Albéniz (arr. Hansy/Hansson)
Suite española No.1, Op.47 – Sevilla
Cantos de España, Op. 232 – Córdoba
Falla (arr. Pujol)
La vida breve – Danza española No.1
Brahms (arr. Krause)
Intermezzo, Op.118/2
Carulli (arr. Hansy/Hansson)
Serenade, Op.96/3
Debussy (arr. Hansy/Hansson)
Suite Bergamasque – Clair de lune
Children’s Corner – Golliwogg’s Cakewalk
Deux Arabesques – No.1 in E
Anon (arr. Berger)
You are so beautiful in my eyes
Song from Orsa
JS Bach (arr. Hansy/Hansson)
Das Musikalischer Opfer, BWV1079 – three canons
TheGothenburgCombo (Thomas Hansy & David Hansson, classical guitars)

Recorded June & September 2007 in Hemsjö Church, Sweden
CD No: COMBOCD 002
Duration: 56 minutes
Reviewed: September 2008
Swedish guitar duo TheGothenburgCombo, comprising guitarists Thomas Hansy and David Hansson, first came to prominence after winning First Prize and the Audience’s Prize in the 13th Concours Internationale de Guitare en Duo in France in 2004. It is now considered one of today’s finest classical guitar duos, and tours widely throughout the world, playing in venues as diverse as concert halls, clubs, schools, churches and galleries.
La Vida Breve is the duo’s third disc. Its first featured 19th century guitar music played on period instruments; its second, entitled Soundscapes, was by contrast devoted to the music of Steve Reich. The present release is not based on a particular concept (despite the “romantic music for two guitars” mentioned in the title, looking at the actual works it’s hard to categorise all of them as either from the Romantic period or even romantic in a more general sense); instead, it mirrors the diversity of an actual concert programme and simply contains works that TheGothenburgCombo has enjoyed playing over the years.
La Vida Breve is thus a kind of musical autobiography. In their charming booklet notes, Hansy and Hansson tell why they decided to include some of these works in their repertoire: how listening to a recording of the Brahms while driving at high speed down a German Autobahn seemed to arrest all time and motion, or how they happened upon an elderly accordionist in Holland playing Clair de Lune one day and were struck by the beauty and depth of his playing.
Moving along national lines, from Spanish and German through to Italian, French, Swedish and back to German again with the Bach, this disparate collection proves to make for a satisfying recital. The vibrancy and colour of the Albéniz and Falla works is reflected in an abridged version of one of Carulli’s otherwise interminable Serenades. The melodic simplicity of the Brahms Intermezzo is echoed in the extremely beautiful Swedish folksong arrangements by Sven Berger. The radiant architecture of Debussy’s Clair de lune and Arabesque No.1finds their twin in the ‘abstract’ and strangely haunting three canons from Bach’s Musical Offering.
The playing is of a consistently high standard, full of life and spontaneity. If there are sometimes rhetorical excesses, as in the generous pauses between phrases (especially noticeable in the Albéniz pieces and Clair de lune), these always seems to arise from sincere motives and are never employed merely for effect. The variations in tone colour are orchestral in their scope (the Carulli being a conspicuous example), while clarity of line and chordal weight are rarely sacrificed to the exigencies of the moment – though when they are, it’s worth it.
There are perhaps better versions of individual items to be found (Bream and Williams for the Falla and the Grigoryan brothers for the Debussy, for example). But overall this is an extremely enjoyable recital in which both musicians seem prepared to take risks in the name of real expression – a rare thing in recorded music these days.

 

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