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FEBRUARY 2016: Kazu Suwa | Guitar Recital

FEBRUARY 2016: Kazu Suwa | Guitar Recital

By RAY PICOT

 

Kazu Suwa’s self-released debut album of Spanish and Latin American guitar music is an ambitious traversal of a much-performed idiom. For me the risk of including 22 relatively short pieces over a generous 76 minutes pays off, when we are treated to this succession of beautifully-conceived and thoughtful performances. The pieces flow seamlessly from one to the next, so it works on that level as well as from self-selections. I will also add at this point, with so many pieces included, it would not be appropriate to burden the reader with a dissection of each work. However, if you wish to sample this lovely disc, the guitarist’s website offers you the opportunity to listen to part of each piece: www.kazu-classicalguitar.co.uk.

This young Japanese guitarist was a new name to me and from his biography I learned that he studied in his home country before embarking on studies at the Madrid Royal Conservatory, and now lives in London. The international critiques that I have seen concur that he is a name to watch, with consistently positive comments on this album and his performances. There is no doubt that Kazu Suwa has a superb technique but it is consistently at the service of the music, imbuing his readings with much poetic vision.

The composers selected on this recording and in general order of playing are Tárrega, Fleury, Reis, Ayala, Barrios, Garoto, Sor, Mompou and Villa-Lobos, demonstrating the guitarist’s wide ranging repertoire and depth of knowledge of this idiom. Clearly there are some stand-out names but my no means all composers are obvious choices and there is a clear avoidance of including the usual crowd-pleasers. The music is all tonal and approachable but with performances that show a scrupulous attention to detail without the loss of any spontaneity.

Listening to other performances of this music I was struck that Kazu Suwa has a good knowledge of classic performances, and that he clearly follows this tradition and avoids maverick renditions. Nonetheless, the interpretations have much individuality and the choice of tempi always seemed right and suited the guitarist’s poetic outlook on the music. At no time does he dash off a piece without consideration. He is not afraid of silence and offers performances that show much inner detail, with sometimes a touch of slower tempi, without interrupting the music’s natural flow. His performances of Tarraga’s 'Lágrima' and 'Gran vals' and 'Caprichio árabe' exemplifies this - in fact, I found his understanding of the Spanish guitar master to be an absolute joy, which perhaps explained his inclusion of 6 pieces. There was some excellent rhythmic bite shown in his performances of 3 Villa-Lobos pieces, and the rendition of Sor’s  fantasia, 'Les Adieu’, demonstrated a fluid understanding of the classical idiom. Abel Fleury’s 'Milongueo del ayer’ was performed with great zest and reminded me that this composer remains inexplicably under-performed. Only two arrangements were included, both being of piano music by Mompou, taken from his exquisite cycle of 'Songs and Dances' . These proved to be very successful, being transcribed by the guitarist and Alirio Díaz.

My only wish is that some pieces with a little more harmonic bite and that lasted longer could have been included, but perhaps that will be for the next disc. This recording, however, is excellent, with the guitar placed very well without being too closely mic’d. Robert Mattew-Walker’s erudite and detailed booklet notes are an added bonus and crown a release that deserves to be widely heard. 

 

 

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