MENG

20170916-meng-su-sophie-zhai-3-

TONAR MUSIC (for those who still don’t recognize the name) is THE source for recordings of music for the guitar by both recognized masters, like its founder, Manuel Barrueco, and early career, up and coming young artists like Meng Su, whose name gives this TONAR CD, her first solo one its title.

Meng opens the CD with John Willians’ Avner’s Theme from the film, Munich. It is a laid back, autumnally melancholy start to a varied program that traverses several countries and eras.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco penned his Sonata Omaggio a Boccherini as a loving homage to a fellow Italian like him who, over two centuries ago had a larger success abroad than in his native Italy. Boccherini’s life-long sojourn in Spain turned into a voluntary one, while Tedesco’s choice to abandon his native Italy just as Mussolini’s racial laws were becoming insufferable was a matter of survival.

The formidable maestro went on to write extensively (film scores) for Hollywood and large compositions (concerti for Heifetz and Piatigorsky), but music for the guitar remained closest to his heart, and that heart along with imagination and elegance are present in this four-movement, sixteen minute sonata in which the 20th century Italian melodist meets the 18th century Baroque craftsman in an exquisitely played reading by the young Chinese guitarist.

Meng follows with two miniatures by the ever popular Spanish master, Francisco Tarrega: Grand Vals and Rosita, which she plays with a stylistic assurance well beyond her years.

J.S. Bach wrote his Lute Suite No. 4 in E Major. Bach’s editor calls it BWV 1006a and groups it with other suites for the (we assume) viola da braccio, an instrument which is to the guitar like one of those cousins we have never met is to some of us. The par dessus violas of the 1600’s and 1700’s or their lighter da braccio cousins were primarily bowing instruments. A guitar you strum or you pluck and or whatever else you do with it, but one does not bow it. Meng plays Bach’s technical obstacle course with complete technical command and utter musicality, as if the Leipzig master had conceived it just for her.

Sir William Walton was as English a composer as ever came walking down the country lane, so it was at first a surprise and then a source of delight to hear the Five Bagatelles that the august Brit wrote for the guitar. In this set of five playful ditties in the salon vein Meng infuses her playing with flair great fun. The album (TONAR 60701) closes with another charming composition by John Williams: Rounds.

As usual the engineering and the packaging are vintage TONAR. More about the album and its artist at MenSuGuitar.com

Rafael de Acha                    November 1, 2017

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