Yamashita. One wonders if the members of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet have heard this name. Heís a Japanese guitarist who transcribed the title track of their current CD for a single guitar.
I know, there are some of you out there that do not like Yamashita. Heís seen as more of a performance artist or a madman with ridiculous tone who plays a Ramirez with an even more ridiculously high action.
But whether you like or dislike his playing, you know who he is primarily because of his transcription, recording and performance of Pictures at an Exhibition (Iíve rarely if ever heard someone comment on how moving his Bach was or how divine his Nocturnal). Thus, any subsequent recording of the piece, especially since it falls outside the repertoire, needs to bring something strikingly new to the table or else suffer obscurity due to the long shadow cast by what is easily the most important recording for guitar in the last 30 years.
Sadly, there is very little that is strikingly new. Because of the scordatural options opened by the use of multiple guitars, there is an expanded range and many of the chords are more completely realized. The instruments are played ably and professionally Ė but not transcendentally. Tempos are slower, colors are less emphasized and the overall musical contour is stunted. The ensemble does not accomplish the coherence that Yamashita achieved (for good or ill). Pictures at an Exhibition is not Schumannís Carnival, these are not simply vignettes, the return of the Promenade theme allows for a musical through line which is absent from this recording.
Granted, for an audience that has never experienced Yamashita, it is probably a very effective performance and my reaction is that of a dilettante. So be it. The fact that you know the complete ouevre of J. K. Rowling does not diminish the superiority of the books you havenít read by Proust or Eliot or Goytisolo. And the fact that you have self-satisfiedly stained your lips on a glass of Two-Buck-Chuck, does not diminish or impugn the taste of a Phelps Insignia.
In the end, we are reaching for artistic perfection, not simply doing a good job.