Vienna Guitar Recital

In Brief

  • Title: Michal Stanikowski, Vienna Guitar Recital.
  • Musician: Michal Stanikowski, guitar.
  • Identification: RecArt 0004.
  • Recording: June 2011, Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, Paradyz, Poland.
  • Year of publication: 2011.

Sonata Romantica by Manuel Ponce


The Twenthe Guitar Festivals from 2006 and the Nordhorn Guitar Festivals from 2011 were a breakthrough for me concerning my acquaintance with the guitar world. Before that time I did know some of the guitar greats on classical guitar that belonged to the older and middle-aged generation, mainly from recordings and a few concerts. I did not know anything of the younger generation. The concerts and competitions of these festivals brought me in contact with many professionals and candidate-professionals of the present guitar generation.

Particularly the competitions showed me a number of talents with potency. For instance, on the Twenthe Guitar Festival 2010 I heard the young Polish guitarist Michal Stanikowski. He was one of the contestants in the competition and reached the finals that yielded him a fine second place in a highly competitive field. On that occasion, he played Fantaisie Hongroise by Johann Kaspar Mertz, one of the tracks on this CD. I still remember his exiting and colourful performance of his pieces in the finals, amongst others the notorious Sonata Op. 47 by Alberto Ginastera.

The CD is not called Vienna Guitar Recital for nothing, because almost all tracks are in some way connected to the Austrian capital.

The first piece –Sonata Romantica by Manuel Ponce (1882 – 1948)- in my mind brought me back to a pleasant master class by Denis Azabagic in Nordhorn, at that occasion he presented some interesting pieces of information concerning the piece and its composition style.

Sonata Romantica is a homage to Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) who began his life in Vienna and also passed away there. It is an extensive piece in four movements that offer the guitarist the opportunity to present a beautiful piece of music that covers almost 20 minutes. History states that Andres Segovia asked Ponce to compose a concert piece in Romantic style for him. Ponce obliged masterfully with a composition that combined a clear relation with Schubert’s sound and style with Ponce’s personal musical approach.

I already fell in love with the piece when I first heard it, and Stanikowski’s interpretation clearly increased this passion. In his performance, he has a natural breathing in the music and applies dynamics and colour in an effective and imaginative way. The warmth of his sound appeals to me!

Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806 – 1856) lived quite a while in Vienna, the capital of the then Austrian-Hungarian Empire. I guess he tremendously pleased the Hungarians that lived there with the Fantaisie Hongroise, a piece in which Mertz included a number of fiery folk dance motives. Again, Stanikowski plays this piece with interesting tone an colour and a nice touch of vivacity. Most striking for me was the large and very well played contrast between the slow romantic sections and the fast dances. The dance motives were extra seasoned with subtle rhythmic accents.

The Italian Mauro Giuliani (1781 – 1829) worked some time in Vienna as well and was quite successful until he left town in great haste, presumably with an empty wallet and chased by creditors. His Gran Sonata Eroica is a piece with some uncertainties in musical scientific sense, causing some scientists to be doubtful concerning the authenticity of the piece. Well, I am no connoisseur in that aspect, I just hear an extensive piece with a powerful tone, virtuoso passages interspersed by quiet sections, all with a clear Giuliani sound. Stanikowski plays virtuoso without haste and smoothly plays between dazzling passages and long quiet melodies. Because I am able to breathe with the music as a listener, I get the opportunity to enjoy the piece, particularly because everything sounds so natural.

The last piece – Homenaje (Le Tombeau de Debussy) by Manuel de Falla (1846 – 1946) – has nothing to do with Vienna for a change. Stanikowski succeeds to express the internal tension of the piece in a clear and transparent way. Because the sound and atmosphere of this piece is quite different from the other “Viennese” pieces, I am curious why this piece has been added to this CD.

The sound recording technique on this CD sounded very well in my opinion, particularly when listening with headphones. As a listener, you are close to the music, the detail is brilliant and a very little bit of reverb provides a subtle sense of space.

The guitar that was built by the Australian luthier Jim Redgate has a nice even sound, the instrument perfectly complies with the sound that is required for this music.

The CD booklet provides information about the player and the music in German, English and Polish. I found particularly the section about the music quite informative. Now I understand the function of Homenaje (Le Tombeau de Debussy) on this CD: it is an appetizer for the next CD! To be honest, I skipped the curriculum vitae of the player: the sound and his performance on this CD provide me with a much better impression than a hall of fame of competitions and other assets.

I will play this CD more often in order to hear all aspects, because I found out that I discover new details every time. An enjoyable recording!

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