GMCD 7357 – The Musical Colours of Guitar
Jens Stibal (guitar)
American Records Guide January – February 2012
Jens Stibal is German, teaching at the Zurich Conservatory. He has performed internationally, including Canada and Central America. This is his second CD, and it is devoted to some of the most popular works of the Segovia repertory.
Stibal has a wonderfully fluid technique and a glorious sound, with a range of color that recalls the best work of Julian Bream. So why is it that I found much of his performance so unsatisfying?
What bothers me is his extreme use of rubato in his phrasing. I’ll certainly agree that some of this perception is subjective. And yet, I kept wanting to hurl some object at the speakers— why does he seem incapable of playing a phrase, as Toscanini might bellow, com’ e scritto, “as it’s written”? In particular, why have I heaped such praise on Anabel Montesinos’s recording (above) as “some of the most romantic playing I’ve ever heard”? What makes her pervasive use of rubato more convincing than Stibal’s?
The key here is “convincing”. Rubato, like any improvised expressive device, must convince, must serve a purpose—to clarify, to beautify, to intensify. Montesinos almost always seems not just appropriate, but inevitable. What does it accomplish, for instance, to rush the final chord of the last movement of Torroba’s Sonatina so that it arrives after two eighth notes instead of the written three? What does it do to the rhythmic propulsion of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Tarantella to place a tenuto on the first note of measures so often that the flow is always interrupted? And in that same piece, why change so many quarter-eighth figures to even rhythms?
Perhaps he feels that any recital based on Segovia’s repertory should have the same freedom of rubato that was a part of Segovia’s own playing—and, for that matter, many of the players of the era before World War II, such as Barrios. But Segovia had the ability to make his choices seem inevitable, just as Montesinos does. Stibal does not.
If you prefer, as Stibal obviously does, a heavy dose of rubato in these works, you may find much to enjoy here. His sound and coloristic range, especially, are impressive. Otherwise, stay away. KEATON