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Classical Music Review

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Verdi's Guitar
Fantasies for Solo Guitar


Composer: J. K. Mertz
Based on operas by: Giuseppe Verdi
Performed by: Alan Rinehart
Label: Ravello Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 13 October 2017

Ravello Records presents Verdi's Guitar, an album by guitarist Alan Rinehart made up of six fantasies for solo guitar by 19th-century composer guitarist/composer Josef (Johann) Kaspar Mertz. Each fantasy is based on an opera of the great Giuseppe Verdi, including such famous works as Nabucco, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata.

The six Verdi fantasies are taken from a larger Mertz collection of 34 similar pieces based on operas, called Opern-Revue (Op.8). These “revues” were not unlike works for piano by composers such as Liszt, which were arrangements of or fantasies on popular operatic arias. Both these and Mertz’s revues responded to the popular demand of the opera “experience” adapted for a small, private setting. Mertz’s revues are more ambitious, however - they adapt not just a single aria, but the entire opera, compressing a large-scale, 2–3 hour production into a 10–15 minute piece medley for solo guitar. Each revue is essentially a medley consisting of an introduction, arias (with variation), and dramatic high points. Mertz’s Verdi fantasies are even more impressive, considering Verdi’s mid-19th century status as a leading composer of dramatic opera. Mertz retains Verdi’s drama and flair, but also adds an element of intimacy by distilling the operas down to minimal voices in the solo guitar.

Rinehart navigates both of these qualities in his historically-informed performances. His interpretations embrace the free lyricism afforded to a solo piece, resulting in new perspectives on Verdi’s masterpieces.

It was interesting to hear Rinehart's interpretation here of the original pieces. The album's six pieces (1 hr, 10 min, 47 sec) represent a wonderful presentation of a long forgotten era of music. It's fascinating to hear how fresh these pieces sound and while it's obvious they weren't written in the present day, there's an almost timeless quality present in most of them. You could certainly believe that 'Nabucco' was written in the last 50 years (it was actually penned back in 1842).

For those who enjoy romantic, classical guitar pieces then this will be right up your street.


Darren Rea

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