Review: Smaro Gregoriadou – Reinventing the Guitar II

By : Brad Conroy

Greek guitar soloist and composer, Smaro Gregoriadou, has recently released her latest CD, Reinventing Guitar II, which is an ambitious follow up to her 2009 recording, Reinventing Guitar. At first glance this may seem to be a rather bold statement, especially to those familiar with the complexity and tradition of the classical guitar, but upon the first listen this becomes a perfectly acceptable title. The focus of these recordings centers around the music of Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti and Gregoriadou delivers a very polished performance that is perhaps some of the most authentic sounding interpretations ever recorded on the guitar.

Gregoriadou performs on two non traditional instruments which help her to achieve many more nuances that the standard six stringed instruments can’t. She uses a double course guitar, which means that for every note being played actually two strings tuned in either octaves or unisons are struck. The double course guitar delivers a much more authentic and full sound that is similar to the period instruments of the day. The second guitar Gregoriadou performs on is a six single stringed instrument that has a scalloped fret board which helps it to deliver a very crisp and articulate sound. These instruments combined with Gregoriadou’s incredibly fluent technique, refined tone, and her deep understanding of the Baroque style really delivers the proof that the guitar can handle this repertoire just as well as the keyboard instruments for which it was originally composed.

Reinventing Guitar II opens with five Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. One must be aware that it requires a lot of attention and care from the performer in order to make Scarlatti sound polished on the guitar, and it has to be even harder to make it sound as exciting as it would on the harpsichord. Gregoriadou delivers such a performance with fast tempos, a myriad of perfectly executed ornaments and decorations to the melody, and she performs with a brilliance that can only be attained by countless hours of studying and perfecting ones technique and musicianship.

“Prelude, Fugue and Allegro” by J.S. Bach is a favorite within the classical guitar community and Gregoriadou begins the “prelude” very carefully in an effort not to rush the tempo while performing with a light touch, warm tone and a nice laid back feel which helps to draw the listener in. One can’t help but appreciate the crisp high tension sound that the scalloped fret board instrument achieves. The “fugue” has a perfectly balanced sound and the crispness of her guitar helps the subject/melody stand out from the active harmonies and busy counter point. The “Allegro” is a shining example of how incredible Gregoriadou’s technique is. She performs with such a precision and her fast tempo puts you on edge, but she is in absolute control bringing this multi-movement work to its full realization.

Reinventing Guitar II also features an arrangement from Handel’s “Harmonious Blacksmith” and includes some incredibly detailed liner notes that describe the guitars she is using, pictures of the instruments, details about the tuning schemes, string tensions, and historical performance practices of this music. Reinventing Guitar II is a tremendous achievement that contains perhaps some of the most convincing guitar interpretations of Scarlatti, Bach, and Handel. Gregoriadou is a virtuoso guitarist, scholar, and she is a stand out who will no doubt excite audiences, while carving out her own niche within the classical guitar world.

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