When a young guitarist first enters the world-wide classical music scene, often the artist makes his name with something novel. Speed is a classic example, or a musical specialty that the player has cultivated throughout his apprenticeship. Some try to sell CDs and event tickets based on with whom they've studied, or on the number of placings they've aquired in contests. These days it seems impossible to develop a concert career without having paid the dues of numerous international contests, having begun at a tender age. The musical results of such a lifestyle can vary, and success can still be just out of reach for even the most talented and sincere artists.
Bianco is special. A guitarist who has apperently lived the greuling life of a born musician, winning big-time contests and garnering praise of his playing throughout the world. In one [...] video, he appeares on television as a boy, giving a smooth rendition of a famous Tarrega piece. On another, we fast forward to the recording studio of Norbert Kraft where Bianco recorded this GFA Laureate Series disc. This video is where I first heard Bianco, playing his hauntingly emotive version of Mertz's Lob Der Thranen transcription. I have been awaiting this CD since then; months before it came out I had watched these brief videos a hundred times each.
A cultivated and well-defined sound serves as the pretense on which we are to judge the musicallity of this Naxos offering, and his success is evident from the first track. His Lob Der Thranen sings in a perfectly Schubertian manner, morose and glorious and hopeful. The Smallman guitar is ideal for this precise musician, and he coaxes a very vocal-like scratchy treble from his instrument on this track. A reference to anyone learning how this kind of Romantic music is to be playred.
After just three minutes, one is sold on Bianco. The second track could be recorded in a public bathroom on my guitar and we wouldn't care less.
But Bianco thinks we deserve better, and cooks with gas on Mertz's Capriccio from the Bardenklange, op. 13. The tone on this piece is stronger and perfectly rounded, and refined to a degree of absurdity that one can't help but imagine Bianco spending months on each finger to perfect his technique. He really flies on this track, but it's so smooth and musical. Comparisons to Marco Tamayo would be apt.
There is major talent and skill here. Each track is perfect, and deserving of high praise. But if listeners need only one reason to buy this CD, aside from the stunning Lob Der Thranen, the Allegro Assai from Bach's Third Violin Sonata is that reason. A triumph of musicianship and cleverness, he employs his great skills in a subdued manner and keeps them serving the music faithfully. Bach on guitar is rarely as trancendant as it is here, and I hope that Bianco will eventually reset the standard for recorded versions of the Bach repertoire.
There is no last word on Gabriel Bianco yet, so go buy this record of history and cherish it. It well be very interesting and gratifying to watch and listen as Bianco matures, and you will want to have been in on it from the beginning!