New Classical Tracks: the guitar works of Ponceby Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
Manuel M. Ponce: Complete Works for Guitar, Vol. 2 -- Eladio Scharron (Centaur 2701)
St. Paul, Minn. — One of the most important composers writing for the guitar in the early 20th century was Manuel Ponce. During the early 1920s he produced some of his best works, a result of his new-found friendship with guitar virtuoso Andres Segovia. In a letter to Ponce, Segovia mentioned that he was only the third non-guitarist ever to compose new works for the guitar. (The others were Federico Moreno Torroba and_Manuel de Falla.) A number of ambitious pieces came out of the Ponce-Segovia collaboration, and several of those are featured on this new release with guitarist Eladio Scharron.
Eladio Scharron is a world-renowned guitarist and a music professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He was born into a family of well-known guitarists in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico. Prior to completing his doctorate in 1997 at the Eastman School of Music, he studied in Paris. Manuel Ponce lived in Paris when he composed most of the works on this recording. In 1925, at age 43, he moved there from his native Mexico to study with Paul Dukas.
Two years earlier, Ponce and Andres Segovia met for the first time in Mexico City. Segovia was giving a recital and Ponce wrote the newspaper review. He described Segovia as an invaluable collaborator with young composers writing for the guitar. Shortly thereafter, Ponce composed his first guitar piece, the "Sonata Mexicana." Segovia wrote a letter to Ponce thanking him for being one of the first composers to answer his call for new music that would help to re-establish the guitar as a concert instrument. The refined flavor of the "Sonata Mexicana" comes from the composer's unique harmonic style, his use of counterpoint, and the inclusion of Mexican folk elements.
In all of the works on this CD, including the "Sonata Mexicana," it's the composer's attraction to a good melody that really piques my attention. Eladio Scharron plucks and strums his way through these demanding works on a guitar that was handmade by French luthier Dominique Field. From his instrument, Scharron produces a warm, inviting tone, which makes the melodies that much more memorable.
The style of the sonatas on this new recording is fairly eclectic, sometimes borrowing from composers of the past. Fernando Sor, Francisco Tarrega and Franz Schubert are each represented in sonatas by Manuel Ponce. My favorite is the "Sonata Romantica," which is an homage to Schubert. Schubert had a gift for melody so it's no wonder Manuel Ponce looked to that composer for inspiration. Each of the four movements is like a song, and together they form a cycle in which the guitar sings through the poetic lines.
Eladio Scharron's finger-style guitar playing is most impressive. How he keeps up with all the notes on the page is sometimes amazing, yet his approach is very gentle, never sounding forced. Through varied dynamics and appropriate tempo changes, Scharron creates a vast palette of moods. Chances are you'll find something on this new release that matches the mood you're looking for.