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Mediterraneo

4.5 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 21, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

"The music on this recording reflects my character. It tells the listener who I am," says 28-year-old guitarist Milos Karadaglić. As one would expect of a citizen of tiny, turbulent Montenegro, whose career was set in motion by an audacious decision to come to London, that character is marked by a rare single-mindedness. Milos's love affair with the guitar began when he was eight and his father played him a recording of Segovia making magic with Albeniz's Asturias. Armed with the family's dusty old guitar (missing some strings), Milos was enrolled at a specialist music school, where in six months he learned all its teachers had to impart. Such quick progress prompted the school to put him in a different class, one that used the rigorous Fernando Sor method. At nine he gave his first public performance and at eleven entered (and won) his first national competition and, on the same day, also won a singing competition. Subsequently, Milos became a star performer on television and radio, took guitar master classes in Belgrade and then, at the age of 16, followed his childhood dream and decided to audition for a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The timing was poignant - NATO's bombing of his region had just come to an end. When he phoned the Academy he was told that applications for the following academic year were closing. "So while my parents were at work, I found myself filming my favorite pieces, one at a time, five days in a row, in our living room." He was accepted on a scholarship. "Everyone back home was so supportive and proud of my success, and when I finally arrived in London, I was terribly homesick. But, at the same time, I was suddenly surrounded by superb teachers in a fabulous institution - at last exposed to the world. It very quickly felt as if someone had given me wings and I could fly."

Though Milos in his teens had made John Williams his exemplar, in his early 20s Julian Bream became his main influence. "His sound and technique were very different from mine, but listening to his recordings was inspirational on every level. He was an amazing musician... When I later received the Julian Bream Prize from his own hands, it was such an honor." Milos's artistry is reflected in his attitude toward public appearances: "When I'm performing, it's close to dreaming for me - afterwards I don't remember much about it. I just remember feeling very well, with a high level of energy and emotion. Each day I try to find new colors and timbres." The colors and timbres to be found in this album have been dictated by his desire to reflect the rich musical ambiance he was born into, with influences from both the eastern and western ends of the Mediterranean. "Montenegro itself," he says, "is at a cultural crossroads, which is why the music I grew up with is so interesting and diverse."

Albeniz's Asturias earns its place because of Segovia and "because, no matter how young or old I have been, it has always been a challenge - it allows me to express my character to the extreme. Sevilla is so incredibly exciting that it always makes me want to dance. But, whenever I play his Granada, right from the first phrase it feels like I am falling in love. It reminds me of the heat and salt of the Mediterranean."

Many of the pieces here were originally written for piano, yet they sound entirely natural on the guitar. Granados's Andaluza had previously been arranged for the instrument, but Milos and his mentor Michael Lewin of London's Royal Academy have made their own version of it, as well as this composer's Orientale. As Milos explains, "It's challenging because while the accompaniment is smoothly arpeggiated in the bass, the melody in thirds comes in on top. Putting it on to one guitar was very exciting."

Karadaglić doesn't have much personal connection with Greece, "but when I heard Mikis Theodorakis's A Day in May I started to cry. It talks about political upheaval and loss of a loved one. A few years ago my uncle lost his only son and I wanted to dedicate this piece to him. Performing this song always makes me feel very emotional. It reflects a time of hardship, and that too is a big part of who I am."

The work which reflects the biggest part of Milos's story is the Italian guitarist-composer Carlo Domeniconi's 1985 suite Koyunbaba: "I heard it for the first time when I had just arrived in London. With its Turkish folksong theme, and magical soundworld, it brought back all those memories and places I had left behind. Whenever I play it, it is different, like the sea itself, sometimes calm, sometimes a storm..."

Since Francisco Tárrega was the father of the modern Spanish guitar, pieces by him were de rigueur. "They tell us so much about this amazing box with six strings," he smiles, adding, "From the famous Recuerdos de la Alhambra to Lágrima and Capricho árabe, all the works on the album are so pure and magical. At the same time they speak equally to the most educated classical musician and the man on the street. This is the beauty and true essence of the classical guitar."

Review

Listening to the debut album by guitarist Milos Karadaglic, you find yourself wondering where on earth the classical guitar has been lately. As he moves from haunting compositions by Tarrega, Albeniz and Granados to the more abstract shapes of Carlo Domeniconi's Koyunbaba suite, it's as if Karadaglic is shining a brilliant light on the entire heritage of his instrument. "The Seventies was the golden time of the guitar, but the situation was different because there was so much support from the media, the BBC and everybody," says Milos (he's known by just his first name). "Because of Julian Bream and John Williams, the classical guitar really was a household name, but then the world changed, and the kind of music people wanted to listen to changed. I want to wake the guitar up from this hibernation, and show what I can do and what my instrument can do." "Can do" are two words that sit comfortably with Milos. Born 28 years ago in the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro, he felt driven from an early age to be an artist and performer. Since Montenegro has a population of only 600,000 and no discernable classical guitar tradition, making a career on the instrument was what might be called "a big ask". It all began when Milos discovered an ancient and dusty guitar with broken strings on top of a cupboard in his parents' bedroom. Inexplicably, this sorry wreck of an instrument convinced him that he must become a guitarist. Since, as he puts it, "it was still kind of communist then" and there were no private music teachers, he enrolled in the state music school. His progress was blindingly swift. By the age of nine, he was giving public performances, and at 11 he won his first national competition. He was also a talented singer, and his astounding precocity made him a star of Montenegrin TV and radio. It provided a welcome distraction from the chaos tearing the former Yugoslavia apart. Montenegro was never engulfed by the horrors that overtook Bosnia or Croatia, but the population suffered food shortages and travel restrictions, while being in the awkward position of sharing borders with all the combatants. Milos doesn't like to dwell on this historical blackspot. "I don't want to sound as though I experienced the war myself, because I didn't. I didn't have bombs falling on my head, and I didn't lose anybody like other people did. It would be disrespectful of me to talk about it." Fast forward, then, to 1996, when Milos, barely into his teens, had his first opportunity to travel outside Montenegro to play a concert. It was in Paris, and he was dazzled by its western European prosperity and air of pre-Christmas gaiety. While there, he bought his first proper guitar, a José Ramirez model paid for from his parents' savings. A subsequent meeting with Glasgow-born classical guitarist David Russell convinced Milos that he must study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. After taking masterclasses in Belgrade and slaving hard to improve his technique, he took the plunge and sent a homemade tape of his performances to the Royal Academy, where Prof Michael Lewin perceived something special in Milos's playing; he was awarded a scholarship. Subsequently, Milos earned first-class honours and a master's degree, as well as being made a junior fellow of the college. Lewin became his mentor. "I came to the academy as a naïve child, and I had these ideas about music and how I wanted to sound, but I needed somebody to steer it. Michael was incredible because he never stopped me from expressing myself the way I wanted to, but he always helped me express myself better." Lewin's influence has translated into creative assistance on Milos's album, which includes four pieces by Albeniz and Granados that Lewin transcribed for guitar. Milos is especially smitten with Lewin's treatment of Granados's piece, Oriental. "Sometimes, guitar arrangements of piano pieces make too many compromises," he says, "but Michael found a way to keep the artistic quality, but adjusted for the guitar so it always lies naturally under the hand. Oriental is the most exposed piece I have ever played, and you have to really dig inside yourself to express it. I listened to my recording again last night, after not hearing it for a while, and it's really magical." Milos's thematic idea for the album was that it should comprise music from the Mediterranean region. "I was inspired by wonderful records of Segovia playing Granados, Albeniz and Tarrega. There's a huge Arabic influence there because the guitar was brought to Spain by the Moors. Then from the eastern Mediterreanean we have two pieces from Epitaphios, by [Greek composer] Mikis Theodorakis." At the core of the disc is the four-part Koyunbaba suite by the contemporary Italian composer Domeniconi, which Milos holds in almost mystical regard. "I first heard it when I arrived in London 11 years ago. It gripped my imagination because it took me back to my childhood and places in Montenegro where I would go and sit for hours, thinking about the future. It uses very difficult techniques that make the instrument almost not sound like a guitar any more. When I performed it for the first time, people in the audience were crying. I always feel like I'm in a trance when I play it." This is just the beginning for Milos, and his horizons seem limitless. He has been mulling over a variety of plans for broadening the guitar's reach and repertoire. "Julian Bream and John Williams worked with contemporary composers and raised the level of the guitar to establish it as an equal instrument on the concert platform," he says. "I'd love to work with film composers, because film is such an influential medium. To do a soundtrack or a new solo piece would be wonderful. "The guitar needs a renaissance. There isn't a more accessible or beautiful instrument, and I want to bring it to a new generation of listeners." -- Adam Sweeting: The Daily Telegraph

Lovers of the classical guitar have a new hero in the young Montenegran Milos Karadaglic, whose artistry is so compelling that it should win many new admirers. Albéniz, Granados and Tárrega form the Spanish heart of his programme, while Theodorakis's Epitáphios and the haunting Koyunbaba by the Italian Carlo Domeniconi also feature. The playing is lithe, subtle of timbre and transcendentally beautiful. -- Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2011

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Product details

  • Composer: Isaac Albeniz, Francisco Tarrega, Carlo Domeniconi, Mikis Theodorakis, Miguel Llobet
  • Audio CD (June 21, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B004PKOKU2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,086 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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