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Fanfare Magazine (USA) Review of "In the Woods"

April 29, 2015


I'm thrilled to share with you this lovely review of my solo recording In the Woods, published in the current May/June edition of Fanfare Magazine (USA). The complete review is available for the magazine's subscribers on their website and it is also provided for you in full in this post. Happy reading! BK. 



IN THE WOODS  •  Bradley Kunda  •  SOUNDSET RECORDINGS 1053 (70:12)


CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO Selections from Goya’s Caprichos. VILLA-LOBOS Five Preludes. OURKOUZOUNOV Sonata. TANSMAN Variations on a Scriabin Theme. TAKEMITSU In the Woods.


On this disc, Australian guitarist Bradley Kunda plays a variety of music from five very different composers. He has a refined technique and the ability to play each composer’s piece in correct, idiomatic style.


Kunda opens his program with three of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s musical realizations of Francisco Goya’s late eighteenth century prints called Los Caprichos. The lyrical portrait of the painter tells of his unspoken thoughts. The guitar then describes a scene in which a mother pleads for charity from a well-dressed daughter. Finally, a perky Rigaudon depicts a scene in which an over dressed gentleman tries to flatter his way into the arms of a young woman. In a more contemplative mood, Kunda plays the first of the five existing Preludes by Heitor Villa-Lobos. These seemingly easy pieces are in reality quite demanding. Dedicated to the composer’s companion, known affectionately as 'Mindinha', they illustrate typical Brazilian music and sensibility. Kunda plays the first as a dreamy lyrical piece, but the second introduces the listener to a catchy Brazilian rhythm. The third pays homage to Johann Sebastian Bach and the fourth honors the Brazilian Indian. For his finale, Villa-Lobos wrote a delicious waltz that makes even our jaded twenty-first century feet want to move to its enchanting rhythm. The sixth and final piece is missing but would probably confirm the intended structure of the work as a whole if it were ever found. Julian Bream recorded the five preludes in 1991 for RCA and his interpretation is most impressive, but his sound is not as clear as Kunda’s.


Leaving the nineteenth century, the Australian guitarist next plays the jazzy rhythms of contemporary Bulgarian composer Atanas Ourkouzounov’s Sonata. Kunda goes for broke on this one and the result is a fascinating finale for the piece. On Kunda’s website Ourkouzounov praises the Australian’s playing, saying that he likes the way the guitarist presents the whole form of the piece while at the same time playing freely with rubato. The composer asks him to keep playing the piece like that!


The Variations on the Theme of Scriabin by early twentieth century Polish Jewish composer Alexandre Tansman take us to a world of extreme simplicity with the contemplative aspect of a lyrical melodies. Kunda plays them with great attention to sound quality and he draws listeners into his multi-hued tonal world while regaling them with his ability to provide material for fascinating dreams. In 2009 Marc Regnier played the Tansman variations on his complete recording of the composer’s guitar music.


Kunda entitled this album In the Woods because the main work, with which it concludes, is Toru Takemitsu’s opus of the same name. Each of its three sections: "Wainscot Pond", "Rosedale" and "Muir Woods" was dedicated to a different guitarist: the first to John Williams, the second to Kiyoshi Shomura, and the third to Julian Bream.  Kunda makes each tone count for a great deal in these pieces and the listener can hear the effects of the elements on the plants, rocks and water. Franz Halasz plays Takemitsu’s work on the CD he recorded for Bis in 2000, but his disc contains a great deal of reverberation, so the creative, colorful playing on the Soundset disc is definitely preferable. I enjoyed listening to Kunda’s virtuosity and think many readers will want to own this CD. Maria Nockin


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Copyright © Bradley Kunda, 2017

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