Review: Súplica by Duo Amaral

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Súplica by Duo Amaral
www.duoamaral.com

Buy or listen to samples:
Listen to Súplica

“Duo Amaral, launched in 2008 by Jorge Amaral and Mia Pomerantz-Amaral, are classical guitarists who are gaining momentum and steadily attracting audiences in the USA and abroad, and their reputation is growing with each recital and master class. Duo Amaral has been described by Il Messaggero Veneto as “masterful, with poetic virtuosity and intensity of expression”. Tim Healy of the Marlow Guitar Series, Washington, DC describes their recent performance as evincing “…the majesty of the guitar…” ” via duoamaral.com

Repertoire:

  • Sonata In D Major K 119 by Domenico Scarlatti
  • Sonata in E minor K 147 by Domenico Scarlatti
  • L’encouragement Op. 34: by Fernando Sor
  • Saggio by Victor Manuel Amaral Ramirez
  • Danzas del Ballet Estancia by Alberto Ginastera
  • Tonadilla by Joaquin Rodrigo

The debut recording by Duo Amaral secures the duo a place in the good books of any listener. These mature and well rehearsed guitarists provide solid and musical interpretations of some classic works as well as new arrangements by Duo Amaral. Overall, the performances are very musical and well thought-out. The variety of textures, articulations, and range of timbres are all there. It’s a very strong debut with great playing and much variety in repertoire. The album has a Spanish and Latin America theme that spans the centuries.

The recording quality is warm and very high quality offering a nice variety of lush sounds mixed with glassy clarity in the treble range. The sound is great, however, if I had to be picky I do question their choice of the mix. The close mic picks up just a bit too much finger noise from the right hand and also gives the album a ‘closer-than-life’ sound which leads the ear to a studio feel rather than a hall. Traditionalists might prefer more sound from a far mic in the room, or, if possible, more reverb from a larger hall. Nevertheless, the sound is great for what it is and may even be preferable for many listeners.

The repertoire spans from Spanish influence Baroque, to Classical variations by Sor, to Rodrigo’s crunchy twentieth century work. The duo seems comfortable in all periods and with all the repertoire.

The Scarlatti has some beautiful pacing with unrelenting tempos as well as cadenza/improvisatory sections. The two sonatas, assumed to be arranged from the harpsichord by the duo (although Scarlatti rarely needs much ‘arranging’ at all) work well and contain some of the best ensemble work on the album. The ensemble really nails destination points well, especially after exciting scale work. I love the way they captured the role of chords which sound very similar to the harpsichord. The ornamentation also really speaks harpsichord, that, combined with the subtle nature of the guitar make these very successful. Domenico Scarlatti, for those of you who may not know, was a Italian composer and son of composer Alessandro Scarlatti. Domenico spent much of his composing life writing for the Spanish court and was influenced by Spanish (Iberian) folk music making the repertoire fit nicely with the album’s theme.

I’m not a big fan of Sor’s duo works but because this duo is so successful on the instrument it is hard not to get caught up in its charms. The work demands a great deal from both parts and the duo is certainly up for the challenge. The duo’s musicality shines with the slow variations and their risky tempos on the fast variations showcases the mature but exciting flavour of their virtuosity. One of the few classical style theme and variations written for guitar. Charming…

Saggio by Victor Manuel Amaral Ramirez is a work composed by Jorge’s father transcribed from various works for other instrumentation. The transfer to guitar worked very well and the virtuosic element can fool one to believe it was idiomatic to the guitar. An unassuming and lyrical middle movement from which the album takes its title is particularity pretty.

The other arrangements on the album are the Danzas del Ballet Estancia by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. Listeners will love these arrangements by the duo and Martinez Zarata for their lyrical quality and the very energetic Pequeña at the end of the set. I’m not sure these are all that convincing on guitar but I do love Ginastera and the they are well performed so no complaints here. They do offer a nice foray into South America before jumping back to Spain for the work by Rodrigo.

The Tonadilla is a great work that is performed often but recorded less. The duo makes all the choices I was hoping for. They emphasize risk and excitement over cleanliness. That risk is showcased by almost not pulling off some the scale passages in the Allegro Vivace. However the result of ‘playing on the edge’ is one of excitement rather than disappointment. It would be nice if they could maintain their tone quality and evenness in those fast passages (again this could be the result of the very close mic mix) but at the same time the contrast to the lush arpeggiated sections is very effective. Some great articulation in the staccato textures and good utilization of textural contrasts. Fun stuff!

Conclusion

This is one hell of a great debut! Duo Amaral has the musicality and virtuosity to woo and wow listeners! An exciting album with lush colour and exciting repertoire. I loved the Scarlatti, Rodrigo, and surprisingly, the Amaral Ramirez. The Sor and Ginastera also have their charms and present a nice contrast. I really look forward to more from this duo. Bravo!

Buy or listen to samples:
Listen to Súplica



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