“... An icredible musician and guitarist!!!...”
Sergio Assad - (Grammy Award Guitarist & Composer)
“... Thanos has a brilliant virtuoso technique and excellent musicianship - truly an extraordinary talent. His playing is of the highest professional caliber ...”
Sharon Isbin (Director of the guitar department at The Juilliard School)
“... A rich musical talent! His clear virtuoso, musically inventive and impressive performance easily gains the highest appreciation of the listener! ...”
Tadashi Sazaki (Director of the guitar department in Hochschule fur music in Aachen)
REVIEWS FOR THANOS'S SOLO CD "Tribute" (ClearNote 2017)
According to the notes Tribute invites ‘spiritual regeneration through music’ and if that sounds a bit wishy-washy, then I suggest listening in a more actively engaged way – the rewards are many.
Thanos Mitsalas has constructed an attractive programme that reaches back as far as Llobet, includes two pieces by Rodrigo and some fine contemporary pieces that showcases the art of the guitar today. Llobet’s Variations on the Theme of Folias de Espana is something of a recital favourite, taking Sor’s Op 15 variations as its source material for the first two variations, adding eight further variations and an intermezzo. Full of fanciful wit and elegant roulades, with a positively charmingly played intermezzo, Mitsalas scores highly by virtue of his stylistic aplomb and deft articulation. He’s equally persuasive in Rodrigo – full of reflective and expressive refinement in Tiento Antiguo, a kind of impressionist tone poem, with its vihuela evocations prominent. Rodrigo explored Sevillian landscape in his much later Un tiempo fue Italica famosa, full of flair and flamenco exuberance as well as more lofty vistas, rich in poetic esprit. Tansman’s Variations on a theme of Scriabin dates from 1972 and alternates wistfulness and a more animated sense of drama, including meditative and fugato sections.
Mitsalas has selected two movements from Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas and he brings out their evocative and lyric beauties with assurance. The Italian composer Simone Iannarelli has been living in Mexico for a number of years and his Tribute to Keith Jarrett is intended to show how the pianist has influenced Iannarelli’s music; consequently it doesn’t sound either like a reflection or pastiche of Jarrett’s music but something altogether more organic and stylistically tangential. Sergio Assad is widely admired as performer and composer and his generously appointed three-movement Sandy’s Portrait has a dancing Prelude – with a small admixture of contrastive tristesse – a rather lovely Passacaglia, and a terpsichorean and very engaging Toccata finale. To conclude there’s a piece introduced as a bonus, Andrew York’s By Candlelight, a most attractive and sensitive envoi. It brings to an end a splendidly played recital.
Jonathan Woolf – September 2018 (MusicWeb International)
Thanos Mitsalas' latest disc, Tribute, isa beautifully constructed program, played extraordinary well. Mitsalas has abundant technique – a necessity given some of the repertoire chosen! – and a dramatic musical imagination.
The underplayed Tiento Antiguo by Rodrigo begins the program with an evocative and deeply felt performance. It leads very well into Llobet's take on the “Folias” theme, executed with perfect fluency. The exquisite Tansman Scriabin variations lead to one of Rodrigo's most formidable works, Un tiempo fue italica famosa. (Only the insane Elogio de la Guitarra probablyexceeds it in difficulty among the composer's solo works.) Mitsalas meets its demands handily. Two of Piazzolla's seasons are presented in Sergio Assad's arrangements. Assad is also represented in the premiere recording of his “Sandy's Portrait.” The liner notes give perhaps too much detail on how Assad derives the melodic material of his portraits from the honoree's names, but the agreeable melodic nature of the three movements justifies his compositional process. Also included are brief works by Simone Iannareli, a Keith Jarrett tribute, and as an “encore,” Andrew York's By Candlelight.
The beautiful recorded sound allows Mitsalas' Thomas Humphrey Milennium model guiter to shine. Presentation and notes are exemplary.
Al Kunze - March 2018 (Soundboard Magazine)
Mr Mitsalas continues to impress me—I have reviewed his work often (M/J 2012, S/O 2012, S/O 2016), always warmly. Here he presents a set of works inspired by something outside the composer and pure form, programmed with beautiful balance and exquisite playing.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but it was the Llobet that gave me most pleasure. It’s an odd work, which starts with the theme and first two variations from Sor’s Folias variations (I believe it was first published as Variations on a Theme by Sor). Once he gets into the work, he explores some of the most virtuosic passages Llobet ever wrote for guitar, including a variation for left hand alone. Indeed, it has been beyond the technical command of most of the performances I’ve heard, until Mitsalas. He has no fears from any of the passages, and his performance sparkles.
Then there are the two rarely heard Rodrigo works, each performed as well as one can imagine. Tansman’s Scriabin Variations holds together better than in most performance. I also took great delight in Sergio Assad’sSandy’s Portrait, a tribute to Dr Sanford Bolton, a strong supporter of the guitar at the University of Arizona, Tuscon. The thematic material was based on pitches assigned to the letters of the alphabet—a technique that usually fails, but not here. Indeed, this is one of the prettiest passacaglias I’ve ever heard (the other two movements are a prelude and toccata). The designated encore is a lovely Andrew York piece, ‘By Candlelight’.
Mitsalas’s playing is flawless—and, more than that, unfailingly tasteful and deeply expressive. Virtuosic passages sparkle, contemplative passages draw the listener into profound beauty. He is one of our finest artists.
Ken Keaton - March/April 2018 (American Record Guide)
Two different albums by Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas have crossed my desk this year (the other was Sérgio Assad: Chamber Works for Guitar and Strings), and both showcase a formidable guitarist with excellent taste in 20th and 21st century repertoire. A mellifluous and meticulous player, Mitsalas excels here on a pair of pieces by Rodrigo (including his exciting, highly nationalistic late work Un tiempo fue italica famosa, written in 1980 and dedicated to Angel Romero); two movements of Piazzolla’s suddenly ubiquitous Estaciones Porteñas (extra points for choosing the gorgeous, less-played Invierno Porteño!); “Variations” on Scriabin and the traditional Folia de España by Tansman and Llobet, respectively; Simone Iannerelli’s Tribute to Keith Jarrett, which somehow manages to sound like one the American jazz pianist’s improvisations; and, perhaps not surprisingly, a recent work from Sérgio Assad, the brilliant three-movement Sandy’s Portrait (2013), with its transcendently gorgeous “Prelude,” Bach-inspired “Passacaglia,” and closing “Toccata” which, Assad writes in the album notes, “is a free concept of the toccata form, with a slow middle section inserted, rather unusually, into the very energetic and fast outer sections.” Wonderful!
The album closes with what is labelled as an “Encore piece” (which begs the question: why?): a poignant version of Andrew York’s popular By Candlelight; a nice choice to top off a consistetly outstanding program.
Blair Jackson – January 2018 (Classical Guitar Magazine)
Outstanding guitar artistry in a presentation of several first-rate contemporary works—Assad, York, Piazzolla—as well as a stupendous Alexandre Tansman “Scriabin Variations.”
(Thanos Mitsalas; guitar)
In the liner notes to this 2017 release by the Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas, we are told that the artist is “steadily achieving recognition as one of the leading virtuosos of his generation.” The first half of the CD at hand, Tribute, earnestly substantiates those claims, emphasizing finger-wiggling velocity on a technically daunting polyphonic piece by Alexandre Tansman called 3 Variations on a theme of Scriabin. This is a impressive piece, and at 10:16, the longest on the record. The enigmatic Scriabin theme leads the guitar far away from the typical guitaristic ambience, into the realm of heady Modernism that is nicely fit to the demands of the guitar.
The first track Tiento Antiguo, an inward looking lyrical piece with a minor mode brooding but few Iberian gestures, is by Rodrigo. The same composer is featured on track four, Un Tiempo Fue Italica Famoso, a dark piece that alternates between Iberian castanet-accented strumming with florid passages of excessive virtuosic self-consciousness. The sound engineer has achieved a big close-up sound; the instrument (made by Thomas Humphrey) is vivid, with much timbral nuance between strings and registers.
The second track features Llobet’s variations on a theme of folias de Espana. The first subject is a stately utterance and, on this instrument, sounds ravishing in its presentation. However, the descending bass line, immediately recognized as the ‘Folias’ chord progression promises that there will be 77 reiterations of this harmonic pattern. The hectic divisions (as they are called in pre-Baroque practice) are a catalog of guitar cliches, but the progression itself feels like the oppressive straight-jacket the guitar has been trying to escape for centuries. A nearly eight minutes, it is a mix of technical display and aural flogging.
Two of Astor Piazzolla’s season Portenos come next, Primavera and Invierno. The first contains puckish harmony with some fancy counterpoint. Technically beyond reach of all but the most skilled hands, the piece is carried off with dazzle by the Greek guitar virtuoso. Both pieces have sweet passages which are played with rapt concentration. Invierno wafts lyrical with intricate sonic effects and harmonic detail but little discernable design. If it is aiming for an evocation of snow, it arrives merely at fog.
The title track Tribute is dedicated to Keith Jarrett and continues the trend towards moody sweetness. I don’t know how many of Keith Jarrett’s musical personae could be conjured up from this ambitious piece, but it is very effective. It begins with some of the relentless, trance-induced drive of that sui generis improviser and sweeps along breathlessly with gushing lyricism. The composer, Simone Iannerelli, has achieved a great success with this recording and must be thrilled at the mastery displayed by Mr. Mitsalas.
Sergio Assad’s Sandy’s Portrait follows. One is reminded that the legendary guitarist is a substantial composer, for it is a piece of depth and refinement. The Prelude has so much unexpected harmony supporting an exquisite lyric, while the Passacaglia has a more agreeable use of a chord cycle and ends on an unadorned major chord. The Toccata again demonstrates the guitarist superb articulation on both a bustling and thoughtful couple of themes.
The recital ends with the heartfelt By Candlelight, a affecting but simple theme with a repeated plangent melodic notion over simple minor chords. Andrew York has one foot in New Age music, but is a capable composer of pastoral sensibility. It is a curious choice to end the recital so modestly rather than with one of the big pieces. Perhaps it can be taken as a show of confidence by this outstanding guitarist, who has much more than just virtuosic prowess on demonstration in this outstanding release. Altogether an impressive concert by a first-rate musician.
Fritz Balwit - Nov 2017 (Audiophile Audition)
REVIEWS FOR ΤΗΕ 2016 CD RELEASE :
SERGIO ASSAD - “MIKIS” CONCERTO FANTASIA (Works for Guitar &
Strings – ClearNote 2016)
SERGIO ASSAD’S NOTES ABOUT THE RECORDING PROJECT :
In today’s world, where CDs are so easy to produce, very few recordings stand out above the vast seaofCD’s released every year. It is my great pleasure to introduce one of these very special recordings featuring chamber works for guitar and strings. This extremely well produced CD was recorded and engineered inThessaloniki,Greece. The artists involved are of the highest caliber with a profound knowledge and understanding of chamber music. The exquisite classical guitarist from Greece Thanos Mitsalas surrounded himself with top Greek string players and recorded this full album dedicated to some of the chamber music that I wrote over the years.
You will find here the first recording of the Concerto Fantasia for guitar and strings based on the music of our beloved Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Written in 1999, it was commissioned by Costas Cotsiolis and premiered by this great guitarist in Athens with the Athenian String Orchestra. The concerto is written after a collection of pieces that Theodorakis composed under the title Lorca. To create Lorca, a set of songs for guitar, contralto, choir and orchestra, he used a collection of poems written by Federico Garcia Lorca called Romancero Gitano. This work became one his most known pieces and was popularized by the recording of John Williams and Maria Farantouri.
The Concerto Fantasia presented in this CD uses Theodorakis’ themes and gives a special role to the guitar part treated in a stylistic concertante way. Formally, the piece is presented as a traditional concerto in three movements each movement using a pair of Theodorakis songs in a total of six. Making an echo to Theodorakis title, Lorca, the concerto fantasia was named Mikis, after the composer’s first name, in a pure and humble homage to his music.
The 5 World Dances were commissioned by the Bath International Music Festival in 2001 and were my first pieces for guitar and string quartet. It comprises a set of 5 pieces each one featuring an idiomatic style of music from a different part of the globe. The subtitles reflect those regions: 1)Middle Eastern, 2)Celtic, 3)African, 4)Balkan and 5)Latin American.
It is a true honor to have my music so well presented here in this excellent recording!!
Sergio Assad (2016)
Sergio Assad’s reputation as one of the contemporary world’s most generous composers for guitar, his own instrument, is pretty much unchallenged. He lends his equally generous written imprimatur to this recording in which he praises Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas and his string colleagues for the recording of two of his chamber works.
Mikis, the Concerto Fantasia for guitar and strings was composed in 1999 and based on music by Mikis Theodorakis called Lorca, a setting for guitar, contralto voice, choir and orchestra. It’s the guitar’s concertante role that Assad has especially turned to, employing pairings of Theodorakis’ songs in each of the three movements. The music has a wealth of beguiling charm and, given the downward sonic extension of the double-bass added to the string quartet; it’s vested with a bigger-than-expected sonority. There are rich Iberian rhythms, expressive breadth and plenty of alluring refinement. The longest movement is the central Andante, its wistful nostalgic lyricism balanced by faster contrastive runs, the product of elastic long-breathed writing rich in romance. Occasional fiesta-like moments of happiness and the occasional mordant incident widen the music’s expressive compass. The finale is not pressed too hard but unfolds with a natural sense of buoyancy. A cadenza is deftly played by the splendid soloist.
The Five World Dances for guitar and string quartet was Assad’s first work for this combination in 2002. The movements cover Middle-Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan and Latin American. Each is sharply characterised, from the swaying aura of the opener, through the wistful lyric romance of the Celtic twilight, to the resonant drama of the Balkans. Still, perhaps it’s the succulent tristesse of the Latin-American panel that most engages the listener, the music’s tempi full of giddy and heady excitement. Once again Mitsalas and his excellent string colleagues prove equal to the music’s demands, vesting it with rich sonority and technical address.
This isn’t a new disc; it was recorded back in 2010. It’s presented in card gatefold style with some colour photographs of the performers and composer and booklet recollections of a clearly very happy and satisfying recording. It certainly sounds like it from this delightful disc.
Jonathan Woolf – September 2018 (MusicWeb International)
Composer Assad gets top billing on this 52-minute program, which contains two long chamber works for guitar and four or five strings (two violins, viola, cello, double-bass). First up is “Mikis”: Concerto Fantasia for Guitar & Strings, a world premiere recording of a piece Assad wrote in 1999 in tribute to and based on the music of the great Greek composer Mikis Theordorakis, specifically on a collection of pieces Theodorakis wrote inspired by some poems by Federico Garcia Lorca. It’s a sumptuous work, filled with great, sweeping melodies, a few angular modern touches, and a number of lovely guitar passages, all of which are handled deftly by the superb Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas. The integration of the guitar and the strings is masterful. The second piece, a collection of five “world dances,” delivers what the subtitled sections promise and much more: “Middle Eastern” is appropriately charged and hypnotic, “Celtic” starts with a lilting Irish ballad feel and then jumps into a complex jig, etc. But leave it an imaginative composer like Assad to never fall into the cliches of the various genres, but instead use the rudiments of those musical languages as jumping-off points for his own extrapolations. Again, Mitsalas works well in every style and he and his bowed-strings compatriots are always right in the groove together. A truly wonderful album!
Blair Jackson –September 2017 (Classical Guitar Magazine)
I have reviewed Mr Mitsalas before, in a recording of Assad’s solos (M/J 2012) and in acollection called The Italian Tradition (S/O2012). A third collection, Contemplation, was also well received. I was impressed with each release, and I am strongly impressed with this. First of all, the music isreally wonderful. Mikis has a subtitle, ‘Concerto Fantasia for Guitar and Strings’, and was intended to beperformed with a string orchestra. Here we hear one to a part, a string quartet with a double bass. It is based on the music of Mikis Theodorakis, specifically his Lorca, a work for guitar, contralto, chorus, and orchestra based on his cycle Romancero Gitano. I’ve never heard that work, though I assume the text is the same as Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s setting for guitar and chorus. I do know the music is lyrically beautiful, even in the most exciting, virtuosic passages. 5 World Dances is for guitar and string quartet. Unlike Mikis, this is a fully integrated chamber work—the guitar is not dominant, though he has plenty to play. Each movement reflects a specific tradition: Middle Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan, and Latin American. The Celtic could be a traditional Scotch folk song, and the Balkan is in what Bartok called Bulgarian rhythms, 9/8, grouped 2+2+2+3. Assad’s early music was strongly in the Latin American tradition—reflecting his Brazilian roots—but his mature work has transcended those roots. His music is no longer Latin— unless he intends it to be—and has become increasingly sophisticated. He is certainly among the finest composers the guitar world has in an increasingly crowded field. Mitsalas performs with the same high level of musicianship and virtuosity he has always delivered: gorgeous tone, absolutely fluent playing no matter how technically demanding the music becomes, and he always gets to the heart of whatever he’s playing. The strings, all fellow Greeks, play with perfect ensemble, intonation, and expression. A treasurable recording.
Ken Keaton - Sep/Oct 2016 (American Record Guide)
Anyone conversant in the classical guitar world knows the name of Sergio Assad, one half of the dynamic duo with his brother Odair. The Assads have long thrilled and inspired audiences the world over for their artistry, near perfect playing, and creative pushing of the repertoire for the classical guitar. In recent years, Sergio has composed for the guitar and ensembles (listen to his work with his brother and the brilliant Paquito D'Riveira), and this CD, Chamber Works for Guitar and Strings, is one such project, leaving the guitar playing duties in the capable hands of Thanos Mitsalas. The disc is really six works. The opening piece is "Concerto Fantasia," based on the music of Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Many themes of his music weave in and out of this three movement work. The Allegro carries us forward in bright, pulsing rhythms, while the Andante is often a gentle whisper, punctuated by restless passages with minor key tensions. The Vivace caps the piece, strings rushing at us, only to be supplanted by Mitsalas' driving, yet lyrical, guitar playing, Assad says in the liner notes that the 5 World Dances are his first pieces for guitar and string quartet. Each dance highlights the musical legacy of different cultures Middle Eastern, Celtic, African, Balkan, and Latin American. They are wonderful studies in melody and harmony. "Celtic" actually brings to mind in some passages the music of Appalachia in America, which makes sense, since that area was a melting pot of Old World musical traditions gaining their own voice in the New World. "Balkan" throbs with the whirling rhythms of Eastern Europe. The Quartet works seamlessly with Mitsalas in creating just the right aural textures and color. This is a brilliant disc of new paths in guitar and ensemble music, and one hopes Mr. Assad will continue to gift us with more efforts like this.
Kirk Albrecht - Minor 7th (July-August 2016)
REVIEWS FOR THANOS'S SOLO CD "Contemplation" (ClearNote 2014)
Seeing a title like Contemplation might make one concerned about having one of those regtettable discs of faux-soulful , directionless, pieces suitable perhaps for your favorite stoner but no one else. Not to worry! Mitsalas' disc does include a number of quite and reflective pieces, but beautiful ones, superbly played. And as the program evolves it adds more intense and very virtuosic works to balance the lighter ones. The opening is Simone Iannarelli's lovely Per Sofia, and the program concludes with a powerful traversal of the Bach Chaconne, making the most of its beauty and drama. In between are a number of beautiful works, including four of the Seis Breviduras by Sergio Assad and the premiere recording of the same composer's marvelous tribute, Eli's Portrait, forToronto's Eli Kassner. Mitsalas also makes the most of Nuccio D'Angelo's Due Canzoni Lidie.
Recorded sound is good, althought the guitar sounds about ten feet wide and sometimes a bit twangy. This is most likely a function of microphone placement and really does not inhibit enjoyment of the disc at all; just don't overdo the volume. Excellent notes are provided in a well-designed, tri-fold sleeve. -
Al Kunze - (Soundboard Magazine / Spring 2015)
Five years ago I had the great pleasure of reviewing Thanos Mitsalas' debut CD, which I found to be movingly personal and expressive, while also being remarkably clean and articulate. And today, Mitsalas' newest offering, entitled "Contemplation", is quite simply one of the finest recordings I've encountered in my decade of writing reviews. Like before, his playing is stunningly accurate, crisp, and full of life. From beginning to end Mitsalas marries all of the elements of great classical guitar playing: enormous and evocative tonal range, world-class command of the instrument, and a unique and defining musical voice. The repertoire he selected is interpretively and technically challenging, oftentimes peppered with temperamental dynamic nuance, and at other times marked by enormous and moving dynamic juxtapositions. Mitsalas opens with a swaying and meditative work by Sinone Iannarelli entitled 'Per Sofia'. The piece delicately transports the listener into Mitsalas' musical world, drawn not only from a traditional-classical perspective, but also heavily influenced by modern Spanish and South American styles. Next are four Breviduras composed by the legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer Sergio Assad. Had the entire disc been only these four pieces, I may have been satisfied, as they straddle a vast musical range, and require Mitsalas to explore the extremes of the instrument and his technique. The disc continues through several other lovely Spanish/South American works before it finally, and somewhat surprisingly, closes with Mitsalas' own arrangement of JS Bach's moving 'Chaconne' from the D minor Violin Partita. Why, after so many modern, Latin compositions are we suddenly thrust back to the Baroque period? From my perspective, this is very similar to what Bach had originally intended with the Chaconne. As the last movement of a violin partita, it was a disproportionally enormous and musically deep finale to an otherwise innocuous set of works for violin. Here again, just as Bach originally imagined it, we find the Chaconne placed where no one would expect it, concluding a seemingly unrelated set of works with a single massive and moving musical gesture. I can't imagine a better conclusion to this disc, as Mitsalas has delivered an absolutely impeccable recording that will definitely be turning heads, beginning to end.
Timothy Smith - November 2014 (Minor 7th)
Having recently reviewed a rather lukewarm recording of a mixed repertoire nature that also included Egberto Gismonti’s Agua e Vinho, dangerously heading beyond ubiquity, it is most pleasing to say that this recording by Thanos Mitsalas is pretty red-hot.
The neat, fold-out packaging by Clear Note (USA) is minimal but delightfully so; four printed pages of notes without a booklet one can never get back into the pocket. So, appearances help but we know they’re not everything and upon closer inspection the varied repertoire here is far from ordinary or common place, which is exactly the right thing to do if you’re an aspiring virtuoso; a term not handed out lightly on the pages of Classical Guitar Magazine.
It is always a delight to hear Simone Iannarelli’s music; while very much contemporary is always refreshingly accessible and uses the guitar’s multitude of sonorities to great effect. Sérgio Assad’s compositions cannot be seriously attempted without a formidable arsenal of technical ability and musical sensitivity. Gismonti’s piece, here played brilliantly solo, and not overdubbed, (based on an arrangement by Daniel Wolff), is how it should be played, if one must! The premiere of the Assad piece
Eli’s Portrait, is a dedication to Canadian guitar educator extraordinaire Eli Kassner and his 80th anniversary. Using the musical alphabet as an armature the piece is, as expected, fluid and spectacular with underpinning luscious harmonies that one has simply come to expect from the pen of Sérgio Assad, a gorgeous addition to the repertoire.
And carefully placed, not too far from the beginning and not too close to the end, Due Canzoni Lidie by Nuccio D’Angelo, is using a slightly more taxing musical language but not too much so; the resonances of the Lydian mode are utilised in a most beguiling and attractive way.
And indeed the Lullaby for Sarah does lull us into a sense of great satisfaction and serenity but Mitsalas has not finished yet! His transcription of the great Chaconne from the Violin Partita no2 BWV1004 is the valedictory wakeup call to pull us to our senses and make us leave the concert hall grinning from ear-to-ear, relishing in that postrecital glow, after witnessing something rather special. It really is a performance to wax lyrical about. The impressive restraint in the contemplative moments succeeds in making the explosive virtuosity of the fast passages doubly striking.
A wonderful example of how a recital CD should be presented. Highly recommended.
Tim Panting - November 2014 (Classical Guitar Magazine)
REVIEWS FOR THANOS'S SOLO CD "Guitar Classics-In the Italian
Tradition" (ClearNote 2012)
One can argue with the designation of this program as a representation of the “Italian Tradition”; the first work is by a Catalonian,the last more Turkish than Italian. But that is of small consequence when the program is so well played. Mitsalas has a finely developed technique—this is a challenging program, and he never struggles. He has a wide range of timbre and dynamics, though he never overplays. He has a free yet convincing use of rubato. Overindulgent rubato can really ruin a piece—it should always have a purpose, either to clarify the architecture or to enhance the expression of a phrase. Most important, it should always seem natural and convincing. Some players leave me scratching my head; but with Mitsalas I always feel that this is right, there is no other way to do this passage. He can even make silk purses out of proverbial sow’s ears. Tarrega’s ‘Carnival of Venice’, based on Paganini’s, is not great music. It’s stuff to have fun with. Mitsalas gives it a royal treatment, without any sense of how tacky this can be. Giulio Regondi often overstays his welcome. He had lovely melodic talent, but his massive technical ability causes him simply to keep going until the point of absurdity has been crossed. It takes a great musician to make these pieces work, and I’ve never heard them played better. Luigi Legnani was Paganini’s friend, the guitarist in his many works for guitar and violin. I didn’t know this Fantasia, but it recalls Giuliani (or, more accurately, Rossini) in its sheer joyousness. The Castelnuovo-Tedesco Capriccio Diabolico is one of his most beautiful and most difficult works. In the last issue (J/A 2012) I had good things to say about Renato Samuelli’ s performance, but this is stronger on all counts. The Domeniconi is ubiquitous—the “It” piece for guitarists. There are many strong performances of this hauntingly beautiful work, but this is as fine as any.
Kenneth Keaton - September 2012 (American Record Guide)
As far as the guitar is concerned, I'm not sure there is an “Italian tradition” as much as there is a rich history of Italians writing music for and playing the guitar. (Do we speak of the “pasta tradition,” after all?) Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas's new CD explores that “tradition” with most enjoyable results. It opens not with an Italian composer, however, but with one from Spain—the colorful Francisco Tárrega, who was active as a guitarist and composer during the latter part of the 19th century. Apparently no one knows who wrote The Carnival of Venice, but it is has been the theme for variations written by a number of composers, including Paganini (for violin) and Johann Kaspar Mertz (another version for guitar). In their increasing difficulty, Tárrega's variations seem to have been inspired by Paganini's, but Mitsalas seems unfazed by at all, spinning out the ever more complicated figurations almost nonchalantly.The long-lived Legnani (1790-1877) was not only a guitarist, but also a tenor, who sang in operas by Rossini, and others. He too was inspired by Paganini, and even wrote a set of Caprices for guitar. After a grave introduction, his Fantasia takes off on a charming flight of fancy that doesn't sound unlike something that Rossini might have composed, had he composed for the guitar. Castelnuovo-Tedesco came to the United States in 1939 as a result of increasing anti-Semitism in his homeland. This Capriccio diabolico dates from 1934, and also was inspired by Paganini—including by that composer-violinist's rumored pact with the devil! In the United States, Castelnuovo-Tedesco's pupils included film composer John Williams (not the guitarist by that name!). Some of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's concert music sounds like John Williams, although of course it really should be the other way around. The Capriccio diabolico, however, really is steeped in the “Italian tradition.” It is most diabolical in the way that it heaps one difficulty upon another for the performer. Again, Mitsalas copes with it all with a smoothness that seems, well, almost devilish. Although his music has been given a new lease on life in recent years, Giulio Regondi is something of a mystery. Not very much seems to be known about him—there are even questions about the precise date and place of his birth. (He was, however, born in 1822.) Many of his later works were composed for concertina. The two guitar works recorded here quickly entered the repertory of (advanced) guitarists when they were recently rediscovered. The Nocturne “Reverie” is wistful throughout, and its relaxed melodic bent certainly suggests Italy. The booklet notes describe it as “perhaps the greatest tremolo piece written for the instrument,” and if it fatigues Mitsalas, there is no hint of that in this performance. The Introduction and Caprice also has a low-key charm. Regondi may have been a virtuoso, and these two works may be difficult to play, but the emphasis here is on a singing line and on creating a sense of comfort and ease. Here, Mitsalas shows that he can play in a warm, cantabile style; he's not just a dazzler. Carlo Domeniconi is in his sixties, and his “greatest hit” probably is this four-movement suite. Koyunbaba means “sheep father,” which is another way of saying “shepherd.” It was inspired by Domeniconi's travels in Turkey. “Koyunbaba” is also a family name—there was an actual Koyunbaba in the 1200s—and some believe that the land on which he lived and worked is bewitched; many outsiders who have attempted to settle upon it apparently have become ill! Domeniconi's suite could be a curse on unprepared guitarists; it is highly demanding. Again, Mitsalas has it all under control. He aptly conveys the music's mystery and legendary qualities, and generates a good deal of intensity. The final Presto is unbelievable, in its speed and clarity. Mitsalas has been given excellent engineering, although some of the tracks cut off too quickly, robbing some of the decay from the guitar's final notes. The booklet notes give a good introduction to the repertory, but they needed a good editor.
Raymond Tuttle – August 2012 (classical.net)
Greek virtuoso Thanos Mitsalas has hopped the pond—in this case theIonian Sea—for a diverse program of music by Italian composers. It is a fruitful journey, for he brings to this nicely varied program flawless musicianship, winning musicality, and beautiful tone. In fact, my only cavil with the disc is the first work, the Tárrega Variations on the “Carnival of Venice.” In a piece like this, which we must admit does not plumb any musical depths, a sense of abandon is really needed, and at times Mitsalas seems a bit constrained, not technically, but in the necessary sense of playfulness without which the piece is less effective. But from the Legnani Fantasia which follows to the end of the disc, we are fully in the hands of a top-flight player. The Legnani, for instance, displays Mitsalas’ wonderful sense of balance among voices. It is something which should always happen, but often does not. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Capriccio diabolico gets an exemplary performance distinguished by exquite phrasing, variety of tone and articulation, and well-chosen use of agogic accents. Good job, Thanos! He also has a fine way with two of Regondi’s greatest hits, Nocturne “Rêverie” and Introduction and Caprice. Not to detract from the merits of his performance, these pieces always leave me wanting not more, but less. They seem to substitute rhetoric for real drama. But that’s me—you may love them. Mitsalas is doing everything he can. Carlo Domeniconi is Italian but the Turkish roots of Koyunbaba are a bit out of the “Italian tradition.” No matter. It is a fun piece, very well played here. We’ll just assume that he hopped an alternate pond. Recorded sound is excellent. —
Al Kunze - Soundboard (vol 38, n4)
REVIEWS FOR SOLO CD "Thanos Mitsalas plays music by Sergio
Assad" (ClearNote 2009)
Thanos's recording of Assad's FANTASIA CARIOCA is incuded in Enrique Robichaud's book "Guitar's Top 100"!
....MItsalas's playing is excellent. He has a fine feel for Assad's idiom in these pieces, and his technical command and sense of invention and expression are impressive.....this is an excellent introduction if you are not familiar with his music.
Kenneth Keaton - May 2012 (American Record Guide)
Like Argentine tango fusionist Astor Piazzolla, Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad has considerable gifts as a composer, merging national rhythms with more extended compositional concepts. His works have begun to enter the guitar repertory and to attract performances like this welcome debut from Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas. Avoiding the usual weakness of independent guitar releases, he is very nicely recorded by Cue Productions studio in Thessaloniki, and has plenty of power in reserve in the difficult 3 Greek Letters (tracks 12-14). If you want the fireworks of which Assad is capable, go there to hear them in a slightly Greek-inflected form. The work was not composed for MItsalas but is natural for him.....A highly recommended CD!
James Manheim - April 2012 (All music review)
..........The majority of the works here put considerable technical and at times, musical demands upon the performer being rife with virtuosic rapid arpeggios and intricate scale passages. Mitsalas takes all this in his strive and the compositions are never musically compromised, the player showing a high respect for these pieces and his enjoyment in performing these works coming across very well....
Steve Marsh - May 2010 (Classical Guitar Magazine)
Ο Βραζιλιάνος συνθέτης, κιθαρίστας και δάσκαλος Sergio Assad είναι αναμφισβήτητα μία από τις μείζονες μορφές της σύγχρονης κιθάρας. Η κλασική εκδοχή του οργάνου τού χρωστά πλήθος συνθέσεων, όπου διάφορες τάσεις, ρεύματα, στυλ συμπλέκονται και γεννούν ήχους της δυτικής, της τζαζ και της βραζιλιάνικης παράδοσης, με τις αναλογίες κάθε φορά να ποικίλουν. Ο Θάνος Μήτσαλας είναι ένας ξεχωριστά ταλαντούχος μουσικός. Χαρακτηρίζεται από εμμονή στις λεπτομέρειες, απαράμιλλη δεξιοτεχνία, πολυδιάστατη ερμηνευτική γκάμα, καλλιτεχνικό αισθητήριο, αφοσίωση στο όργανο, περφεξιονιστική επιμονή και αίσθηση “ελευθερίας και πειθαρχίας, ταυτόχρονα”. Όλα αυτά είναι προσόντα που γίνονται αντιληπτά από τις πρώτες νότες του CD. Στο εξώφυλλο διαβάζουμε για τον μαθητή του Κώστα Κοτσιώλη πως διακρίθηκε σε πάμπολλους διαγωνισμούς, σε ορισμένους από τους οποίους (Βόλος, Σιλεσία, Μαρτινίκα) ήταν ο μικρότερος σε ηλικία, που είχε κερδίσει το πρώτο βραβείο. Με έδρα και τόπο διαμονής τη Νάουσα, ο Μήτσαλας είναι πολίτης του κόσμου με απαιτητικά ρεσιτάλ, στα οποία ερμηνεύει συνθέσεις ρεπερτορίου, αλλά και πρωτότυπα έργα των Assad, Brouwer, Dyens και άλλων, σε πρώτη εκτέλεση! Ακούγονται θαυμαστά όλ' αυτά τα επιτεύγματα, όμως ας μην ξεχνάμε πως από την εποχή των πρωτεργατών Εκμετσόγλου, Μηλιαρέση, Φάμπα, έχουν περάσει δύο γενιές και η χώρα μας θεωρείται, σήμερα, ως μία από τις “πατρίδες” του οργάνου από πλευράς δυναμικού και ποιότητας. Να γιατί η περιφέρεια μπορεί να βγάζει νέους μουσικού με διεθνή ακτινοβολία, αξιοζήλευτη καριέρα, συν ικανότητες που υπερβαίνουν τα δελτία Τύπου και ακούγονται ξεκάθαρα στις ηχογραφήσεις.
Η έκδοση περιλαμβάνει τα “Three Divertmentos” γραμμένα στο Βέλγιο σε πλαίσιο διδακτικών υποχρεώσεων, την “Valseana”, δεύτερο μέρος από τις “Ακουαρέλες” (1984) και την “Fantasia Carioca”, που είναι ένα δοξαστικό στο Ρίο ντε Τζανέιρο. Την ίδια χρονιά (1994) είναι γραμμένη η “Summer Garden Suite”, μέρη από την οποία ερμηνεύει ο σολίστ με εντυπωσιακό τρόπο. Η σουίτα αυτή χρησιμοποιήθηκε ως σάουντρακ σε μία ιαπωνική ταινία με τίτλο Natsu No Niwa. Λεπτομέρειες: ίντερνετ, “κλικ” ...Μιλώντας για την χώρα του Ανατέλλοντος Ηλίου, εκεί εκδίδεται το εξειδικευμένο περιοδικό Gendai Guitar (τι τίτλος!) παραγγελία του οποίου είναι η Sonata, μια 16λεπτη σύνθεση που συνενώνει-αντιπαραθέτει-συνταιριάζει στοιχεία από διαφορετικούς πολιτισμούς. Το πρόγραμμα ολοκληρώνεται με τα Ελληνικά Γράμματα “Πι”, “Ψι” και “Σίγμα”, σύντομη τριλογία του Assad που χωρίς να περικλείει ελληνικούς τρόπους είναι κατά τον δημιουργό της ένας φόρος τιμής στον πολιτισμό μας. Ως “coda” αντιγράφουμε κάποια σχόλια του ιδίου του συνθέτη. Είναι ο άμεσα ενδιαφερόμενος και ο λόγος του βαρύνει. “Ο Θάνος Μήτσαλας έχει πολλά να πει ως ικανός κιθαρίστας και θαυμάσιος μουσικός. Είμαι ευτυχής που επέλεξε τα απαρουσίαστα έργα μου για κιθάρα σ'αυτόν τον πρώτο του δίσκο. Έχει αξιοσημείωτη τεχνική και υψηλή μουσική ευαισθησία...”.
Κορνήλιος Διαμαντόπουλος - Mάιος 2011 (Jazz &Tzaz Magazine)
..............Though tackling these works would seem like a daunting task for any accomplished guitarist, the Juilliard trained performer and educator excels in the face of this challence, producing an album that is not only enjoyable to listen to, but that stands up to the level of scrunity that any work containing Sergio's music would surely face............
Matt Warnock – January 2011 (Guitar International Magazine)
........The young guitarist Thanos Mitsalas has recorded a large part of Sergio Assad's original compositions for solo guitar......Mitsalas seems thoroughly at home in this repertoire. The syncopations of the first of the three divertimentos appear to come naturally to him; so do the relative formalities of the Sonata (a particularly interesting work). Remembrance and Farewell were written as film music and get attactive and evocative performances. Fantasia Carioca, written to celebrate the City of Rio de Janeiro, is a striking tone poem, playfully (and thoughftully) various in tempos and phrasing, and Mitsalas invests it with real feeling. Everywhere one senses a vitality of personal commitment and disciplined freedom in his interpretations.
Thanos Mitsalas is an impressive soloist and here throws a rewarding light on some interesting compositions. He benefits from a recorded sound that is intimate without being over-close.
Glyn Pursglove - June 2010 (musicweb-international)
Although most classical guitar enthusiasts know Sergio Assad as one half of the legendary Assad Brohers Duo, in recent years his solo guitar compositions have been garnering atttention from performers and concert goers alike. His music is a unique blend of South American melodies backed occasionally by risque comtemporary harmonies. It is this music that makes up the debut CD of Greek guitarist Thanos Mitsalas. The fluid and expressive nature of Assad's works leave plenty of room for unique interpretation, and Mitsalas takes full advantage of this. Instead of simply reciting the compositions according to Assad's directions, there is a true sense that Mitsalas wanted to use the works as a medium for his own artistic statement. While it may be Assad's notes, the music is undoubtedly coming from Mitsalas. He delicately phrases the characteristic Latin melodies and effortlessly navigates the technically challenging passages. Although young, Mitsalas's musicianship is remarkably mature, and this disc serves as an excellent introduction to this budding guitarist.
Timothy Smith – Jan 2010 (Minor 7th music magazine)
...........This young performer has a lot going for him, and I predict his name soon will become more familiar among guitar enthusiasts .....Assad's music is not easy to play, but it falls easily on the ear - not because it is simple, but because it is full of piquant harmonies and rhythms, and other pleasant surprises! It has many twists and turns, but it is never unfriendly. Mitsalas plays it cleanly and expressively, and is not ruffled by the complicated rhythms in the Fantasia Carioca, for example. The recording captures the warm sound of his Thomas Humphrey guitar.
If you don't know Sergio Assad's solo guitar music, Thanos Mitsalas's CD will give an excellent place to get started.
Raymond Tuttle – Sep 2009 (classical.net)