SEPTEMBER 2019 | Kazu Suwa Adivinanza de la guitarra KSR Classics KSR002

SEPTEMBER 2019 | Kazu Suwa Adivinanza de la guitarra KSR Classics KSR002


I reviewed Kazu Suwa’s excellent first recording in February 2016 and I have now been enjoying his follow-up entitled Adivinanza de la Guitarra. Whilst it may lack some of its predecessor's immediate impact due to the ordering of the music and its unfamiliarity, the album is a 'grower', with a clever transition of styles from the Renaissance, to 19th and 20th century Spain and British contemporary, all carefully chosen to fit in with a singular poetic vision. The often introspective mood is beautifully captured through excellent recorded sound and Suwa's subtle guitar playing which is as before, both refined and expressive.

The album title is taken from a poem by Garcia Lorca, which can be translated as The Riddle of the Guitar, in which the artist explores the essence of the Spanish guitar in poetic rather than overtly technical terms.The spirit of Granada at around the turn of the 20th century is central to the mood and character of the album, which quite clearly falls into two parts.

Suwa’s carefully understated approach really suits the opening Renaissance trio of pieces, originally conceived for the vihuela, it sounds every bit as authentic as its played here on the guitar. He choses two Fantasias by Luis de Milán and a Sonetto by Enrique de Valderrábano, which sets the scene for a characteristic piece by Fernando Sor, Introduction et variations sur l’Air: Que ne suis-je la fougère. This piece’s title is the first line of the sentimental poem by Charles-Henri Ribouté, Les Tendres Souhaits (The Tender Wishes) set to music most probably by Pergolesi. It is a short and characteristic piece, with 4 variations, which is given an admirably restrained interpretation.

An interlude is provided in an arrangement by Suwa of a poignant piece of piano music by Edvard Grieg, Ensom Vandrer, which leads to the overtly downbeat and reflective Homenaje pour Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy by Manuel de Falla. This is the composer’s only work for guitar and draws on two music fragments which are repeated and only slightly varied, lending the piece an intense atmosphere, which is most effectively realised by Suwa.

In a sense we get to the centre-piece of the album and its concept piece The Riddle of the Guitar as we step into the modern world of the guitar, but with one foot in the past as Lorca draws parallels between the one-eyed Polyphemus ( a Greek cyclops) and the instrument, which is most ingeniously realised by the British composer Reginald Smith Brindle. The piece is titled El Prolifemo de Oro Quattro frammenti per chitarra, and set out in four movements. This is probably the best known guitar piece by Brindle who died in 2003, and whilst his idiom contrasts heavily with the other music, it is an amazing piece that deserves its considerable reputation in the avant-garde canon of guitar music. Suwa’s interpretation is one that has been deeply thought out and he gives an outstanding interpretation, which displays considerable virtuosity.

At track 16 we suddenly step out into the Andalusian sunlight with a collection of nine pieces by the Spaniard, Ángel Barrios. There are very few recorded collections of this most interesting composer’s music for guitar, and for this alone the album is worth buying. Barrios was an inspiration to de Falla, alongside Llorca, in his realisation of a flamenco inflected idiom, and helped him with fingering and technical matters on his only guitar piece, also featured on this recording. Barrios was inturn clearly affected by de Falla’s music and the poetry of Llorca, as can be heard, but was still his own man. This collection of character pieces has been very well selected, as Suwa bathes himself in the spirit of flamenco, allowing his technique to illuminate the music which is realised with total spontaneity. I confess to have repeatedly returned to this collection, which perhaps was not the artist's intention, but his playing makes the music so compelling, as he brings to life the vivid sounds of distant Granada. Just try the little gem Flor Granadina or the evocative two part Arroyos de la Alhambra.

The recording itself is to the same high standard of Kazu Suwa’s first album; the guitar sound is never forced and is given a very natural and dynamic perspective, The collection is unusual but it really is most definitely worth getting to know, and with illuminating booklet notes too, including erudite notes on Barrios by the expert, Ismael Ramos.



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