By: Brad Conroy
Un Tiempo Fue Italica Famosa is the remarkable, debut recording by D.C. based classical-guitarist Matt Palmer. Consisting primarily of music by Spanish composers, such as fan favorites Rodrigo, Turina, and Tarrega, the album also features works by Giuliani, and a virtuosic rendition of the “Sonata Mongoliana” by contemporary composer Stepan Rak, among others. Palmer delivers an absolutely incredible performance on this album. His command of advanced techniques, a refined sound, and a high-level of artistic expression, make Un Tiempo Fue Italica Famosa a classical guitar album of the highest standard.
The album’s title track, which was written by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, is an incredible display of flamenco-guitar techniques. Slurs, fast scales, and fiery rasgueados, all help to make this an attractive piece, to both guitarists and casual listeners. Palmer’s expressive interpretation makes the piece’s rapid-fire scale lines seem so effortless. Coupled with the precision he displays when capturing the Spanish rhythms, and this piece is a prime example of why Palmer is turning heads everywhere he plays. His ability to play with astonishing technique, while maintaining a strong focus on emotional context, are two of the biggest reasons that Palmer stands out from amongst the crowd of young, virtuoso classical guitarists.
Palmer’s interpretation of Joaquin Turina’s “Sonata op.61” has to be one of the finest on record. His tone and expressive character bring every note and chord of this difficult piece to life. Palmer’s subtlety and delicate approach to playing the rhythmic motive during the first movement draws the listener in. Then, when it’s time for the quicker sections, Palmer jumps right in and delivers some of the fastest and cleanest scale passages imaginable.
Palmer concludes the record with a brilliant performance of Stepan Rak’s “Sonata Mongoliana,” which is an absolute wicked piece. Containing all the elements needed to produce a great guitar piece; fast slurs, simultaneous melodies, sound effects, tremolo, percussive strumming, and emotional fire. Palmer performs this difficult piece with grace, passion, and a sense of ease that would be daunting for any world-class player to achieve.
Un tiempo fue italica famosa is an album of the highest caliber. Palmer performs with flawless technique, deep levels of personal expression, and an artistic integrity that seems far too rare these days. He delivers a first rate performance on each track, and performs with such a deep knowledge of the music it leaves no doubt that he is on his way to becoming one of the best classical guitarists on the planet.