Oliver Fartach-Naini’s newest release, Suite Latina, is his first solo album in a recording career that spans over twenty years. A prolific chamber musician, Fartach-Naini’s discography includes recordings of Schubert’s Winterreise for two guitars and viola (Winter Journey), folk songs from around the world (Canto Antigo), works composed for his guitar duo with Lee Song-Ou (25), and a live recording in Berlin of Persian art music composed by Majid Derakhshani (Ensemble Didar – Live in Berlin). As Fartach-Naini states in the CD’s liner notes, this album is the last recording in a series of four that form the basis of his doctoral dissertation on “ethnoclassicism”. An instantly likeable recording, Fartach-Naini has created something which not only highlights his abilities as a performer, but demonstrates the richness of Latin-American music.
The CD begins with Maximo Diego Pujol’s Seis Revelaciones, a work published in 2015 by one of Argentina’s foremost guitar composers. The first movement, a milonga titled Un Nuevo Dia, certainly creates a powerful atmosphere despite being only a minute long. As I make my way through the set of six pieces on the recording, it becomes clearer to me how remarkably skilled Fartach-Naini is at varying his tone colours not only between pieces, but from one phrase to another. Although the six movements themselves are great pieces of music, it’s Fartach-Naini’s sound that makes the work so pleasant to listen to, demonstrating a very tasteful approach to tone production.
Following on comes the CD’s namesake Suite Latina, composed by Australian composer Richard Charlton for Fartach-Naini in 2014. The suite contrasts nicely to that of Pujol’s, consisting of much more contemplative takes on traditional South American dances. An example of this can be heard in Tango in the Dark, a more brooding and subdued work than most traditional tangoes. Charlton’s combination of his signature harmonic language with the traditional latin-american rhythms makes for a work that creates something new within forms that have existed for centuries. A composition that feels almost impressionistic, Fartach-Naini’s playing creates powerful images while still maintaining his voice as a performer.
The next work on the CD, Hector Ayala’s Serie Americana, is admittedly one of my favourite South American compositions and I think this may be my favourite recording of it. In addition to the previously mentioned broad tone colour palette that Fartach-Naini possesses, there is something immensely enjoyable about the way he moves through the piece, simultaneously maintaining a steady pulse and rhythmic flexibility; danceable but not metronomic. Additionally, Fartach-Naini represents the character of the work well, allowing the work to be fun but not afraid to delve into the melancholic moments either.
Coming full circle, the album rounds out with another of Pujol’s work’s Suite Adelaires, a combination of Adelaide and Buenos Aires (Adelaide being Fartach-Naini’s hometown). Also written for Fartach-Naini in 2006, this work again perfectly complements both the performer and the album. Allowing for Fartach-Naini to relish a much more rounded sound than the first Pujol work on the CD, Suite Adelaires makes for a satisfying conclusion by bringing the energy down from Serie Americana but still creating an engaging atmosphere. In particular the last movement Capicua finishes the album on a lighter note than which it began, featuring a soft low D played on the bass strings while playful melodies and delicate harmonics sing through on the treble strings.
Oliver Fartach-Naini has created an album that demonstrates not only his technical prowess on the guitar, but his ability to produce a tasteful recording that flows organically from piece to piece. With albums consisting purely of Spanish or South American music becoming the standard for classical guitarists, it is pleasantly surprising that not one element of this album is cliche, but rather a deeply enjoyable piece of art. Despite the common South American element among them, each work has a distinct character that simultaneously creates diversity and contributes to the overall atmosphere of the recording. Perhaps what makes this recording so enjoyable too is not just the compositions themselves, but a sense that the focus is on bringing the best out of these works as opposed to displaying virtuosity; a sense that the technical faculty serves only to highlight just how gorgeous these pieces are.
An album featuring a vast array of beautiful tone colours and pieces that make the guitar sing, this will be a recording that I come back to many times, and I’m sure every listener will feel the same.