Album Title: Original Music for Cello and Guitar
Performer: Michael Jones cello; Agustin Maruri guitar
Label: EMEC E-001
Running time: 74’30"
Recorded: November 1992

Legendary recordings are timeless. After all these years, the magnetism of this debut recording by the Jones & Maruri cello and guitar duo is just as vividly thrilling as it was during my first encounter. When I stepped into the Hong Kong distributor’s showroom more than 15 years ago, it was the Nocturnes by Friedrich Burgmüller (1806-1874) he played. A lo-fi system it was, yet I was defenselessly stunned by the intriguing dialogue between the cello legato and guitar pizzicato. The first movement "Andantino" has a melancholic yet romantic melody threading through it.

The two instruments are so tonally close that they are emotionally embracing each other. The melody is utterly simple but expressive. Young piano students should know Burgmüller’s many keyboard studies which remain the most tuneful and rhythmic practice routines today. Compared to the boring Hanon fingering exercises, they are real treats after long hours of practice. Burgmüller’s exceptional gift for melodies continues to prevail in the following two movements.

"Adagio Cantabile" is decidedly filled with pathos, the guitar submerging into its lower registers and the cello sighing deeply in weariness. "Allegro moderato" is lively but elegant, with the two instruments singing high and low, fluttering up and down the sonic spectrum. The album was Top 10 Classical in Hong Kong 1993 and the favorite demo disc in hifi shops.

The other seven composers were new to me but their music didn’t sound foreign at all. Alba by Italian composer Francesco Telli (b. 1956), Siluetas and Perfiles by Spanish composer Pedro Saenz (1915-1995) were expressly composed for these particular musicians. They are technically adventurous, creatively flourishing, sonically inventive and, most importantly for my untrained ears, rich in musical ideas and melodic contents. Max Baumann (1917-1999) is German but his Duo Op.62 could have fooled me that he was a Spaniard. The last movement "Hommage a de Falla" pays tribute to the Spanish master with a spicy Flamenco style not just on the guitar but cello which faces its counterpart with ponticello plucking, tambora drumming (tapping on the sound box) and brisk double stops. It’s a real gem awaiting cello and guitar music lovers to discover.  

The colorful Cool Winds by British composer Nicholas Marshall (b. 1943) combines three contrasting dance styles in three movements: "Rumba", "Blues" and "Pasodoble", the last one being the toreador’s entrance music. Czech composer Stepán Rak (b. 1945) realized his creative ambition in his Romance juxtaposing earthly Spanish flavors of Sor and Tarrega on the guitar with Paganinian virtuoso bravura on the cello. Liviana by Alin Mitéran (b. 1941) begins with two befittingly French and romantic movements but surprises us with a final slow burner, a languid Tango that is nonetheless seductive. Last but not least is a genuine Spanish work by Pedro Olaya (1911-1941). The Canción is a sad song that echoes the opening track except with a Catalonian accent.

As I wrote in my introduction to the Jones & Maruri Duo, this is a must-have CD for musical enjoyment and sonic indulgence. It is the first step to discovering the unique sonority and rare tonal beauty of the cello and guitar partnership and their now widely diversified repertoire. For that reason, it’s never too late to hand out the award it deserved all along.