James Akers romantic guitar, Gary Branch fortepiano
Music by Carulli, Diabelli, Giuliani & Moscheles
This charming CD takes us evocatively into the Viennese salon of the early 19th century with a programme of domestic repertoire for guitar and fortepiano. It is a genre of which I was hitherto completely ignorant, and the surprise is how well the sounds of period fortepiano and romantic guitar blend, a powerful argument if such needs to be made for the correct use of period instruments. This might incidentally be the moment where I lament the demise of the Finchcocks Museum, where this recording was made, making it the last in a noble tradition. Knowing nothing of the circumstances, I feel that its almost unique assemblage of period keyboard should perhaps be the sort of resource that should be saved for the nation. The 1826 Conrad Graf fortepiano featured here offers a delightful range of tone qualities, while James Akers’ original 1820 Saumier guitar and a 2015 Panormo copy have a distinctive and gentle timbre. Incidentally both the fortepiano and the guitars also get a chance to shine in solo repertoire. With the exception of Diabelli (he of the variations) and the ubiquitous Moscheles, who seems to have sat at the centre of music-making in this era like a spider at the centre of a Europe-wide web, the other two composers represented, Ferdinando Carulli and Mauro Giuliani, are unfamiliar. Their music is jaunty and tuneful rather than profound, but understandably this was the sort of repertoire the Viennese who attended operettas and waltzed the night away at the city’s year-round balls wanted to play and hear in their drawing rooms. As in previous programmes, James Akers demonstrates great musicality and an awesome technique, while his partner Gary Branch handles the various features of the Graf fortepiano with panache, making it sing beautifully or almost whisper depending on the requirements of the music. The intimate acoustic of Finchcocks is probably just right for this repertoire, and if you feel rich enough you can plan your own concerts and recordings there as the property is currently for sale.
D. James Ross