Recording1977)
SACD PTC 5186 202
Narciso Yepes is probably best known, at least in audiophile circles, for his highly-regarded and highly collectable recording of the Rodrigo Concierto De Aranjuez on Alhambra/Decca (SCLL 14000). But that is just one highpoint of a stellar and prolific recording career that saw a flood of albums released, mainly on Decca and DGG. However, in the late ‘70s he also recorded a number of discs with Philips. Those tapes, including this one, were licensed by Pentagram who released them (along with a slew of other attractive Philips titles, including the Colin Davis Tosca) on SACD and now high-res download. In the case of Quadraphonic recordings like this, the multi-channel option has also been retained, although the two-channel fold-down has been deftly executed.
I have long believed that the Philips classical and Living Baroque recordings have been underrated and under-priced in the second-hand market. With a superb roster of artists and orchestras, performances are generally excellent while the recordings are warm and spacious with notably natural (rather than exaggerated) perspectives. This one is no exception and whilst you might be tempted by the Rodrigo disc, it would be a mistake to overlook these less familiar works. The earliest piece, the Giulini (premiered in 1808), is lively and interesting, but it is the later works, especially the Villa-Lobos that really stand out. The works of Rodrigo and Tedesco, often played by Segovia and later Yepes, fuelled the rising popularity of the guitar as a solo instrument in the mid-20thcentury. In the case of Yepes, the range, attack and sensitivity of his playing that makes the Rodrigo disc so desirable is just as evident here. Listen to the second movement of the Tedesco to appreciate the delicacy and emotional range he brings to his performance, a range and technique that extends to embrace the very different, eclectic and varied demands of the Villa-Lobos. The soloist is captured up close but still in proportion to the orchestra, the slightly spotlit positioning suiting these virtuoso pieces perfectly.
Beautifully played and captured with a natural sense of warmth and space, this is not necessarily a disc you’d pull out to impress your audio buddies or non-audio visitors. Instead it is music and a performance that is so enjoyable and rewarding that it almost rates as a guilty pleasure.