Five Recent Classical Guitar Albums of Merit

Asian guitar phenom Xuefei Yang brings her impeccable technique and expressive tone to a truly admirable project: the complete works for guitar by noted composer John Brunning. Seldom has the classical guitar succeed in being recorded with orchestra as purely as this outing. Brunning is primarily known as a broadcaster, but is an experienced guitarist himself and a talented composer. In Xuefei Yang he has found a superb interpreter. The sonic quality achieved here is a treasure, and the music memorable. Highly recommended.

The winner of two Latin Grammy Awards in 2022 for this album, Berta Rojas is a Peruvian guitarist whose work has been highly regarded for decades. She may best described as “a guitarist’s guitarist” for the unfailing beauty of her tone, and the precision of her playing. She has been studying the guitar since the age of 10, and recording for more than 30 years, displaying a poetic expressiveness that has been the envy of serious guitarists the world over. If your library has confined itself to older classics from Segovia, Bream, or Williams, you owe it to yourself to hear Legado.

Mak Grgic is a young Grammy nominated artist who is making a mark on the worldwide stage. Known for his collaborative flamenco performances, and also as an opening act for k.d. lang, he has also recorded an album dedicated to Bach. That album featured ancient tuning close to that used by Bach. This latest release entitled Peaceful features his own compositions and reveals an unknown side. Some might call it new age, but that would belie Grgic’s melodic talent and willingness to take the classical guitar beyond the traditional, though not its appeal.

Carlo Fierens has been described as one of the most engaging artists of the guitar”, as capable of delivering an evening of Romantic music inspired by Paganini, or as in this release, delving deep into the compositions of Napoleon Coste. This is the fourth volume in his explorations of the works of Coste, who was the leading French guitar virtuoso for most of the 19th century. Coste published dozens of works and edited the pedagogy of his former teacher Fernando Sor. Fierens excels at this repertoire, and is to be congratulated on his dedication and execution to this important project.

Sean Shibe is a Scottish classical guitarist of deserved renown, and has ventured into the Lost & Found album with an unusual instrument: a Fender Stratocaster. Can the electric and the nylon string worlds be reconciled? This album answers the question brilliantly. The sounds are ethereal and mysterious, the compositions inspired by the likes of William Blake, Meredith Monk, Chick Corey and Oliver Messiean. There is no trace of the traditional classical guitar repertoire, nor of the sound of Shibe’s Bert Kwakkel Merula Special guitar. What has emerged is an organic development that began several years ago. This is an exploration worth the journey.

Brian Miller

Brian Miller is the Publisher and Editor of Vivascene, which he founded in 2010. A former record store owner, business executive and business writer, he is devoted to vinyl records, classical guitar, and b&w photography.

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