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CD Review
A review of A Journey Through 10 Strings, a recent CD release by Perfecto De Castro, Filipino 10 string guitar virtuoso

Review by J. Andre Foisy

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On A Journey Through 10 Strings, Perfecto De Castro, Filipino 10 string guitar virtuoso, presents 11 pieces pulled from compositions written from the early 18th century until the present. On it, Perfecto plays each of the songs beautifully and with a very unique approach. Is Perfecto's distinct sound due to his use of a guitar with a large dynamic or to the way that he approaches the instrument?

The use of the 10 string guitar initially piqued my interest in this recording. I found very little in the recording that made these songs seem that they needed to be played on this special guitar. With a record titled A Journey Through 10 Strings, I was seeking to hear pieces played in lower or higher registers; pieces that would not easily be played by a normal 6 string guitar. Although Perfecto plays each of the pieces on this record beautifully, I did not feel that the pieces on the album truly took me on a journey through 10 strings. That is, I would not have known that these songs were performed on an instrument with a wider range than a normal guitar unless someone had told me otherwise. Perfecto does play some pieces in deeper keys than normal, such as the first two compositions on the CD written by Sylvius Leopold Weiss. However, I believe that a tactful guitarist could get the same range from a normal guitar turned down. Though I felt that the title of this record was misleading, Perfecto does make these songs come alive.

Perhaps it is not the unique guitar that makes these songs so powerful, but the way that the artist performs them. Perfecto takes a distinctly Filipino approach to many of these compositions. The feeling, pace, and embellishments in these songs demonstrates this approach that I have not heard in many other guitarists. Some of the most powerful songs on the CD are the ones that draw inspiration from the Phillippines. Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag based Prelude Etnika on the music of the tribes of the Northern Phillippines. On such tracks, Perfecto's true virtuosity shines. Although Perfecto plays all of the songs on the CD wonderfully, the five movement suite, Sylph Dance, by the English composer Rohan Leach, are the most inspired pieces on the album. On these, Perfecto forces the listener to pay attention to his playing by emphasizing moments of quiescence juxtaposed against movements of extreme tension and discord. This suite is the most moving part of the CD and I felt that the tracks should have come earlier, rather than near the end.

By advertising Perfecto's use of the 10 string guitar rather than his unique approach and style, the album relegates him to the arena of novelty, since it is not the instrument that makes this recording great, but the performer's mastery of the actual compositions. This album is worth adding to your collection if for nothing else, the Sylph Dance suite.