Fittingly, as Boros says it was the “beginning of [her] own musical world” when she heard it at 15, Leo Brouwer’s “Un dia de noviembre” occurs twice. But neither version is any more arrestingly beautiful than the other nine selections, each of which takes the quietly expressive capacity of the acoustic guitar to under-explored heights and depths, sometimes simultaneously. Her rendition of Ralph Towner’s “Green and Golden” might have some listeners pigeonholing Boros as “jazz,” but if they aren’t too rapt to pigeonhole, they’re missing the point.
Read this Ukrainian pianist’s self-penned liner descriptions of her latest album’s four Beethoven pieces, and the frequency of modifiers such as “vigorous,” “cheeky,” “uproarious,” “jaunty,” “surging,” and “shattering” jumps out. Such adjectives also characterize her playing. Not that Faliks is insensitive to the quieter passages of the “Fantasia in G minor” or the Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, but sometimes she seems almost impatient for them to end so that she can resume playing ecstatically. Given how dazzlingly she does, one can easily sympathize.
Full disclosure: Merry, a devoutly Christian native of Nagaland, India, was a teaching colleague of mine in the late 1990s. Based on that experience, I can testify to his enthusiasm and power to inspire. What I wasn’t fully aware of until now is the depth of his classical-guitar mastery. Scour your collection—you’ll not find instrumental versions of these 18 hymns any more luminous. “Make Me a Blessing,” which I’ve never much liked, is delightful. And the equally delightful “Day by Day” is not the Godspell number.
The seven-movement, 23-minute title concerto is the centerpiece. But the four single-movement pieces surrounding it—by Charles-Marie Widor, Tomaso Antonio Vitali, Lili Boulanger, and Paul Halley—serve affectingly as stylistic foils. Two of them, like the Poulenc, also demonstrate Neil’s ability, figuratively speaking, to play second fiddle. Only on Widor’s “Organ Symphony No. 6—Allegro” and Boulanger’s “Pie Jesu” does he continually command center stage. He does so majestically. That he retains that majesty accompanying operatic soprano, strings, and saxophone is a revelation.
The 32-year-old German violinist David Garrett has spent over half of his life in the public eye, but the spotlight has never shown more brightly on him than now. As the star of Der Teufelsgeiger (The Devil’s Violinist), a 2013 film about the legendary 19th-century violinist Niccolò Paganini, Garrett’s thespian qualities have come under scrutiny. And as Disc Two of the deluxe edition of his latest album, Garrett vs. Paganini (Decca), comprises the film’s soundtrack, interest in his musical qualities is peaking too.
Or maybe his musical taste, as his talent has never been questioned, is what’s really under discussion. Disc One finds Garrett both flexing his virtuosic muscles amid purist-infuriating “crossover” elements (again) and spreading (and earning) his composer’s wings, embroidering a Paganini piece into an aria for Nicole Scherzinger and writing “Ma Dove Sei” for Andrea Bocelli. Given his own penchant for flamboyance, Paganini would probably not only approve but also be jealous.