Japanese Gendai Guitar Magazine reviews Guitar’s TOP 100 in May 2014 issue! (Excerpts in English)

Gendai review“One can enjoy data on each piece of the TOP 100 and color pictures of contemporary guitarists. TOP 60 is Yuqihiro Yocoh’s Sakura Variations. It includes the same and a color picture of the composer. This is a pleasurable book that will bring enjoyment to the reader.”

Translation Jasmine Poissenot


Villa-Lobos Anniversary

The summer 2017 issue of Classical Guitar Magazine (classicalguitarmagazine.com) mentioned the 60th anniversary (in 2016) of the premiere of the Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra (1951) by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) on February 6, 1956.

A long-time favourite of music-lovers, the great Brazilian’s guitar output is often part of the TOP 100 of the guitar’s most recorded music:

TOP 4 Chôro No. 1 in E minor (1920)

TOP 9 From Five Preludes (1940): Prelude No. 1 in E minor

TOP 16 From Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 (1947): Aria (cantilena)

TOP 17 From 12 Studies For Guitar (1929): Study No. 11 in E minor

TOP 22 From Suite Populaire Brésilienne (1908-1912): I Mazurka-Chôro

TOP 75 Distribuição de flôres (1932) W 381

My wish for the future is to see his Concerto be part of the TOP 100. At the time of publishing Guitar’s TOP 100, I could only find 27 recordings of this marvellous piece !

CG Discography? What for?

As you might know, the basis of my book, “Guitar’s TOP 100. A guide to classical guitar’s most recorded music”, is a computerized discography of soon 14, 000 recordings. This means a reader knows how many recordings exist of each of the 555 pieces that are suggested in the book.

Now, is this information just for me? No. For example, I recently helped out 2 Norwegian students for lectures. One on Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Sonata, the other on Britten’s Nocturnal and Tippett’s The Blue Guitar Sonata. I provided the accurate (to my knowledge) discographical information they needed and I did it fast. So, this is an example of what I can do for you or your Master or Doctoral students.

Here are more examples of the reasons one can have to contact your friendly neighbourhood discographer:

Choose your title wisely!

You are a budding professional guitarist and will soon publish your first CD. Why should you ponder on a title? Because it makes it easier to find and sell on the internet. Because it is easier for a customer to memorize a well-chosen title. Because it gives a link or unity to all the pieces you will play on your CD. Forget “Guitar recital” as a title, it has been used 221 times and chances are your customers will not find it on the net because it is too general and lacks focus. “Dream” and derivatives (dreaming, dreamer…) 67 times. Fandango, 25; Fire 19; Voyage 18 etc..

Claims. Make sure you are sure!

A record company recently claimed theirs was the first recording of Napoléon Coste’s 25 Studies, Op. 38. False! They put the fourth set, not the first, of the complete Op. 38 on the market.

Get the idea? Write!



Toronto Guitar Weekend

My wife Marie-Anne and I were in Toronto last April 16, 2016 to sell my book at the Toronto Guitar Weekend. This city saw the beginning of my Computerized Classical Guitar  Discography, in 1985. We met great people in Toronto among which Cuban guitarist Iliana Matos. Her gorgeous recording of fellow countryman Eduardo Martín’s Para soñar contigo is recommended in the book.  Thank you to Chantal Bresse Wilson (Toronto Guitar Society) and Éric Dussault (Productions d’Oz) for the pictures.

A Russian Sonata to cherish

My interest in Edison Denisov’s (1929-1996) Guitar Sonata (1981) grew after hearing his marvellous Sonata for Flute and Guitar of 1977 (of which I found 5 recordings) but I never could get my hands on the first and only recording of this sonata by German guitarist Reinbert Evers. Having recently been recorded by Xingye Li (ClassicClips No. CLCL 126, 2014) I could finally hear it, and what a treat !

Edison is one of the leaders of the post-Shostakovich generation of composers in Russia comprising Schnittke and Gubaidulina, both of which have written for the guitar.

Edison’s sonata is in three movements: I. Toccata • II. Berceuse • III. Souvenir d’Espagne

The first movement is a toccata exposing forceful musical ideas in the form of relentless arpeggios that explore the bass, middle and high registers of the instrument leading to an abrupt ending.

In sharp contrast with the restless first movement, the second, Berceuse (lullaby), shows a contemplative, bittersweet and appropriately soothing atmosphere where time is suspended each time chords are slowly strummed at the end of phrases.

The third movement, Memories of Spain, starts with rasgueados that sound almost brutal after the quiet Berceuse. Any existing Spanish memories in the composer’s mind seem somewhat distorted and it is more in the gesture (use of rasgueado, recognisable rhythmic procedures) that one can refer to Spain. Again, this movement ends abruptly.

In my opinion, this sonata is quite a find. It is strong and full of character and if you feel comfortable with the language of Brouwer’s Sonata of 1991 or Michael Tippett’s The Blue Guitar Sonata (1983) you will have no problems in making a new friend. Denisov has also composed In Deo speravit cor meum for violin, guitar and organ (recorded once with flute, guitar and organ) and, to my knowledge, a never recorded Guitar Concerto (1991). Of course, Xingye Li’s interpretation is gorgeous (listen to excerpts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/xingye-li/id883277994)

Keeping The Guitar’s Tradition Alive 1

My work as a discographer consists in gathering any information I can find on classical guitar recordings, of course, and include it in my computerized discography (13, 600+ recordings). For this, I rely a lot on the Internet and I must say that it is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. A blessing, when I find very complete information about the composers, titles, times, guitars played, etc. A curse, when on such important websites as itunes.apple.com, cdbaby.com, qobuz.com and many others, I rarely see the names of the composers associated to their pieces.

I then have extra work: listening to the pieces to identify the composers or find the email of the artists and ask them. If I am lucky someone answers my letters, if not…

Sometimes I wonder if in ten or fifteen years from now, people will remember at all who composed Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Torija or Campanas del Alba (Tárrega, Torroba, Eduardo Sainz de la Maza) or if everything, in that future musical limbo, will just be one big streaming tune. So, if you are a recording artist, please help us to keep the guitar’s tradition alive: make sure to include the complete info on your own website first and, if possible, elsewhere too.

Happy 2016!

I would like to thank the readership of Guitar’s TOP 100. The book has now been shipped in 22 countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New-Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto-Rico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the USA.

My wish for 2016 and the 21st Century is that not only the guitar community, but the international music community is made more aware of the guitar’s amazing original repertoire. I wish its music to be listened to, appreciated, treasured and shared more. Thank you for trusting this author and Happy 2016!

In Need of Uplifting Music

As days are growing shorter and colder, at least in this part of the world (Canada), one really needs to seek any remnants of light left. So lets get a piece of sun where there is plenty: Australia and Brazil!

My sunny, uplifting pieces of music today are three:

From Brazil, Paulo Bellinati’s (1950-) Jongo (1978) is the TOP 86 most recorded piece for guitar. This good-humoured piece has melodies constantly shifting from lower to upper registers, a section in harmonics and a surprising improvised hand percussion episode performed on different parts of the guitars’ bodies. [Benjamin Beirs (guitar); Maud Laforest (guitar) Self-production 885767585140 http://www.duotransatlantique.com]

From Brazil again, Radamés Gnattali’s (1906-1988) Sonata for cello and guitar (1969), presents a good mix of fun and content across its three movements. The instruments are really equal partners here as each one shares the spotlight and gives its best shot at Gnattali’s infectious melodies. [Marc Regnier (guitar); Natalia Khoma (cello) Dorian Sono Luminus DSL-92116]

Finally, from Australia, Ross Edwards’ (1943-) Arafura Dances: Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra (1994-95) is based on two of the composer’s maninyas, Australian Dance/ chants, that are, in the composer’s words “woven into a fabric of insect rhythms and drones”. Warning: This music will grow on you. It is attractive, seductive, and downright irresistible! [Karin Schaupp (guitar) Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Richard Mills, ABC Classics 476-227-0 or 481 0961]

Guitar Quartets

From time to time one comes across an exceptional guitar quartet at a concert, on CD or mp3. One’s interest grows and maybe will one like to explore this ensemble’s repertoire. But, how popular are guitar quartets? Are any guitar quartets in the list of the TOP 100 most recorded pieces for guitar?

The answer is no. Still, which quartets are the most popular? I found four.

To my knowledge, there are at least 38 recordings of Leo Brouwer’s Paisaje cubano con lluvia (1984) (“Cuban landscape with rain”).

Ex-aequo with this piece is Federico Moreno Torroba’s Estampas (1972)

The second place is also shared. This time between Paulo Bellinati and Leo Brouwer.

Paulo Bellinati for his Baiao de gude (1977) and Leo Brouwer for his Paisaje cubano con rumba (1985) (“Cuban landscape with rumba”) the two at 25 recordings.

These pieces are a good place to start if you are interested in music written for guitar quartets. Already know them? Then, you might want to listen to Máximo Diego Pujol’s Grises y soles (1996), Phillip Houghton’s Opals (1993) or even Nigel Westlake’s Six Fish (2003) for a start. Have fun!

Fernando Sor anniversary

176 years ago died one of the most celebrated guitarist-composers of all times, Fernando Sor (Joseph Fernando Macari Sor Moncadas) (1778-1839). He died on the 10th of July of 1839 and was buried on the 12th at the Montmartre cemetery, in Paris. According to his biographer, Brian Jeffery, Fernando Sor’s ballet Cinderella was presented 104 times at the Paris Opera, which is quite a feat.

As for the guitar, Fernando Sor is one of the three most recorded guitar composers with Francisco Tárrega and Heitor Villa-Lobos. I located more than 1,000 recordings with at least one piece by Sor.

Nowadays, Sor’s music is still very popular among guitarists and their public since five of his opuses are in the TOP 100 most recorded pieces for guitar. Furthermore, one of three guitar duos that made it to the TOP 100 is Sor’s l’Encouragement, Op. 34 (TOP 89). Do you have a favourite version of this piece? One of my favorites is by Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti. Thank you Fernando Sor for all the beautiful music you wrote!