James Akers romantic guitar
Music by Giuliani, Legnani, Mertz & Sor
As lecturer in early plucked strings at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, James Akers has put together an intriguing programme of romantic guitar music inspired by the traditional music and landscapes of Scotland. In the wake of the vogue for all things Scottish which followed the publication of James MacPherson’s Ossian material, composers throughout Europe tried their hands at Scottish (or perhaps Scot-‘ish’) music, and Akers’ programme includes music by the Italian-born guitarist Mauro Giuliani, Italian opera devotee and guitar virtuoso Luigi Legnani, Spaniard Fernando Sor, and the German guitar virtuoso Johann Mertz. While the latter attempted like his compatriot Mendelssohn to recreate the Scottish landscape, and more specifically Fingal’s Cave, in music, the others wrote pieces in imitation of or variations upon Scottish airs. Employing a period guitar and two modern reconstructions, Aker’s employs his own considerable virtuosity to bring this neglected seam of music to vivid life, and he certainly captures the enthusiasm these composer’s poured into their subjects as well as hinting at the stunning techniques they must all have demonstrated as players. The warm tone of the authentic instruments is a further factor in the success of this CD. Just occasionally I feel that Akers doesn’t fully trust the resonance of his instruments, moving on too soon from some chords in the slower pieces when I would have liked him to linger just a little, but generally speaking this is a revelatory and engaging CD of music which is nowadays almost entirely unfamiliar. Akers’ erudite and wide-ranging programme notes are a real bonus.
D. James Ross