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The Aguado recording which I am reviewing was recorded on a period instrument. Having done a tour-of-duty getting degrees in music history, I know what this means. You take what is essentially old technology, which rarely stays in tune and often breaks, and play on it music of the same time period in order to create an experience close to the experience of the period listener. It is sort of like taking a train across the U.S. (It takes days and is uncomfortable, yet somehow this disastrous experience is very expensive. Go figure why Amtrak is in receivership and why classical music has trouble finding an audience.). As I?ve made my feelings on performance practice quite apparent (I recommend reading the tome [actually an essay collection] Text and Act written by Richard Taruskin ? the coolest scholar on the planet) I will not belabor the point that by virtue of the fact we are listening to the playing of period music on period instruments via the CD player essentially takes the experience into a new realm, one much more indicative of a library culture characterized by obsession with individual control than it is of a parlor culture which views the playing of a little toy guitar as something of a delightful novelty to be enjoyed with a good brandy, a cigar and the whole extended family. In order to truly experience this music in the latter way, one would have to forget about the whole of music that has passed between the 19th century world of Aguado and now, treat the common cold like SARS and not shower. Such play acting is as disingenuous as Ruskin and his compatriots dressing up like medieval soldiers and maidens in order to try and recapture the supposed egalitarian superiority of the 12th and 13th centuries (which was happening right around the time our friend Aguado was composing).
That said, Micheli really has Aguado's number. The performance jumps from the recording. The limitations of the period instrument aside, he can really make those lines sing and swing. It makes me want to get one of those little guitars just to see if I can smoke through the 12 estudios the way Micheli does. The music itself is a bit tedious. One wonders at the attraction of these little pieces. There is the delight to the player in that they were written by a guitarist (somewhat similar to the Brouwer or Giuliani experience) without the feeling of conveying something profoundly significant. With his gifts of technical and musical ability, Micheli might be better served to play music of greater value. This problem, though, speaks to the modern bent of recording companies that love to record a composer's entire oeuvre.
That aside, there is no better recording of Aguado. Simply put, no one, ever, besides maybe Aguado himself, has spent as much time interpreting every little detail out of these pieces. I mentioned earlier that Micheli makes the pieces sing and swing. Swing may not be the appropriate word, but Micheli's Aguado moves with a rhythmic vitality that comes from a deep knowledge of the genre. Like Jordi Savall on the viol, Micheli captures the heart beat of the music and by so doing brings it back to life. The playing is extraordinary, and I look forward to hearing other recordings by Micheli.