I always look forward to David Russell’s concerts. I sometimes ask myself, if I could choose the program, what would I most like to listen to? Then the list starts in my mind: Bach, Couperin, Albéniz, Granados, Tárrega, Giuliani… not in any particular order of preference, as I find his approach to the works of all of these composers so enlightening. In the end, I always am relieved that it is not me who decides on his program!
However, after hearing his performance at King’s Place, I now know which piece I would put at the very top of my list: Suite Compostelana by Federico Mompou. Russell gave an unforgettably beautiful performance of this piece. His interpretation used all the detailed aspects of his playing that I so admire in his performances of other works, but added a picturesque range of tonal colours, which were delicately shaded and full of variation -a reminder that he is the son of painters. A Spanish pianist and composer, Federico Mompou used to teach at the International summer masterclasses of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, as did Andrés Segovia, for whom the Suite Compostelana was written. Russell studied the piece with José Tomás, who took over Segovia’s teaching post in Santiago de Compostela. This gives Russell an even stronger connection to the piece he generously shared with us.
The other music of the program was also outstandingly played. The Partita N.1 (BWV 825) by J.S. Bach moved into a completely different soundscape, appropriate to the Baroque style. The piece was originally written for keyboard, but Russell played the technically challenging transcription by the German guitarist Gerhard Reichenbach, and what was most absorbing about the performance was Russell’s poetic phrasing of the musical lines and the elegance of his ornamentation. The clarity and phrasing of the individual voices were also exemplary in Isaac Albéniz’s Capricho Catalán, Granada and Asturias. Russell played his own transcriptions of these piano works. The recital ended with a flourish: The Gran Jota by Francisco Tárrega, which he played with a touch of humor, wit and the requisite show of technical virtuosity.
Thérèse Wassily Saba for Classical Guitar Magazine