Virtuoso, composer, educator, music researcher – many talents were united in the person of Emilio Pujol. Nobody before him (and hardly anybody after him) had (or has) occupied himself so intensively with the tonal fine points of guitar playing as the Tárrega pupil Pujol, to whom Frank Bungarten pays homage and tribute on his latest album. The fact that Bungarten had Gary Southwell design an instrument especially for this recording corresponds perfectly to the meticulousness with which Pujol formed his miniatures.
For in his manual Escuela Razonada de la Guitarra Pujol indicates a systematic path leading to the perfection of playing technique on the guitar. In his opinion such a path is necessary while working toward the goal of the “right music.” Tonal differentiation plays a substantial role: he is precise in his prescriptions of the fingerings, indicating on which string a note is to be played (sometimes it is only a single string), and one piece is to be performed only with the left hand, which means entirely without plucking by the right hand.
Like his contemporary Segovia, Pujol oriented himself very much by the violin; models from Paganini to Ysaye are repeatedly reflected in his études. Poetic titles like “Song of the Birds,” “The Dragonfly,” or “Autumn Song” show that more than finger dexterity is involved here. After Pujol’s death in 1980 most guitarists turned more toward the piano or the harpsichord; the tirando with the nail replaced the song-like, full sound of the apoyando touch with the full fingertip – and masters like Pujol were forgotten.
Which is why Bungarten’s advocacy of this poet of the guitar earns him even more merit points. In particular the Fifteen Variations on a Theme by Dionisio Aguado represent a genuine discovery for guitar connoisseurs. The high-resolution, carefully and lovingly balanced recording shows the composition, Bungarten’s playing, and the wonderful instrument – a Torres copy from the collection of the Paris Conservatory – in their finest audio light.