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Odyssey / Alexander-Sergei Ramírez

Release Date: 04/13/2004 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 474208   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Joaquin TurinaCarlo DomeniconiYuquijiro YocohWilliam Bland,   ... 
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

An entertaining, diverse programme, coupled with outstanding musicianship and technical mastery.

Although not always evident in what they record, a key objective of guitarists should be to entertain their listeners. Choice of programme is important and as the well-known adage suggests, ‘variety is the spice of life.’

The review disc scores well in a number of areas not least of which is the programme. Guitarist Alexander-Sergei Ramirez selected twelve quite disparate original compositions for guitar by composers of twelve different countries (see below). The guitar goes on a voyage of discovery, an odyssey. Once deemed to be an instrument with a paucity of repertory, relying heavily on transcriptions and
Read more arrangements, the review disc is testimony that this is no longer the case.

More than any other single recording I recall hearing, Odyssey demonstrates the quite breathtaking variety of sounds and timbre of which the guitar is capable in the hands of a master. We hear the rasqueado of flamenco; drum-like and percussive sounds made by striking the guitar body with the thumb and fingers; étouffées wherein the strings are damped with the heel of the right hand and then plucked with fingers or thumb; rapidly repeated notes of the tremolo; emulations of the koto that sound deceptively authentic and sounds that mimic those of forest birds. Some may regard this as instrumental gimmickry but in the context of these compositions, the sounds are germane and highly effective.

Much indigenous music is identifiable by its rhythms, harmonies and special effects. One can associate the majority of the programme items here with a specific country, a notable exception being (12) Kinkachoo, I Love You by Australian, Phillip Houghton. The liner-notes explain that Kinkachoo refers to a bird held sacred by Australian Aborigines.

All this is complemented by the guitarist’s command of tonal nuances and dynamics. Tone varies from crisp, bright ponticello made by playing in close proximity to the bridge, to soft, sonorous sound achievable when the strings are caressed well to the left of the sound-hole. Wide contrast in dynamics can be challenging on the guitar but Ramirez achieves this admirably, particularly in such pieces as (9). A chameleon-like approach to dynamics - a hallmark in Ramirez’s recorded music - never leaves one bored but constantly in a state of anticipation; nothing soporific about this playing!

It is impossible to isolate any one highlight of this recording. The Spanish spirit with which Turina’s Sevillana is played is memorable. The strong rhythmic emphasis in Vals No 3 (13) by Lauro, especially in the minor section, heightens awareness of the 3,2/2,3 patterns; the major section is executed with a lyricism that is quite beguiling. The playing here reminds one more of a pianist rather than a typical guitarist. Many guitarists play this Vals at breakneck speed demonstrating technical prowess, but sacrificing musicality.

Ramirez is well equipped as a musician and instrumentalist to embrace the challenges of this programme. He was born in Lima, Peru in 1962 and commenced his musical career as a cellist later changing to guitar. He subsequently studied guitar with Professor Maritta Kersting, Pepe Romero and the inimitable José Luis González. His musical education includes participation in master-classes given by violinist Dénes Zsigmondy, tenor Luigi Alva and piano pedagogue Karl-Heinz Kämmerling.

Since winning the Alhambra International Guitar Competition in Spain, he has concertised internationally in solo recital, chamber music, and as a duo with pianist Sheila Arnold to whom he is married. Since 1997, Ramirez has taught guitar at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Dusseldorf.

The guitar used on this occasion is by Antonio Marín-Montero of Granada, made in 2000. It is unfortunate that the beautiful intrinsic sounds of this instrument and the extent to which Ramirez exploits its capabilities, are sometimes compromised by recording techniques. Sonically this disc is acceptable but not up to the same standard set by several other companies that specialise in guitar music.

To stand out in a crowded field is not easy. With a carefully crafted programme that is entertaining from the first to the last track, augmented by technical mastery and outstanding musicianship, Alexander-Sergei Ramirez achieves this well.

-- Zane Turner, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Fantasia for Guitar, Op. 29 "Sevillana" by Joaquin Turina
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Spain 
Notes: Arranged: Andres Segovia
Arranger: Andrés Segovia. 
Koyunbaba, Op. 19 by Carlo Domeniconi
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; Italy 
Variations on Sakura by Yuquijiro Yocoh
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Rag Nouveau by William Bland
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996 
Cantigas Negras (3) by Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Se ela perguntar by Dilermando Reis
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Merlin's Dream by Nikita Koshkin
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Russia 
Kinkachoo, I Love You by Philip Houghton
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Valses (6) venezolanos for Guitar: no 3, El Totumo de Guarenas by Antonio Lauro
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; Venezuela 
Notes: Arranged: Andres Segovia
Arranger: Alirio Diaz. 
Koribeni no 2 by Alejandro Nunez Allauca
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Peru 
The Magic Box by Francis Bebey
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Written: Paris, France 
Las estaciones porteñas (4): Verano porteño by Astor Piazzolla
Performer:  Alexander-Sergei Ramirez (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; Argentina 

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