Although Brazilian composer Sérgio Assad (b. 1952) is very much alive and, as a guitarist, no stranger to recording studios, more and more guitarists are playing and recording his music. Alieksey Vianna released an all-Assad CD in 2005 (GSP Recordings 1027), and now here's a CD which duplicates several of the works from Vianna's disc – everything but the three excerpts from the Summer Garden Suite, as a matter of fact. The latter music was written for a Japanese film (Natsu No Niwa) and was played in the film's soundtrack by a guitar duo – Assad and his equally adept brother Odair. Mitsalas's recording presents this music in a less atmospheric but still effective version for solo guitar.
Mitsalas's recording has Assad's approval. In the brief booklet note, the composer himself writes, "Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas recently surprised me with this recording […] The disc is quite impressive and presents a very personal interpretation of my works. Thanos has remarkable technique and a highly sensitive musical intuition." With the composer on his side, how can I criticize Mitsalas's work?
Fortunately, I don't need to. This young performer has a lot going for him, and I predict his name soon will become more familiar among guitar enthusiasts. While still in his teens he won prizes at several international guitar competitions, and he has given many concerts in Europe, Cuba, and the United States. This appears to be his first CD.
Assad's music is not easy to play, but it falls easily on the ear – not because it is simple, but because it is full of piquant harmonies and rhythms, and other pleasant surprises! It has many twists and turns, but it is never unfriendly. Mitsalas plays it cleanly and expressively, and is not ruffled by the complicated rhythms in the Fantasia Carioca, for example. The recording captures the warm sound of his Thomas Humphrey guitar.
If you don't know Sérgio Assad's solo guitar music, Thanos Mitsalas' CD will give you an excellent place to get started.
Copyright © 2009, Raymond Tuttle