Presti Vol2 DHR8140

Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya (guitars)
Volume 2; Unissued solo, duo and chamber recordings (1937-1969)
Andrew Dawes (violin): Orford String Quartet
Doremi DHR-8140 [78]

The 3-CD Complete Philips recording of guitarists Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya can be sourced online second hand but other examples of the work of the husband-and-wife duo exist. Perhaps this is one occasion when one can speak instead of wife-and-husband as Presti (1924-67) was not only a prodigy but a prodigiously talented instrumentalist.

Her first 78s were made in 1937 in French HMV’s Studio Albert in Paris and she recorded steadily until the following year. A frustratingly large number of the records remain unissued but those that were issued are scintillating in their dextrous accomplishment, their technical assurance – remarkable in any performer let alone a girl of 14 – and in her use of the inner nail that gives a clarity and sharpness to her phrasing. Just sample these early tracks for her vivacity and sheer personality (Albéniz) and also for the buoyant rhythm she maintains (Malats). The late 1937 recording of Torroba’s Allegretto from the Sonatine No.1 has a rather different acoustic from the earlier sessions, a touch more studio-bound, but it’s brilliantly articulated and a totally mature performance.

During the war, still only 18, she returned to the studios to record two of Ponce’s Chansons Populaires Mexicaines and the Granados’ repertoire staple, Andaluza. These three pieces were on a single 78 disc and it’s possible that it’s rarer than her pre-war sides as it’s presented in less attractive sound. Noise suppression has had its way and though her tone survives on the two Ponce songs, the Granados – possibly because the disc used was played more and has a higher ration of surface noise – is in rather disappointing sound. Not the performance, of course, which is splendid.

Her husband Alexandre Lagoya (1929-99) is heard solo in the Andante from Scarlatti’s Sonata in A minor, L481, a disc released by RCA Red Seal in collaboration with CBC Radio Canada in 1969. The recording catches some of Julian Bream’s ‘gym slippers’ but Lagoya gives a good account of himself as he does in Matteo Carcassi’s Étude, a fluent performance but less colouristic and charismatic than those of his tragically short-lived wife. The performance of the Paganini Sonata Concertata is with the first violinist of the Orford String Quartet, Andrew Dawes, the high point of which is the wily Rondeau, played with flair by both men. The quartet accompanies Legoya in Boccherini’s String Quartet No.4 in D, its sprightly March themes contrasting with well-balanced, more pliant material. This is a supple and attractive recording and like the Carcassi and Paganini comes from the LP already cited.

There is some doubt over the last item, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s energising, loquacious and colourful Concerto for Two Guitars, which the Presti-Lagoya duo commissioned. It’s announced in French on the France Musique radio station as the ‘création mondiale’ which would mean, if true, that this was a broadcast of the 1962 Toronto première. Given a small degree of uncertainty, no orchestra or conductor is listed by Doremi though it would have been helpful, for illustrative purposes, if we had been told who might have conducted. We know that Enrique Jorda conducted the first French performance in 1963 because Jack Silver tells us so in his fine booklet notes.

This is the second volume in Doremi’s series devoted to the two performers and it’s been compiled in a slightly haphazard way: solo Presti on 78s, Lagoya’s LP from two decades later, and then the live broadcast. However, this does reflect core elements of their discography and the transfers have been accomplished with generally good results.

Jonathan Woolf

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Presto Music

Isaac Albéniz (1864-1909)
Rumores de la Caleta, Opus 71, No. 6
Joseph Malats (1872-1912)
Serenata espanola
Federico Torroba (1891-1982)
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Romance: from Grand Sonata
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Chansons Populaires Mexicaines; No. 2
Chansons Populaires Mexicaines; No. 3
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Danse Espagnole No. 5 Andaluza
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Sonata in A minor, K. 481
Matteo Carcassi (1796-1853)
Etude, Opus 60, No. 3
Niccolò Paganini
Sonata Concertata for guitar and violin
Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Quintet No.4 in D for guitar and string quartet
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Concerto for two guitars, Op.201