Leyendas: performances by Thibaut Garcia and Edgar Moreau

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Albeniz,Falla*,Manjón,Piazzolla,Rodrigo,Tárrega
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Leyendas
WORKS: Works by Albeniz, Manjón, Falla*, Rodrigo, Piazzolla and Tarrega
PERFORMER: Thibaut Garcia (guitar), *Edgar Moreau (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 9029595463

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The young French guitarist Thibaut Garcia impressed us with his 2014 recording of Berio, and other adventurous repertoire. This is more standard, juicy Latin stuff: ‘legends’ in every sense.

The title track sets the tone: Asturias/Leyenda (actually called ‘Prelude’ by Albéniz, and evoking hot Andalucian flamenco, not bagpipes of drizzly Asturias). Traditional Segovia-era arrangements bodge some important details (eg C for A sharp bass in the punched-chord climaxes); this smarter setting, by Garcia’s teacher Olivier Chassain, better follows both letter and spirit of the piano original.

In the vivid Falla, Garcia turns accompanist to Edgar Moreau’s singing cello. Moreau’s breathing is rather distracting, but with defiant, thrusting energy (eg the ‘Polo’) and heart-stopping sadness (‘Asturiana’, ‘Nana’) these are lovely miniatures.

The inevitable Alhambra – the guitar equivalent of compulsory-figures in skating – is dispatched consummately, and Garcia’s control saves the floridly virtuosic Manjón from rambling. Rodrigo’s dramatic homage to Falla features bell-like resonances and dignified restraint, but the disc highlight is Piazzolla’s Four Seasons. No rustic picture-postcards here – these are urban, psychological seasons. Rush-hour momentum, caffeine highs, ennui, angst and closing-time loneliness are driven powerfully by the tango in Sérgio Assad’s dazzling arrangements.

Garcia’s smooth, rich and sweet sound and impeccable virtuosity, in a spacey and warm acoustic, may not be a totally individual voice yet. But this a delight for everyone, from the curious discovering the core Latin guitar repertoire, to collectors who want the best. Because this outstandingly played, well-balanced, well-thought selection is definitely up among them.

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Rob Ainsley