Reviews

Reviews of recordings by Gordon Ferries


Photo: Alan Rennie

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The Independent 1/12/12

When Charles II arrived from France to assume the English throne, he brought with him a fascination for guitar music bordering on obsession. Before long, playing the guitar became a vital element in social advancement: “God knows what an universal strumming there was,” observed one contemporary observer, his sourness perhaps coloured by having to hear amateurs play badly. But at its most skilfull, as in these renditions on period instruments by Gordon Ferries of pieces by (mostly French) court composers, there is an elegance and poise that both soothes and satisfies, be it Robert de Visée’s pensive allemande “La Royalle”, or Charles Hurel’s “Suite in C major”, at once melancholy yet upliftingly light and nimble.

The Scotsman, November 2012

IN his fifth solo disc for Delphian, Gordon Ferries focuses on baroque guitar, lute and theorbo repertoire that would have resonated within the decadent royal court of Charles II. Given that the king, a keen guitarist himself, had spent the pre-Restoration period in France, soaking up the succulent sounds of the Versailles musicians, it’s hardly surprising that French music then found favour in the restored English court. Ferries reflects this in music stretching from the simple elegance of Adrian Le Roy to the fuller expression of Franceso Corbetta. These are crisp, clean interpretations, warmed by Ferries’ naturally sensitive musicianship.

 

Lute news October 2012

La royalle: music for kings and courtiers, Gordon Ferries (4-course

guitar/5-course guitar/lute/theorbo), Delphian DCD 34111.

http://www.delphianrecords.co.uk

This recording focuses on music for various plucked instruments

composed for or associated with the English and French courts

in the 16th and 17th century. It is inspired by two allemandes

titled ‘La royalle’, one for 5-course guitar by Corbetta, included

in his La Guitarre royalle (1671) and dedicated to Charles II;

and two different versions of an Allemande by De Visée, one for

theorbo, the other for 5-course guitar, both of which survive in

manuscript. Three of the instruments featured, the 4-course and

5-course guitars and a théorbe de pièces, are by Martin Haycock;

the odd one out is the 8-course lute by D. Sutherland.

Wisely the music is not arranged either by instrument or period

as an abstract and clinical run through the history of plucked

stringed instruments. Instead groups of pieces for the different instruments

are presented in a more or less random order. This creates

an interesting contrast in both musical styles and timbre. The disc

opens with a languorous performance of the theorbo version De

Visée’s ‘La royalle’ from the Vaudry de Saizenay manuscript and

concludes with a wistful and delicately ornamented performance

of the guitar version. Corbetta’s melancholy ‘La royalle’ is coupled

with the ‘Sarabande La Stuarde’, a probable reference to one of

the ladies at the Restoration court, Frances Theresa Stuart, for

whom Charles nursed an unrequited passion. Interestingly all the

‘royalle’ pieces are in a minor key, D minor in each case, which

suggests that a king’s lot was not always a happy one. De Visée’s

well known D-minor suite sustains the prevailing mood of disillusionment

and sadness. Corbetta’s Suite in D major does, however,

create a sunnier mood. Ferries gives a mesmerising performance

of the sarabande with subtly elaborated repeats and a breathtaking

roulade just before the final cadence. The Chacone with which

the suite concludes goes with a real swing. The only disdvantage

of having so many pieces in D was that the bourdon on the 4th

course sometimes sounded obtrusive. Corbetta does not make it

clear when open courses should be included in strummed chords

and just occasionally I thought the open 4th course had been

included in places where it would have been better omitted.

The theorbo pieces by Hurel are altogether more positive and

upbeat. Ferries gives a bold and confident performance of a suite

of five movements in C major from the manuscript dated 1676,

‘Tablature de luth et de théorbe’ in the Pierpont Morgan library

in New York. The instrument has a powerful bass and a nasal and

abrasive upper register but Ferries was able to coax some gentler

and more intimate moments from it in the ‘Sarabande La Boulonaise’

and the arrangement of ‘Les Pellerins’ from Lully’s Ballet

royal dancé.

Life at court in the earlier part of the 16th century seems to

have been a rather jolly affair. A contemporary writer describes

the French, King Henry II, playing the guitar whilst seated on the

lap of his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Nevertheless the 4-course

guitar repertoire is not a soft option. The disc includes six pieces

from the guitar books printed by Le Roy and Ballard in 1552–3

and four pieces for lute, two from Attaignant’s Trés bréve et familiare

introduction (1529) and two from Le Roy’s Premier livre de tablature

(1551). Most of these, both for the 4-course instrument

and the lute are either dance forms or arrangements of chansons

with diminutions. The challenge is to choose a tempo which

ensures that the main theme does not drag without making impossible

demands in executing the diminutions. Ferries manages

to keep up the pace whilst allowing himself just enough latitude

to negotiate the more difficult passages. His 4-course instrument

has a clear, bright tone and holds its own well with the larger

instrument. The part-writing in the three fantasias by Brayssing

is crystal clear.

Ferries is clearly a master of everything he puts his hand to,

both technically and in his interpretation of the different styles of

music. A delight to listen to from start to finish.

Monica Hall

Review of a concert during the Edinburgh Festival, 2012:

In a rare opportunity to see as many as five early stringed instruments played in the same performance, Gordon Ferries exhibits unadulterated mastery of each in La Royalle, a programme of mostly French music for guitar, lute and theorbo from the baroque and Renaissance period. Opening with Robert de Visee’s Suite In D Minor for baroque guitar, Ferries explores in detail every nuance of the piece, giving a refined elegance to the natural ebb and flow of the music.

Switching to an instrument which for today’s audiences rarely takes centre stage, Charles Hurel’s Suite In C For Solo Theorbo was an engaging example of the versatility and intricacy of such a marvellous instrument.

Moving on to play the Ramirez guitar, the instrument most similar to acoustic guitars played today, Ferries gently enticed the Latin-flavoured harmonies of Manuel Ponce’s arrangement of three Mexican folk songs.

Throughout the performance, Ferries had the audience spellbound with such a varied array of music from the period, bringing out every voice in each piece with clarity and sensitivity. He beautifully evoked in the music a sprightliness and a subtle playfulness, and exhibited      seemingly effortless dexterity in passages with hugely elaborate ornamentation.

Miranda Heggie    The Herald 13/8/12

The guitar in good health

Sherzo Magazine – orginal Spanish version HERE.

This is a good time for the guitar as far as performers are concerned, and the new recordings we are about to refer to are proof of this. They depict a heterogeneous panorama, but one that is extremely interesting and has a common denominator: high quality.

Not long ago we reviewed a delightful recital by Gordon Ferries with works by Gaspar Sanz entitled La preciosa. We said that it had more elegance than spontaneity, that it was nearer to the courtly than the popular, that the expression of beauty had priority over any other consideration.

Now we can offer Marionas (Delphian DCD 34046, distributor Harmonia Mundi) in which Ferries returns with his baroque guitar based on Venetian models. He delights us with the music of Francisco Guerau, also of the era of Sanz and in an aesthetically similar style, with which the Scottish guitarist is so at ease. The melodies we associate with Sanz appear here, if not identical then very similar, as was common at that time and which also occurs with British composers for the virginals, to take a well-known example. In any case, the popular inspiration is as evident here as in Sanz, and this disc to a certain extent completes La preciosa . Both recordings depict a poetic and Apollonian vision of a very concrete period of Spanish music.

Alasdair Roberts ‘Spoils’ (Drag city) *****
featuring Gordon Ferries
(Baroque guitar and 19th-century guitar)
Folk rock visionary’s Stunning treasure
With spoils Alasdair Roberts – Caledonia ‘s answer to Bonnie ‘prince Billy’- has Delivered his finest work to Date. Here percussionist Alex Neilson, former Appendix out Colleagues, sundry Finnish outsiders and a Baroque guitarist hoe out a Swinging, peaty folk rock Patch where Roberts can sow his reed-voiced songs. He is on fire lyrically, drawing on mystical poetry, Celtic legend, Renaissance exploration and Eastern philosophy to reflect The ills of modern society, Culminating in the ‘scurvy dream’ of ‘Ned Ludd’s rant’.
Rob Young Uncut magazine May 2009

The Skinny - http://www.theskinny.co.uk/article/45374-alasdair-roberts-spoils

Lute News

Marionas, Francesco Guerau (Delphian DCD34046)

Spanish Review – click on image

May 2008 issue:

The end of the 17th century brings us to the finest Spanish music for baroque guitar. Gordon Ferries’ Marionas, Francesco Guerau (Delphian DCD34046, issued 2007, 64′) presents music from that composer’s Poema Harmonico (1694). As befitted an ordained priest and chapel royal composer in a time when the Catholic church regarded the earthy, suggestive Spanish guitar dances with deep suspicion, Guerau transformed the dances of the day into weighty and technically demanding art music. Strumming is downplayed in favoured of punteado technique, and elaborate division sets. Guerau used low octave strings on the lower courses, perhaps for the sake of contrapuntal propriety. These are substantial pieces, a long way from the eight-bar strummed grounds printed by Gaspar Sanz; this disc contains just nine tracks, the shortest nearly five minutes, the longest over nine minutes, one in each of the Spanish forms, marionas, marizapalos, jacaras, gallardas, villanos, folias, canarios and two pasacalles, these last being perhaps the highlight of the disc for sheer beauty. Ferries is more than equal to the demands of this music, and plays with assurance and conviction throughout. He cannot resist the temptation to add some strummed passages from Sanz and Santiago de Murcia to Guerau’s villanos, and closes with a lively canario. Some might prefer closer miking, and a less echoey acoustic, but the ear soon adjusts.

La Preciosa, Gaspar Sanz (Delphian DCD 34036)

From May 2007 issue:

The inclusion of percussion is authentic for many of the Spanish baroque dances, yet it is nonetheless reassuring to discover that performances on solo guitar can be perfectly satisfying, as is illustrated by two recent discs, Rafael Bonavita’s Sanz, Murcia, Danzas para guitarra barocca (Enchiriadis EN 2015, rec 2005, 60:01), and Gordon Ferries’ La Preciosa, Gaspar Sanz (Delphian DCD 34036, rec 2005 66:20). At the same time, the differences between the recordings, both ostensibly ‘straight’ performances by artists merely trying to express the true intentions behind the written music, leave one with the familiar reflection that the musical past is both infinitely varied, and ultimately unknowable.
Bonavita performs 17 tracks: 14 of them by Murcia, 2 by Sanz, and ‘homenaje a Gaspar Sanz’ composed by the artist himself. They present the familiar range of Spanish musical forms: jacaras, canaries, follias, cumbees, villanos, and so on, in a pleasingly varied programme. The boy can certainly play. All the performances are lively and virtuosic, full of panache and passion, with plenty of dynamic variety, and very musically phrasing. The recorded sound is crystalline in its clarity. In the CD booklet he states that ‘my aim . . . is to journey from the manuscript I read today back to the moment of artistic creation . . . before it was set down in tablature’ and that he has merely embellished the music ‘with my own ideas as would any baroque guitarist’. Three aspects of the performance may nonetheless raise eyebrows among purists: some suspiciously funky strumming patterns, the use of right-hand stopping of chords as a rhythmic effect, and the very close miking, which (combined with modern, non-gut stringing, I suspect) gives some of the big strummed chords a punch worthy of a flamenco guitar – an effect not really attainable in live performance on a baroque instrument. Of course there is no way of knowing that some of Bonavita’s strumming effects were not in use at the time – what does it prove that other baroque guitarists do not use some of them? – but the overall effect is perhaps of a ‘Santiago de Murcia for our times’.
Gordon Ferries’ performance is similarly impressive, if more subtle and contemplative; the baroque guitar scholar and critic Monica Hall has named this as her recording of the year. Ferries too is a master of his instrument, and plays with technical assurance and fine musicianship throughout. The recording presents music from Sanz’s Instruccion de Musica (first edition 1694): six pieces mostly in dance forms; then a suite in E minor, in familiar baroque dance-suite form though Spanish in name and style (Preludio-Alemanda-Coriente-Zarabanda-Pasacalle); then letting its hair down with livelier Spanish dances: canarios, folias, chaconas, jacaras and villanos. Ferries’ editorial and stylistic approach is more restrained than Bonavita’s, confining itself to attractive strumming and arpeggiation, and the conflation of Sanz’s easier (didactic) versions of dance and ground-form pieces with more difficult variations, Sanz’s own and some by Santa Cruz and Murcia. In summary, I would play Bonavita’s CD to an Unbeliever whom I wanted to persuade that early string music could be exciting; and Ferries’ disc for the imagined experience of being a fly on the wall in the house of a good 18th century guitarist.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Record Guide ProductionsSANZ: Guitar Pieces Gordon Ferries–Delphian 34036–66 minutesAs I have commented in these pages, baroque guitar music often seems caught between two worlds: the street and the court. Modern performers tend to emphasize one of these sides or the other. Excellent baroque guitarist Gordon Ferries goes for the street, stressing the instrument’s earthy, vernacular side as it is revealed in Gaspar Sanz’s colorful music. Unlike some other recent performers, (like Paul O’Dette on Harmonia Mundi 907212) Ferries does not add percussion to get this sense of authenticity, but rather gives the music a spontaneous quality all by himself through his interpretations, where improvisation seems to shade seamlessly into performance from the score.One nice detail of this program is the presence of an entire suite by Sanz. We usually hear only isolated movements by the composer (complete with exotic names); but this suite, which even includes an Allemande, Coriente, and Zarabanda, shows him in a much more traditional, cosmopolitan mode. It must be admitted, though, that this more sober music is not nearly as enjoyable as his more vernacular pieces.The sound from Delphian is excellent, and the handsome booklet includes extensive notes by Ferries himself.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Record Guide Productions
SANZ: Guitar Pieces Gordon Ferries–Delphian 34036–66 minutesAs I have commented in these pages, baroque guitar music often seems caught between two worlds: the street and the court. Modern performers tend to emphasize one of these sides or the other. Excellent baroque guitarist Gordon Ferries goes for the street, stressing the instrument’s earthy, vernacular side as it is revealed in Gaspar Sanz’s colorful music. Unlike some other recent performers, (like Paul O’Dette on Harmonia Mundi 907212) Ferries does not add percussion to get this sense of authenticity, but rather gives the music a spontaneous quality all by himself through his interpretations, where improvisation seems to shade seamlessly into performance from the score.One nice detail of this program is the presence of an entire suite by Sanz. We usually hear only isolated movements by the composer (complete with exotic names); but this suite, which even includes an Allemande, Coriente, and Zarabanda, shows him in a much more traditional, cosmopolitan mode. It must be admitted, though, that this more sober music is not nearly as enjoyable as his more vernacular pieces.The sound from Delphian is excellent, and the handsome booklet includes extensive notes by Ferries himself.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Record Guide Productions
SANZ: Guitar Pieces Gordon Ferries–Delphian 34036–66 minutesAs I have commented in these pages, baroque guitar music often seems caught between two worlds: the street and the court. Modern performers tend to emphasize one of these sides or the other. Excellent baroque guitarist Gordon Ferries goes for the street, stressing the instrument’s earthy, vernacular side as it is revealed in Gaspar Sanz’s colorful music. Unlike some other recent performers, (like Paul O’Dette on Harmonia Mundi 907212) Ferries does not add percussion to get this sense of authenticity, but rather gives the music a spontaneous quality all by himself through his interpretations, where improvisation seems to shade seamlessly into performance from the score.One nice detail of this program is the presence of an entire suite by Sanz. We usually hear only isolated movements by the composer (complete with exotic names); but this suite, which even includes an Allemande, Coriente, and Zarabanda, shows him in a much more traditional, cosmopolitan mode. It must be admitted, though, that this more sober music is not nearly as enjoyable as his more vernacular pieces.The sound from Delphian is excellent, and the handsome booklet includes extensive notes by Ferries himself.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Record Guide Productions
SANZ: Guitar Pieces Gordon Ferries–Delphian 34036–66 minutesAs I have commented in these pages, baroque guitar music often seems caught between two worlds: the street and the court. Modern performers tend to emphasize one of these sides or the other. Excellent baroque guitarist Gordon Ferries goes for the street, stressing the instrument’s earthy, vernacular side as it is revealed in Gaspar Sanz’s colorful music. Unlike some other recent performers, (like Paul O’Dette on Harmonia Mundi 907212) Ferries does not add percussion to get this sense of authenticity, but rather gives the music a spontaneous quality all by himself through his interpretations, where improvisation seems to shade seamlessly into performance from the score.One nice detail of this program is the presence of an entire suite by Sanz. We usually hear only isolated movements by the composer (complete with exotic names); but this suite, which even includes an Allemande, Coriente, and Zarabanda, shows him in a much more traditional, cosmopolitan mode. It must be admitted, though, that this more sober music is not nearly as enjoyable as his more vernacular pieces.The sound from Delphian is excellent, and the handsome booklet includes extensive notes by Ferries himself.

DCD34063 – Fires of Love – Chansons à Plaisir
Goldberg Early Music Magazine, April 2008
FOUR STARS
Chansons a Plaisir is Edinburgh-based Fires of Love second disc for Delphian, and a fitting way to mark the quartet’s tenth anniversary. Comprising Frances Cooper (soprano and percussion), Marcus Claridge (percussion), Gordon Ferries (lute, 4-course guitar and percussion) and Jonathan Hugh-Jones (baritone, recorders and lute), the ensemble offers a multiplicity of colours and textures, from unaccompanied voice or guitar to full ensemble. Those colours and textures are placed fully at the service of the songs and dances on this recording of music from the time of performer, composer and publisher Adrian le Roy (c1520-1698).
The solo contributions by Gordon Ferries are characterised by his usual supple musicianship and unerring good taste. Most of the pieces are by le Roy and Guillaume Morlaye – though one of the highlights in this area is the Pavanne & Galliarde by Pierre Attaignant. Ferries uses a four-course Renaissance guitar for the most part, and its delicate pungent qualities are equally suited to vigorous strumming and more contrapuntal textures.
Ferries also proves to be a sensitive accompanist to Frances Cooper’s clear, attractive soprano, especially in those songs which represent early examples of the air de cour. Excellent too is a version of Arcadelt’s Il bianco et dolce cigno for soprano, bass and lute, baritone Jonathan Hugh-Jones here proving himself Cooper’s expressive equal.
In recorder mode, Hugh-Jones is equally persuasive, as in Thomas Crequillon’s Cessez mes yeulx, where he again joins Cooper and Ferries, while the versatile Marcus Claridge’s percussion is heard to great effect throughout this highly enjoyable release.

Goldberg, 2006 – Five Stars

The musical and social world evoked by the guitar compositions of Gaspar Sanz (c.1640-c.1710) is certainly a vivid one that includes folk dances, taverns and sexual desire. This particular sound-world’s stylistic elements are also interwoven with oral traditions. Sanz was born in Calanda and was a graduate of theology at Salamanca. He moved to Italy where he was able to cultivate useful connections in Naples, particularly with Cristoforo Caresana and Lelio Colista. He was certainly no reprobate: his broad-ranging musical concepts raised the baroque guitar, still in some need of, to the highest possible status. Using the works of this Aragonese composer, Gordon Ferries exploits the instrument’s capacity for timbre and expression with inspired and impeccable technique. The clarity of the musical lines results in a wonderful openness (for example in Fuga por lo primer tono al ayre español), and the most lively dances, such as the Zarabanda, or Canarios I, are engaging but never coarse.

Rivers of ink have been spilled in the musical literature on baroque guitar performance techniques. One even debates whether the playing was to be performed with, or without, the nails, this latter choice is the one followed by Ferries. On the whole the guitarist confirms not only his philological rigour (developed at Napier University) but also his artistic sensibility. In this particular sector a certain teasing of the general public is not unusual. The cover for La Preciosa, for example is an extremely elegant female nude. But this seductive packaging was probably not necessary: the content is interesting per se. A CD not to be missed. 5 Stars. Giampaolo Mele

International Record Review, February 2008

Marionas –The Guitar Music of Francisco Guerau (1649-1722)

The last few years have seen the release of several very fine CDs featuring music for solo Baroque guitar – William Carter’s discs devoted to the music of Francesco Corbetta and Santiago de Murcia, or Gordon Ferries’s own ‘La Preciosa – The Guitar Music of Gaspar Sanz’, to name but a few. Now comes Ferries’s tribute to Francisco Guerau, another great Spanish master of the Baroque guitar.

Guerau (1649-1722) received his early training at the Colegio de Niños Cantores, where he later played as a chamber musician before becoming maestro de capilla. He also sang at the Royal Chapel, both as a child and as an adult. Guerau was a priest as well as a violinist, singer and guitarist, and published a book of theological writings.

Poema Harmonica of 1694 is filled with variations on the popular song and dance forms of his native Spain – a controversial move, perhaps for a man of the cloth – and Ferries has made a representative selection with which to delight the ear of the listener. Here is the Marionas apparently associated with a naughty ballad;the Folias and the exuberant Canarios (a dance originating in the Canary Islands ); the Gallardas, Pasacalles, Marizapalos and Villanos. Few are spared Guerau’s barrage of ornaments, fast scale passages, arpeggios and strummed chords, here dispatched with artistry and supreme stylishness by Ferries.

If the disc opens somewhat ambiguously with the opening Marionas, its descending figures lending it a somewhat wistful quality, and the curiously evocative Marizapalos, the frenzied rasguedo passages with which the Canarios and the disc ends send the pulse well and truly racing . Still, given that all these works are sets of variations, often over very simple chord progressions, there is a real danger that monotony may creep in. To his credit, Ferries keeps this unwelcome visitor firmly excluded by also emphasizing what, on Guerau’s part, must have been an obvious fascination with tone and timbre. The effects are, in contrast with the fireworks, subtle, delicate and profound.

Ferries has been beautifully recorded in the Crichton Collegiate Church in Edinburgh, the sound of the 2004 Martin Maycock five-course guitar (largely after Matteo Sellas) given ample room to resonate without being muddied by an overly reverberant acoustic. His booklet notes, comprehensive and delightful to read, are the icing on the cake.

Robert Levett

The Scotsman **** October 2007

Scots guitarist Gordon Ferries’ latest recording on the Delphian label centres on the music of 17 th century Spanish guitarist and composer Francisco Guerau. The playlist- a baroque cocktail of villanos, passacalles, gallardas, the theatricaljacaras and other prevalent Spanish dance styles is taken from Guerau’s ‘ Poema harmonica ‘ a spicy collection dating from 1690′s Madrid . Ferries’ stylish playing captures the sensuality of the music, a quality endorsed by the somewhat provocative woman on the sleeve cover. This is another fascinating addition to the catalogue, offering fresh insight into the pungent world of the early Spanish guitar. Kenneth Walton,

Classic FM magazine **** Febuary 2008

Scottish guitarist Ferries makes sense of the music of Guerau, for which the lute is too light and Spanish guitar too heavy. The melodic line enchants, the percussive strumming seduces. Rick Jones

Early Music America, Spring 2006

By the late 16th century, a large body of sophisticated sacred and secular polyphonic works had been composed for the lute family, including the vihuela. The guitar, on the other hand, was associated during this time with popular music and accompanying unsavory acts, including strumming, drinking, singing irreverent songs, and, especially, dancing. It was left to composers such as Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710) to take the instrument seriously enough to write a body of music that brought it out of the taverns and village squares and, eventually, into the various royal courts of Europe.

Sanz, a Spaniard, studied guitar and lute in Naples and Rome. Troubled that there were no books available in Spanish to instruct guitar players, he wrote Instrucción de Música, which sets out just about everything a guitar player would need to know, including stringing, fretting, reading tablature, strumming, plucking and ornamentation. It also includes many pieces of music, most based on popular dance forms. Gordon Ferries plays 22 of these short tunes on a five-course (four sets of double strings, and a single top string), Baroque guitar. He achieves an astonishing array of moods and emotions, from the knotty complexity of the “Chacona” to the tenderness of the “Preludio o Caprichio arpeado”. His lively strumming, especially on the “Zarabanda” and “Canarios”, really does make the listener feel like dancing. Ferries’s playing is at once crisp, stylish, and fun. He moves easily from one mood to the next, keeping the texture of this program interesting and varied. Technically the music has been very well recorded, with a close, intimate feel. This is a disc to listen to again and again. Beth Adelman

MusicinScotland.com, April 2006

Superb music, but not in the least “precious”. It may sound quaint and sweet to us, but don’t forget that this was the contemporaneous equivalent of punk – immoral, lewd, and proud of it! 17th century Spanish guitar music played with panache and flair. Warning; this album contains two Zarabandas, public performance of which was punished by flogging, and a term in the galleys!

Lute News, no.76.

Although Sanz is perhaps the best known and most popular of all 17th century composers for the baroque guitar, few people actually play his music as he probably played it himself, as solo music in an intimate setting, using the method of stringing he recommends – n low octave strings on the fourth and fifth courses, and no high octave string on the third course either! Full marks then for Gordon Ferries for doing just that and demonstrating brilliantly that this ‘minimalist’ approach is the one that suits the music best. The seperate strands of music occasionally disappear into thin air, but this is an endearing characteristic of the instrument and part of its charm. During his sojourn in Italy Sanz absorbed what he calls the ‘modern way of composing’ featuring campanellas and other rapid passagework together with all manner of trills, slurs and other left-hand ornaments, and his music is a dazzling display of virtuosity, a quality which is lost if it is buried beneath an elaborate accompaniment with batteries of percussion.

The disc includes a broad section of pieces illustrating every aspect of Sanz’s work. Sets of variations on Spanish dance formulae predominate, but also included is the suite in E minor in the French style, with its lengthy prelude and the allemande ‘La preciosa’ which gives its title to the disc; one of the contrapuntal ‘Fugas’ and two of the short ‘canciones muy curiosas’. Many of the pieces are on the short side and it requires some ingenuity to spin them out so that they last more than a minute or two. Ferries resists the temptation to introduce alien elements into the music, combining simple, and not so simple strummed versions of the dances with the more elaborate variations on the same themes and relying on subtly altered repetition to waeve a golden web of sound so that the music unfolds like an Indian raga.

Deceptively simple on paper, even the ‘easy’ pieces call for great skill on the part of the performer. Ferries is in every way equal to the demands of the music, both its virtuoso elements and the haunting introspective quality of its melodic lines. It seems invidious to single out one piece rather than another for special mention, but I thought the ‘Pavanas’, so well known that it is hackneyed, sounded as fresh as if it had never been played before. The Alemanda ‘La preciosa’ was exquisite, and the Zarabanda, played fast and furious, would have had all the clergy of the diocese of Zaragoza wringing their hands in despair. Ferries’ guitar, by Martin Haycock, and strung with nylgut (I’m told) has a brilliant tone with a metalic edge to it. Every note is clearly defined throughout the compass, and this is enhanced by the resonant acoustic of the venue where the music was recorded. It seems almost incredible that on an instrument apparently limited in resources, the music sounds so satisfying. An object lesson to everyone, past and present, whh has regarded the guitar with its re-entrant tuning as a poor relation of the lute. Definitely my disc of the year for 2005. Monica Hall.

The Herald Saturday 22 October 2005
La Preciosa: Music of Gaspar Sanz Gordon Ferries Delphian Records ****

Guitar music with a difference from Napier and RSAMD-trained Gordon Ferries, a notable and stylish exponent of the baroque guitar. The music of Spanish baroque composer Gaspar Sanz is virtually unknown outside specialist circles. Or, rather, it has been until now. Gordon Ferries’s brilliant disc on the Scottish Delphian label should win at least a few converts. Don’t be put off, if you’re not particularly a fan of baroque music, by the typical titles of the period that pepper this collection: Passacaglias, Sarabandes, Chaconnes, and so on. There is an unmistakable Mediterranean feel to the music, whether stately or solemn pieces; and the livelier numbers positively sizzle. In a riotous Zarabanda (Track six), the extrovert, exuberant dance is punctuated by gentle knocking on the body of the guitar; only the castanets and clicking heels are missing. Recorded with all the ambience of a live Performance. Michael Tumelty

Early Music Forum of Scotland News:

La Preciosa : The Guitar Music of Gaspar Sanz Gordon Ferries Delphian DCD34036 Scottish guitarist Gordon Ferries’ playing of this sun-drenched music from 17th-century Spain is as saucy as the CD’s very saucy cover, hinting at the relative social unacceptability of the guitar and guitar music at this time, when it was traditionally associated with dancing and immorality. Sanz’s music exudes Spanish fire from every pore, and it is this exotic but nebulous quality that Ferries captures to perfection. It is interesting to read that Sanz regarded it as essential to travel to Italy to further his compositional and guitar playing skills and that it was there that his most important works were published. Perhaps the guitar had a better social profile in Italy than in his native Spain! The guitar Ferries plays is based on a number of Venetian originals and he tunes it to the pattern recommended by Sanz. Best wishes, D James Ross

Early Music Forum of Scotland News, 2002

This inaugural disc from the new Edinburgh-based label Delphian is a high-octane tour of instrumental and vocal music from 15th- and 16th-century Spain. The four performers of Fires of Love have a fine instinct for this repertoire, and a degree of versatility permits a gratifying range of textures, while some particularly fine and well-blended singing from Frances Cooper and Jonathan Hugh-Jones, and expressive and rhythmical guitar, vihuela and percussion playing form Gordon Ferries and Marcus Claridge leads to some engaging interpretations of even the most familiar of this repertoire. Jonathan Hugh-Jones’ informative programme note clearly shows the amount of input required from performers to bring cold written lines to life, and the present performers certainly achieve this – a gold star for ingenuity.

MusicWeb(UK), January 2004

Have you ever wondered why the guitarists in so many of Watteau’s (1684-1721) pictures are playing so enthusiastically compared with say, Vermeer’s (1632-1675) lutenists who appear to be tuning up? The reason is that this instrument is always associated with amorous involvement which once one has looked more deeply into the picture become quite explicit. If male, the guitarists in Watteau are often accompanied by kneeling, attractive girls in low cut dresses, who, as in the deliciously entitled ‘La Gamme d’Amour’ (The scale of love – note the musical illusion) are often to be seen holding the music and gazing up into the musician’s eyes. The same can be said of ‘La Recréation Gallante’ (1717). In ‘Mezzetin’ the guitarist is singing to his own playing to some off-stage lover, and in ‘L’Ensigne de Gersaint’ the singing guitarist’s company seems distinctly shady. In Vermeer’s ‘The Love Letter’ the lady guitarist is holding the letter. But in ‘Woman playing the Lute’ she is obviously tuning it whilst gazing with a fixed stare out of a window, for … well one must decide for oneself But perhaps when you look at Watteau’s ‘Recréation Galante’ you are actually seeing Remy Medard or even more possibly Henri Grenerin both featured on this CD. According to Gordon Ferries’ own fascinating booklet essay the guitar’s lack of immediate popularity in the early 17th Century can be put down to the fact that it was associated with loose women, seductive dances much hated by the church throughout history, and illicit sex. By contrast the lute had a more genteel background, it played largely contrapuntal music, even motet transcriptions, or accompanied spiritual songs or played solo, virtuoso toccatas. The lute took and still takes a chronic amount of time to tune whereas the plain six-string guitar takes only moments. The lute takes a lifetime to master whereas, as many a teenager will tell you, the guitar is more easily tackled and can be made to be convincing after only a short time. Even worse, the guitar player can and does strum basic and crude rhythms (as in Corbetta’s Chicaccona in C) while the lute concentrates on melodies. To popularize the guitar it needed a man of genius, diplomacy and influence. By the middle of the 17th century it had found one: Francesco Corbetta. He is not a composer of the first division; in fact I could only put him into the ‘conference league’ but he was certainly popular in his day. The quote from Samuel Pepys’ diary, given in the booklet indicates as much: August 5th 1667 “… I spied Signior Francisco tuning his guitar and Monsieur de Puy with him, who did make him play to me, which he did most admirably…” Corbetta and his contemporaries gave the guitar suites of dances to play. These were for the entertainment of the court and upper classes as well as for lesser folk. This was music everyone might relate to played on an inexpensive instrument many could afford. These suites consist of an opening Prelude along with a courante, a sarabande and probably a gigue as well as a mixture of other popular dances of the time. Whether French or English this pattern in the Suite varied little and each movement was also in one unifying key. These pieces were not meant to be danced to but only listened to. On the other side was the more serious influence of Lully and the French opera of the court of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’. This music represented the height of aristocratic fashion and could to a certain extent be emulated. This is reflected not only in the Sarabande (with its emphasis on beat 2, 1, 2, 3) of which Carre’s suite has not less than three, and the ‘Passacile’, but also in a group of six transcriptions for guitar from a manuscript found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The latter represents composers like Lully and Marais whose ‘Air’ is from his opera ‘Alcione’ of 1706 as well as a transcription of a harpsichord piece by Couperin. All of these are an attempt to give the instrument even more respectability. Gordon Ferries is quite definitely a master of this repertoire and plays delightfully. I must however take issue with the recording. Not for the first time with guitar or lute recordings the microphone has been placed too close. What one hears is too much hand and string movement, sometimes even rhythmically piercing the dances on the same beat of each bar as in the Gigue of Medard’s Suite. Two guitars are used for this recording, one by Sutherland after a Voboam instrument of 1760 and an actual French instrument of the same date. I’m ashamed to say that I am unable to recognize a difference between them. But a word of warning; the sound is not entirely like a modern instrument. My eldest son, a guitarist himself, described the sound produced in non-technical language as ‘twangy’. I’m sorry to say that I canot be sure whether or not to recommend this disc for the general listener. My interest in early music was not particularly roused and the music did not hold my attention. It does however represent its period perfectly. I have nothing but praise for Gordon Ferries’ musicianship, care and determination to present this music, mostly for the first time for two hundred and fifty years, to a modern audience.

Gary Higginson Lute News, October 2003

From being something of a poor relation amongst plucked stringed instruments, spurned by lutenists and classical guitarists alike, the baroque guitar has recently come into its own with several talented players beginning to take an interest in the instrument and its extensive repertoire. Gordon Ferries’ programme of late-17th century music by composers associated with the court of Louis XIV is a well judged mixture of familiar names-Corbetta, de Visée-and their less well known but by no means inferior contemporaries, Henri Grénerin, Rémy Médard and Antoine Carré. Each is represented by a substantial group of dance movements. As one would expect the suites by Corbetta, in A minor from La guitarre royale (1671) and de Visée, in C major from the book of 1682 (not 1686 as stated in the notes, although the final minuet is from the 1686 book) are musically the most substantial and rewarding. Grénerin however runs them a close second. His D major suite is charming, and Ferries makes the most of it with delicate notes inegales in the passcaille and imaginative use of golpeado to highlight the dance rhythm of the minuet. Carré was deeply indebted to Corbetta to the extent of plagiarizing some of his ideas and shares many of Corbetta’s intensely introspective qualities, especially when writing in a minor key. Médard is perhaps the least talented of the four, covering his deficiencies with his claim in the preface that although he has imitated Corbetta he has endowed his pieces with a simplicity which Corbetta did not take the pains to seek. His chromatic prelude is interesting but the other movements rather more pedestrian. Unlike much of the baroque guitar repertoire, however, none of the pieces are trivial. All require repeated and attentive listening and justify the care which Ferries has taken in presenting them. Also included are two contrasting chaconnes by Corbetta, the first from his 1648 book and the second from La guitarre royale The latter in particular is a virtuoso showpiece incorporating the famous ‘repicco’ variation and it gives Ferries an opportunity to show off his formidable technique. There is also a selection of arrangements for guitar of movements from the theatre works of Marais, Campraand Lully and of a keyboard piece by Couperin from the huge manuscript of guitar music, Bibliothèque Nationale de France Rés. F. 844. Arrangements of this kind were enormously popular and those played here work surprisingly well in a reduced medium. Ferries uses two different instruments, a modern instrument after Jean Voboam (Paris, 1690) by D. Sutherland for most of the music, and a French instrument from c.1760 in Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments for all but one of the pieces from Ms. Mus. Rés. F 884. Although there is surprisingly little to choose between the two, the older instrument does sound more mellow and resonant; the modern instrument is focussed and has a slightly metallic quality especially in strummed chords. This is the most satisfying recording of baroque guitar music to have come my way in the last tear of so, one which demands to be sat down and listened to, rather than used as musical wallpaper. It is to be hoped that Ferries soon has further opportunities to present us with more of this repertoire. Monica Hall

The Scotsman, August 2003

Delphian’s newest release will appeal to guitar aficionados. It’s another example of the Edinburgh-based label’s adventurous approach to repertoire in an industry where the big guns are playing it safe, or going to the wall. You probably won’t have heard of many of the French Baroque composers on a track list that runs to 41 – Francesco Corbetta, Robert de Visee, Henri Grenerin or Remy Medard. Better known are Lully and Francois Couperin, whose music is markedly more interesting than that of the unknowns’, although even Couperin’s delicately flavoured Soeur Monique takes a minute or two to get into gear and then just peters out at the end. Scots guitarist Gordon Ferries, however, is an expert in his field, and picks his way stylishly on period instruments through the selection of suites, chiaconas and other sundry numbers. As a whole there’s too much of the same, though, too little contrast. It’s a venture worth doing for the sake of establishing an aural record of the music. But it can be wearing on the uninitiated ears. Kenneth Walton

http://www.musicweb.uk.net/classrev/2003

From its earliest beginnings, the five course Baroque guitar was associated – for better or worse – with dance music, and in his interesting notes Gordon Ferries traces the history of his often reviled instrument which threatened to replace the lute and vihuela. Ferries researched his field under an Arts Council grant, studying 17 C manuscripts in France, with fruitful results gathered here. Several of the composers are little known (Grénerin was not to be found in New Grove!) and all are sound craftsmen. The music is pleasant to listen to, probably best not straight through though, and would be very acceptable as background to an intimate, elegant supper – that is not meant to be a disparaging comment, just help to characterise the genre. Samples can be listened to on the Delphian website. Clearly Ferries is an expert player, and the recording is sympathetic. Recommended for 17th C specialists and people who would like to hear extensive solo performances on this instrument, which is more often heard in early music ensembles. Peter Grahame Woolf

Classical Guitar, March 2004

Based in Edinburgh and an erstwhile student at Chris Kilvington and Roger Niven’s fondly-remembered Tulloch Castle gatherings, Gordon Ferries has carved out a specialist niche as a baroque guitar soloist and director of the ensemble Symphonie des Plaisirs. In this impressive and largely unfamiliar inventory of material drawn from French sources, he emerges as a strong and rhythmic player with a fully-fledged command of the period language. Particularly striking is his command of rasgueado, which culminates in a splendid continuous roll in the conclusion to Corbetta’s Chiacona in C. Elsewhere, most notably in the works of De Visée, he shows admirable restraint, allowing the transparency of the textures to speak for themselves. A further plus point with this tastefully-packaged release is Ferries’ own programme notes, complete with period quotes either condemning or celebrating the popular and ‘lascivious’ nature of the instrument. Finest of all is from one Robert Laneham who, in a letter written c.1548 claims that when ‘caroll I up a song’, accompanied on either gittern or cittern, the fairer sex ‘cum flocking about my lyke beez too hunny’. The parallels with the guitar as a popular accompanying instrument in the late 20th century are obvious, as Ferries goes on to note. One minor shortcoming is the level of audible string noise. I can only guess that the bright and focused sound quality was achieved by close miking, maybe a little too close for an instrument that creates above average quantities of extraneous noise. Not a serious problem, but worth addressing next time. Stylish and accessible baroque from an exponent whose star is in the ascendant. Paul Fowles

Early music today, August/September 2004

From the early 17th century, the lute lost ground to the baroque guitar, to the horror of both lutenists and moralists, and Gordon Ferries’ Les Plaisirs les plus charmants shows off its rival seducations, from the delicacy of suites by de Visée and the less well-known Grénerin and Médard, and charming arrangements of works by Marais, Campra, Lully and Couperin, to the show-stopping virtuoso strummed chaconnes by the great Francesco Corbetta. Very good playing, and an excellent booklet essay. Christopher Goodwin

frutosdeltiempo.com, 2003

From its earliest beginnings, the five course Baroque guitar was associated – for better or worse – with dance music, and in his interesting notes Gordon Ferries traces the history of his often reviled instrument which threatened to replace the lute and vihuela. Ferries researched his field under an Arts Council grant, studying 17 C manuscripts in France, with fruitful results gathered here. Several of the composers are little known (Grénerin was not to be found in New Grove!) and all are sound craftsmen. The music is pleasant to listen to, probably best not straight through though, and would be very acceptable as background to an intimate, elegant supper – that is not meant to be a disparaging comment, just help to characterise the genre. Samples can be listened to on the Delphian website. Clearly Ferries is an expert player, and the recording is sympathetic. Recommended for 17th C specialists and people who would like to hear extensive solo performances on this instrument, which is more often heard in early music ensembles. Peter Grahame Woolf (This review also appears on musicweb.uk)

The Herald, Saturday 22 October, 2005 ****

Guitar music with a difference from Napier and RSAMD-trained Gordon Ferries, a notable and stylish exponent of the baroque guitar. The music of Spanish baroque composer Gaspar Sanz is virtually unknown outside specialist circles. Or, rather, it has been until now. Gordon Ferries’s brilliant disc on the Scottish Delphian label should win at least a few converts. Don’t be put off, if you’re not particularly a fan of baroque music, by the typical titles of the period that pepper this collection: Passacaglias, Sarabandes, Chaconnes, and so on. There is an unmistakable Mediterranean feel to the music, whether stately or solemn pieces; and the livelier numbers positively sizzle. In a riotous Zarabanda (Track six), the extrovert, exuberant dance is punctuated by gentle knocking on the body of the guitar; only the castanets and clicking heels are missing. Recorded with all the ambience of a live Performance. Michael Tumelty

Early Music Review, December 2005

Scottish guitarist Gordon Ferries’ playing of this sun-drenched music from 17th-century Spain is as saucy as the CD’s very saucy cover, hinting at the relative social unacceptability of the guitar and guitar music at this time, when it was traditionally associated with dancing and immorality. Sanz’s music exudes Spanish fire from every pore, and it is this exotic but nebulous quality that Ferries captures to perfection. It is interesting to read that Sanz regarded it as essential to travel to Italy to further his compositional and guitar playing skills and that it was there that his most important works were published. Perhaps the guitar had a better social profile in Italy than in his native Spain! The guitar Ferries plays is based on a number of Venetian originals and he tunes it to the pattern recommended by Sanz. D James Ross Inverness Courier, 2 December 2005

With four double strings, a single top string and a fretwork rose instead of a soundhole, the baroque guitar is the “missing link” between the lute and the Spanish guitar. The instrument has a distinctive timbre and Ferries, from Edinburgh, is a persuasive advocate on yet another offbeat issue from Inverness-born Paul Baxter’s enterprising label. Using his nails to produce a ringing tone, Ferries has a clean sound and a nimble style, playing this late 17th century music with a flourish and the occasional percussive rap on the body of his guitar. Sanz was a Spanish cleric who wrote dance music that his church regarded as sinful. It has rhythmic and dynamic variety, revealing occasional flashes of flamenco fire which still has the power to excite. Jim Love

The Gramophone, February 2006

When the guitar shocked polite society, this man’s music came to the rescue The guitar, through its association with dance and other forms of lewdness, considered an instrument of the Devil? Sound familiar? Only this is Espagna, not Elvis. 17th century Spain, when the courtly vihuela, that prince of lucked instruments, lit the way to the intimate discourses of the heart in an acceptably genteel fashion and the guitar was unspeakably vulgar. Gaspar Sanz was a guitarist and composer of genius who managed to bridge the gap between popular culture and art music; his technical innovations extended the polyphonic capabilities of the Baroque guitar while not for a moment forsaking its sensual side. Thus Gordon Ferries in his recital festoons a central suite of more courtly dances with the ecstatic clamouring of Jácaras, Canarios, Zarabanda, Marionas, Pasacalles and Villano – largely sets of variations wherein he carefully manages the tension through the skilful deployment of strumming, ornament and variety of tone. The percussive effects of the rasguedo technique combined with the harp-like campanella are particularly convincing. There’s really no need to enhance Sanz’s brilliant music by adding other instruments as the brilliant José Miguel Moreno and others have done previously. Ferries’ richly detailed booklet-notes echo his recital by being a perfect blend of facts, intellectual speculation and gentle humour; indeed the package give you an insight into a cultural milieu where things weren’t so different from ours after all. William Yeoman Lute News, December 2005 Although Sanz is perhaps the best known and most popular of all 17th century composers for the baroque guitar, few people actually play his music as he probably played it himself, as solo music in an intimate setting, using the method of stringing he recommends – no low octave strings on the fourth and fifth courses, and no high octave string on the third course either! Full marks then for Gordon Ferries for doing just that and demonstrating brilliantly that this ‘minimalist’ approach is the one that suits the music best. The separate strands of music occasionally disappear into thin air, but this is an endearing characteristic of the instrument and part of its charm. During his sojourn in Italy Sanz absorbed what he calls the ‘modern way of composing’ featuring campanelas and other rapid passage work together with all manner of trills, slurs and other left-hand ornaments, and his music is a dazzling display of virtuosity, a quality which is lost if it is buried beneath an elaborate accompaniment with batteries of percussion. The disc includes a broad selection of pieces illustrating every aspect of Sanz’s work. Sets of variations on Spanish dance formulae predominate, but also included is the suite in E minor in the French style, with its lengthy prelude and the allemande ‘La preciosa’ which gives its title to the disc; one of the contrapuntal ‘Fugas’ and two of the short ‘canciones muy curiosas’. Many of the pieces are on the short side and it requires some ingenuity to spin them out so that they last more than a minute or two. Ferries resists the temptation to introduce alien elements into the music, combining simple, and not so simple strummed versions of the dances with the more elaborate variations on the same themes and relying on subtly altered repetition to weave a golden web of sound so that the music unfolds like an Indian raga. Deceptively simple on paper, even the ‘easy’ pieces call for great skill on the part of the performer. Ferries is in every way equal to the demands of the music, both its virtuoso elements and the haunting introspective quality of its melodic lines. It seems invidious to single out one piece rather than another for special mention, but I thought the ‘Pavanas’, so well known that it is hackneyed, sounded as fresh as if it had never been played before. The Alemanda ‘La preciosa’ was exquisite, and the Zarabanda, played fast and furious, would have had all the clergy of the diocese of Zaragoza wringing their hands in despair. Ferries’ guitar, by Martin Haycock, and strung with nylgut (I’m told) has a brilliant tone with a metallic edge to it. Every note is clearly defined throughout the compass, and this is enhanced by the resonant acoustic of the venue where the music was recorded. It seems almost incredible that on an instrument apparently limited in resources, the music sounds so satisfying. An object lesson to everyone, past and present, who has regarded the guitar with its re-entrant tuning as a poor relation of the lute. Definitely my disc of the year for 2005. Monica Hall

Early Music Review, December, 2005

It has been a pleasure to review this excellent CD of guitar music by Gaspar Sanz (c.1640-c.1710). Ferries plays cleanly and expressively, and brings out the considerable variety of textures in Sanz’s music. There are tender moments with rolled chords in the first section of Pavanas por la D, followed by a section consisting entirely of campanellas (scales where each successive note is played on a different course, allowing the notes to ring on like little bells). There are exciting strums and taps on the soundboard in Zarabande, and exotic discords reminiscent of flamenco in the first Jacaras. By the way, Pavanas por la D is in A minor, but it is ‘por la D’ because D is the letter for A minor in the guitar alfabeto notation. Ferries opts for the tuning described by Sanz, where both strings of the 4th and 5th courses are tuned an octave higher than on the modern classical guitar. He eschews a high octave on the third course (favoured by William Carter in his recent recording of music by Corbetta). The result is a high, tinkly sound, where there is much duplication of notes at the same pitch. For example, an imitative passage may look on the page as if two voices are an octave apart, but with Ferries’ tuning they sound at the same pitch. Yet, although the overall range of the instrument is reduced by a seventh, the ear quickly adjusts. The notes on the 4th and 5th course may be at the same pitch as those on higher strings, but they have a different tone colour, which helps pick out the imitation, for example in Marionas. One advantage of this tuning is the clarity of campanella passages. If the lower courses were both tuned in octaves, the music would sound very strange, with some notes of a scalic passage doubled an octave lower, and other notes not. The disadvantage is that there is a distinct lack of bass, most noticeable in slow, sustained chordal passages, something that Ferries overcomes (to some extent) by rolling chords. Stuart McCoy