Dennis Cinelli: The Guitar in Vienna
La Bella CD 5 00002-2. Richard Mari Cocco, prod.; Howard Post,
eng. DDD. TT: 58:31.
O'Brien/Cinelli Duo: Two Guitars In
Vienna: Guitar Duets by Johann Kaspar Mertz
Destiny Records 2002-2. Pat O'Brien, Dennis Cinelli, prods.;
Jeff Basso, eng. DDD. TT: 58:33.
You're probably thinking that
this is pretty esoteric stuff. After all, unless you're a student of 19th-century guitar
music -- and perhaps not even then -- you won't have heard of Johann Kaspar Mertz,
Napoleon Conte, Franz Abt or even Mauro Giuliani, all of whom have compositions on these
discs. Anton Diabelli is probably the best-known name here -- and even he's more renowned
as a music publisher than a composer. But trust me, these two discs are filled with
delightfully intimate, tuneful music. That they're also well recorded just adds to their
Dennis Cinelli is a guitarist and lutenist who has
performed throughout the US and Europe. He specializes these days in the guitar literature
of the 19th century and is writing a book on guitar techniques and literature of that era.
He has been on the faculty of Montclair State University since 1989.
Patrick O'Brien teaches at the Mannes School of Music and
the State University of New York. He has taught guitar, lute, and early harp in New York
City for over 30 years. He has recorded with Paul O'Dette and Andrew Lawrence King's Harp
Consort. On Two Guitars in Vienna, he plays terz guitar (tuned three tones higher
than a "normal" guitar), which is the instrument Mertz composed his music for.
Mr. Cinelli plays a replica of a 19th-century ten-string
guitar and an antique (ca 1830) six-string instrument constructed by J.G. Staufer.
The reason I go into all this minutia on the instruments is
that these two discs are wonderfully detailed recordings that feature the sounds of these specific
instruments -- and they sound nothing like the contemporary guitar. The six- and
ten-string guitars have remarkably mellow, warm signature sounds. Actually, so does the
terz -- it may have a slightly higher voice, but it still sounds subdued compared to the
bright zing of the modern instrument. Of course, a lot of that distinct sound comes
from the period strings the two employ -- we're talking gut and silver-wrapped gut here.
The music on both discs is tuneful and lively. It's not
actually dance music, but it's dance-like -- remember, we're talking about the
music of Vienna here. It has some of the vocal quality of Schubert mixed with the muscular
hummability of Strauss. It's light without being insubstantial and it is definitely not
cloying. What it is, mainly, is beautiful.
If I had to choose one of them, I'd give the nod to the duo
disc -- the two musicians achieve a marvelous rapport, and you can definitely hear the
thrill of communication as they pass the melodic lines back and forth.
I'd also rate the sound somewhat better on Two Guitars
in Vienna. While both discs display a lovely intimacy, Two Guitars puts the
instruments more palpably in the room with you -- plus you get a delightful contrast
between the different instruments.
But I'm glad I don't have to pick one over the other
because Mr. Cinelli's solo outing has beaucoup de charm. Both recordings are ideal vessels
for navigating those early mornings or late evenings when one wants to be lulled by
tuneful ease rather than challenged by music for music's sake. I listen to them both
frequently and relish their quiet wit and tuneful amiability.
Try 'em, you'll like 'em.
Both discs can be ordered directly by visiting