- 01 – Carlo Domeniconi – Koyunbaba (Suite Op. 19) – I Moderato
- 02 – Carlo Domeniconi – Koyunbaba (Suite Op. 19) – II Mosso
- 03 – Carlo Domeniconi – Koyunbaba (Suite Op. 19) – III Cantabile
- 04 – Carlo Domeniconi – Koyunbaba (Suite Op. 19) – IV Presto
- 05 – Isaac Albeniz – Mallorca (Op. 202)
- 06 – Isaac Albeniz – Asturias (from Suite Espanola Op. 47)
- 07 – Francisco Tarrega – Lagrima
- 08 – Anonymous – Spanish Romance
- 09 – Sven Lundestad – Late at Night
- 10 – Dionisio Aguado – Andante & Rondo (Op. 2 No. 3)
- 11 – Agustin Barrios Mangore – La Catedral – I Preludio Saudade
- 12 – Agustin Barrios Mangore – La Catedral – II Andante Religios
- 13 – Agustin Barrios Mangore – La Catedral – III Allegro Solemne
- 14 – Egberto Gismonti – Agua e Vinho
CHRISTINA SANDSENGEN – Shades & Contrasts
Domeniconi, Albéniz, Tárrega, Lundestad, Aguado, Barrios, Gismonti
At just 27 years old, Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen has already established herself as one of the leading European guitarists of her generation. Her debut release for Odradek pays tribute both to her Scandinavian roots and to the great Iberian guitar tradition, represented by such classics as Francisco Tárrega’s Lágrima and Isaac Albéniz’s Asturias. In addition, Sandsengen’s programme of expressive and colourful 19th and 20th century repertoire features music by two South American mavericks: Nitsuga Mangoré, the self-styled “Paganini of the guitar from the jungles of Paraguay” whose Bachian depiction of a gloomy Cathedral is contrasted with Água e Vinho from the pen of the uniquely creative Brazilian Egberto Gismonti. Latin flamboyance makes way for a Nordic nocturne in the jazzy Late at Night by legendary Norwegian guitar pedagogue Sven Lundestad. Performed with a deeply lyrical feel for melody and an unerringly virtuosic sense of tension, Sandsengen’s recording is an intensely personal statement, as she says “in hearing it, you know me”.
Booklet in English, Spanish and German.
Program notes by Joanna Wyld.
“The gifted young Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen pays homage to the dominant Spanish guitar tradition and a wider range of influences on a debut collection showcasing skill and no small virtuosity.”
The Independent - Andy Gill / 20 September 2014
“The gifted young Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen pays homage to the dominant Spanish guitar tradition and a wider range of influences on a debut collection showcasing skill and no small virtuosity. Carlo Domeniconi’s four-part suite “Koyunbaba” is clearly informed by the Spanish masters, despite being written by an Italian inspired by Turkish folk, Sandsengen bringing tight focus to the hypnotic ﬂurries. She then goes right to the source with Albeniz’s popular “Asturias” and more melancholy “Mallorca”, along with Aguado’s elegant “Andante & Rondo” and Tarrega’s poignant “Lagrima”. Sven Lundestad’s “Late at Night” is a crepuscular reverie, before the album closes with the wistful, reflective charm of Egberto Gismonti’s “Agua e Vinho”.
“The recital opens with a terriﬁc account of Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba… by turns emphatic, fragile, bold, tender and wild…”
Gramophone - William Yeoman / December 2014
“There's no getting around it: Christina Sandsengen is pretty easy on the eye. But the playing on this entry-level recital, ideal for classical guitar newbies, is impressive enough to sway even the most sceptical classical guitar aﬁcionados. The first thing that strikes you about Sandsengen’s interpretations is that they are pianistically conceived: each tone is very much a sharply discreet entity and yet fused to the totality through a masterly sense of tonal and rhythmic hierarchy, and it’s no surprise the piano was her main instrument until she took up the guitar at 15.
The recital opens with a terriﬁc account of Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba, like the majority of the works here one of the most popular in the repertoire; it closes with Gismonti’s haunting Agua y vinho, which connects as easily with Sven Lundestad’s nocturnal, jazzy Late at Night as Koyunbaba does with Barrios’s sweetly pious La Catedral. In between these more recent works lies the programme’s Romantic core, of which Albéniz’s Mallorca and Dionisio Aguado’s Rossinian Andante and Rondo are perhaps the most successful. For if, in the former, she presses the melody against the underlying harmonies to produce an exquisite brocade effect, in the latter she lets her hair down, the Andante’s mock pomposity leading to a salon-lite Rondo of tremendous fun.
And yet Sandsengen’s best playing — by turns emphatic, fragile, bold, tender and wild — can be heard right at the beginning, in Koyunbaba. It’s no mean feat to force you to reappraise such a well-known work. Sandsengen pulls it off."
“Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen’s technique is flawless… But the best reason to purchase this disc is for the rarities… Wonderful.”
The Arts Desk - Graham Rickson / 6 December 2014
“Good classical guitarists must be a recording engineer's nightmare. Performing difficult classical repertoire necessitates lots of jiggling about on the player's part, and there's always the worry that the extraneous sounds might put off the casual, ill-informed listener. Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen's technique is flawless, and hearing her left hand nimbly skate up and down the fingerboard serves only to increase one's admiration. Getting a sense of the sheer physical effort involved is why most of us still enjoy listening to living, breathing musicians. Like many Odradek releases, this disc feels as if it's a live recording, taped on the hoof. Sandsengen's take on Albéniz's Asturias is typical. The insistent ostinati are laden with menace; the violent chords erupt, and she's daringly spacious and improvisatory in the slow central section. Tarréga's melancholy Lagrima also sounds fresh under these fingers.
But the best reason to purchase this disc is for the rarities. These include Carlo Domeniconi's Koyunbaba suite, invoking Turkish folk music with some skill, and an engagingly formal Andante and Rondo by the 19th-century Spanish composer Dionisio Aguado. I'd never heard of the Paraguayan composer Agustin Pio Mangoré, whose vivid three-movement La Catedral concludes with a brilliant Allegro Solemne. Late At Night, by the contemporary Norwegian guitarist Sven Lundestad, is as cool as ice, and the disc ends with Egberto Gismonti's melancholy Água e Vinho, the final chord beautifully placed. Wonderful".
“… [a] divinely played and deeply moving program. If you love classical guitar, this disc is absolutely indispensable.”
Fanfare - Jerry Dubins / 12 July 2015
“Off the top of my head, Ida Presti and Sharon Isbin are the only two female classical guitarists that come to mind. I’m sure there are and have been others, but for some reason, classical guitar seems to have attracted fewer women than just about any other instrument. Christina Sandsengen is here to change that. Not yet 30 and a stunningly beautiful blue-eyed blond, who, if she ever decided to give up her career in music, could easily make more money as a world-famous fashion model, Sandsengen was born (1987) in a small Norwegian town, and began playing piano at the age of seven. At 15, she took up the guitar, and from that moment her destiny was clear.
Study at Norway’s Academy of Music was followed by training at the Conservatorio Superior de Música “Manuel Castillo” in Seville, Spain; and from there it was on to France for finishing with Gérard Abiton. Since then, she has performed at leading festivals and venues in England, Turkey, Sweden, Bolivia, Peru, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
This appears to be Sandsengen’s first commercial album, and it’s to be commended for unusual and imaginative programming. Yes, we have three, possibly four, pieces by the usual suspects in guitar programs—Albéniz, Tárrega, and Mangoré (aka Barrios)—which may well be familiar to guitar aficionados; but the greater part of Sandsengen’s disc contains works by composers likely to be unfamiliar to the general listener.
Who, for example, is Carlo Domeniconi, whose Koyunbaba Suite kicks off Sandsengen’s CD? Well, according to both Google and the album’s booklet note, he’s a guitarist and composer of Italian birth (1947) who, after studying and then teaching at Berlin’s University of the Arts for 20 years, paid a visit to Turkey. There he fell in love with the people, the culture, and the folk-influenced music; and there is where he remained, establishing a department for guitar studies at the conservatory in Istanbul.
Not for the superstitious, Domeniconi’s four-movement suite draws its inspiration from a Turkish legend of cursed land and malevolent spirits that haunt it, driving intruders to early graves by means natural or otherwise. Transplant the story to Haiti or Louisiana and you’d have a tale of voodoo spells and dark magic. Domeniconi’s music is aptly atmospheric, hypnotic, even spellbinding, if you’ll pardon the pun, and Sandsengen’s playing of it will send shivers up your spine. I should mention that Koyunbaba is not new to disc; there are at least half a dozen recordings of it, including one by John Williams on Sony. The piece, however, is new to me, and I find it quite mesmerizing.
The two works on the disc by Albéniz— Mallorca and “Asturias,” the fifth number from his Suite Española —are well known, popular pieces that appear on many guitar recital discs, and therefore need little comment. Ironically, Albéniz didn’t compose much if anything for guitar; the guitar pieces by which he’s known today were originally composed for piano and later transcribed for guitar by Francisco Tárrega, Miguel Llobet, Manuel Barrueco (see review in 38:2), and others. The ironic part of it is that much of Albéniz’s piano music involves the reworking of native Spanish folk and flamenco guitar patterns and figurations into idiomatic piano writing. It’s hardly surprising therefore that the composer’s works adapt so easily and elegantly to the guitar, and that a number of them, such as those played here by Sandsengen, have achieved greater popularity on the guitar than in their original piano versions.
For Francisco Tárrega the opposite applies; as far as I know, he wrote exclusively for guitar, 80 or so original pieces and more than that number in transcriptions for guitar of works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Paganini, and Verdi. With some 40 current recordings of the piece, Tárrega’s Lágrima , heard here in a beautifully touching performance by Sandsengen, is probably the composer’s best-known and most popular work.
No mention is made in Joanna Wyld’s album note of the Spanish Romance by an anonymous composer, but based on the sound of it—a cantilena-like melody picked out over a continuous, harmonically classical arpeggio accompaniment—I’d say it bears striking resemblance to an étude by Fernando Sor (1778–1839); and therefore, I’d place this particular Señor, Señora, or Señorita Anonymous around the same time.
Sven Lundestad (b. 1950) is a Norwegian compatriot of Christina Sandsengen. Until recently, he was professor of guitar at the country’s Academy, where his colleague Geir-Otto Nilsson was Sandsengen’s teacher. Lundestad’s Late at Night , lasting only 1:23, is an Impressionistic, slow jazz-inflected piece that evokes “the coolness of a Nordic night.”
Dionisio (alt. Dionysio) Aguado—full name, Dionisio Aguado y Garciá—(1784–1849) is another composer likely to be known mainly to dedicated guitar fans. He and Sor met in Paris and even lived together for a while. Possibly more important than Aguado’s compositions, which aren’t that numerous, is his Escuela de Guitarra , a guitar method published in 1825, which is still in print, and presumably in use, today. Aguado has earned the affectionate epithet of “the other Sor;” based on his Andante and Rondo on this disc, it seems like a label well deserved. But it’s not just Sor that saturates Aguado’s opus; Beethoven, Schubert, and even Hummel, Weber, Onslow, and a host of other early Romantic composers make contributions. It’s a major composition, lasting over 10 minutes and thoroughly worked out with increasingly virtuosic passages in the Rondo. It would be an understatement to say that Sandsengen’s technique is fully up to the task; it’s actually of arresting brilliance.
Agustin Pio Mangoré (listed under the Bs as Barrios at ArkivMusic) (1885–1944) is another composer I’d not previously heard of until I received for a review in 38:3 a guitar album by Rich Barry, which, coincidentally, happened to contain the same piece, La Catedral , played by Sandsengen on the current CD. In her slower, more Impressionistic reading of the work’s first movement, the connection to the music’s Bach roots is more or less severed and replaced by a kind of floating naiad-like essence, which, completely the opposite of Debussy’s “Sunken Cathedral,” is more like a vision Fauré might have had of a cathedral hovering on high. It’s quite a magical effect that Sandsengen achieves. She then makes a strong case for the Bach link in her impressive toccata-like treatment of the work’s concluding Allegro.
I draw a complete blank when it comes to Egberto Gismondi, a Brazilian composer, pianist, and guitarist born in 1947. His bio states that he’s “a master of the choros style of samba, and has been equally inspired by the playing of Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, and Anton Schonberg” [sic?]. Did they mean Arnold Schoenberg? I can find no reference to an Anton Schonberg. In any case, don’t let those names scare you, for there’s none of that in Gismondi’s Agua e Vinho (Water and Wine), a piece which unfolds, in note-author Wyld’s words, “in a spirit of exquisite, hypnotic melancholy but, at the work’s conclusion the clouds seem to clear, allowing through a ray of musical sunshine.”
And with that Christina Sandsengen closes her divinely played and deeply moving program. If you love classical guitar, this disc is absolutely indispensable. Available from Amazon and other leading retailers.”
“She is at her most sensitive in the more soulful numbers… this accomplished recital certainly augurs well for the future…”
International Record Review - Julian Haylock / March 2015
“I suspect that the blonde femme-fatale image of striking Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen (shades of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity) that adorns the cover of her debut recital entitled ‘Shades and Contrasts’ won’t cut much mustard with readers of IRR. Yet her playing rewards the listener with a sequence of haunting miniatures by the likes of Albéniz (Mallorca and Asturias), Tárrega (Lágrima) and Aguado (Andante and Rondo from Op. 2 No. 3), alongside Carlo Domeniconi’s Op. 19 Koyunbaba Suite that unfailingly captures the (mostly) Hispanic spirit of the music. She is at her most sensitive in the more soulful numbers – the fleet-fingered outer sections of Asturias and the Presto finale of Koyunbaba are by comparison a shade literal – but this accomplished recital certainly augurs well for the future (Odradek ODRCD326, 59 minutes).”
“Shades & Contrasts is a quite stunning debut CD from the Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen… These are outstanding performances, delivered with a flawless technique and sumptuous tone. Expect to hear a lot more of this artist.”
TheWholeNote.com / December 2015
“Shades & Contrasts is a quite stunning debut CD from the Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen (Odradek ODRCD326 odradek-records.com). Standard works by Albéniz, Tárrega, Aguado and Agustin Barrios Mangoré are mixed with contemporary works by Sven Lundestad, Carlo Domeniconi and Egberto Gismonti in a varied and highly impressive recital. These are outstanding performances, delivered with a flawless technique and sumptuous tone. Expect to hear a lot more of this artist.”
“… she is a sensitive listener, who delves deep into the spirit of the music. With her precise, soft touch she unfolds a delicate and light sound…”
Pizzicato - Guy Engels / 11 March 2015
“‘The classical guitar is the key to the world of my unconscious emotions. In this world, I explore the shades and contrasts of life’, writes the Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen in the booklet of her album ‘Shades and Contrasts’. And she truly leaves a lot of room for development to the unwritten nuances of this varied program.
Christina Sandsengen is no mere strummer. Instead she is a sensitive listener, who delves deep into the spirit of the music. With her precise, soft touch she unfolds a delicate and light sound, that manages to move the listener even without a lot of vibrato."
“Truly extraordinary… in every moment we have the feeling of being before an important and, above all, very personal guitarist.”
Scherzo - Josep Pascual / March 2015
“La joven guitarrista noruega Christina Sandsengen se formó en su país pero también
en España y en Francia. Su agenda internacional le lleva a prácticamente todos los rincones del planeta y el público y la crítica la han acogido bien. La obra con que empieza este CD es parte habitual de su repertorio y su autor, Domeniconi, figura entre los muchos nombres ilustres que le han dado clases magistrales. Este compositor italiano, profundamente influido por la música turca, se planteó esta obra como una fusión entre la tradición clásica europea y la música popular turca. Se trata de una música realmente exquisita, plena de delicados matices y muy exigente técnica e interpretativamente. La familiarización de la intérprete con ella es evidente y su versión se caracteriza por la fluidez y un virtuosismo de altura que no busca en absoluto el reconocimiento superficial. En Mallorca de Albéniz nos encontramos con la misma delicadeza pero no con el modo más genuino de abordar este repertorio, un tanto falto de expresividad, encorsetado por el metrónomo, poco cantable y rítmicamente falto de atractivo. Con Asturias la cosa parece mejorar pero la falta de magia, la evocación del cante que subyace en la parte central de la pieza en absoluto conseguida, hace de esta versión algo olvidable. No es así la deliciosa Lágrima de Tárrega, casi schumanniana y más íntima que salonnier. En la misma línea el celebérrimo Romance anónimo, tan próximo a lo anodino, con toques dinámicos e incluso con alguna licencia armónica y hasta melódica que intenta hacerlo parecer más de lo que es. Del noruego Londestad nos llega Late at night, con toques jazzísticos y de encanto cautivador. Lástima que sea tan breve. Dos obras importantes como son el Andante y rondó de Aguado y La catedral de Barrios nos dan la medida de la altura artística y técnica de esta guitarrista realmente extraordinaria y termina el recital con la melancólica y encantadora Agua e vino de Gismonti. Programa heterogéneo e irregular como la interpretación, aunque en todo momento tenemos la sensación de estar ante una guitarrista importante y, sobre todo, muy personal.”
“It’s an imaginatively planned recital program mixing the familiar and the unfamiliar… Odradek is a unique label since it is collectively owned and operated by the artists who record for it. It’s a non-profit, democratic, co-operative structure, and they make top-quality products.”
Fanfare - Martin Anderson / 29 January 2015
“I had only just returned from concerts amid the snows of Lillehammer in central Norway when I had to get back in touch with another Norwegian musician, the guitarist Christina Sandsengen, for a Fanfare feature premised on the release of her CD Shades and Contrasts on Odradek Records (ODRCD326). It’s an imaginatively planned recital program mixing the familiar and the unfamiliar—the composers are Algado, Albéniz, our old friend Anon., Barrios Mangoré, Gismonti, Lundestad, and Tárrega—along with a masterpiece, the suite Koyunbaba (1985) by Carlo Domeniconi (b. 1947), which is fast becoming the most popular guitar composition of modern times. But first let’s get this interview underway, via good ol’ Skype.
Where are you talking to me from, in fact?
Right now I’m in Gjøvik. I can see [the river] Mjøsa from here. It’s the city where I was born. But I have lived in a number of cities. I lived in the north of Norway, in Ballangen, and in Sweden and in Vikersund [west of Oslo] and, from the age of five I lived near Drammen [south of Oslo, on the Oslofjord], at a place called Krokstadelva; and then I moved to Oslo, and lived there for nine years. So when people ask me where I’m from, I say Norway.
Where were you living when the guitar entered your life?
I started when I was in Krokstadelva. I was very drawn to the guitar: I wanted to play metal music, I wanted to play in a band. I was 15 at the time. So I studied music at high school. There I had Martin Haug as a teacher. He was the best teacher I have ever had. He told me: “OK, you can learn electric guitar but you should learn some classical guitar first.” I said, OK—at that time I didn’t know what classical guitar was, but sure!
Were you familiar with classical music before that?
Classical music, yes, but not classical guitar. I had played the piano since I was seven. So I started to learn classical guitar and I just fell in love. It’s a very special instrument and it felt very right. It loosened up something inside of me and relieved many emotions; it was very healthy. I went to that school for three years, and in the first year I was accepted into a talent program for young musicians at the Norwegian Academy of Music—but I wasn’t old enough to enroll for studies at the Academy. So I studied there, with Geir Otto Nilsson, once a month. I did that for three years until I got accepted into the Academy, and then I studied with Erik Stenstadvold. All of this time I was still playing bass in metal bands. So I was doing two things.
Did you see them as two different things, or two different expressions of the same impulse?
I saw them as two different things at that time. But I take much of the expression from metal into my guitar-playing, when it’s necessary and when I feel like it.
What does that mean, in practical terms?
I can play in a very rough way, very harshly, not as defined as the classical guitar should be, when I feel like it. If I want to form the piece that way, I can sometimes play very roughly. And if the piece allows it, I can actually use some power chords in there and improvise a little bit—I have taken some freedom in some places. For example, in some music by Grieg sometimes it’s very tempting—and very natural for me—to use a tritone instead of a normal chord, so I do that; I hope Grieg doesn’t mind!
Well, that raises another point. If you didn’t play “roughly” in flamenco, it wouldn’t sound natural. So do you take whatever you want from the different schools of guitar-playing?
No, I couldn’t really say I do that—but if I play Albéniz’s Asturias , which is flamenco-inspired, of course I take some influence from flamenco. I normally play in a refined manner, but if there is a flamenco chord in “flamenco” pieces, I’ll play it a little flamenco, of course.
Anyway, we were still tracing the course of your studies.
Oh, yes. Well, I spent four years studying at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Then I started to take lessons with Gérard Abiton in Paris and did that for two years—but I didn’t live in Paris: I just traveled back and forth on day-trips, so we didn’t have a lesson every week. That was very helpful for my technique—he was a very good teacher.
Was there a specific moment when you were aware your career was underway?
It’s hard to say. For the past four years, maybe, I have gotten more and more concerts, and things have started to develop and to grow. But also when I was studying I had some concerts, and I tried to start my career when I was still at college. But for the past four years it has been my job. In fact, I have always thought of the classical guitar as my job.
Have your concerts mainly been in Norway or further afield?
Not so much in Norway, actually. I’ve been playing in Turkey, in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Peru, Bolivia, Sweden….
How do you get concerts in all these far-flung locations and not in Drammen and Lillehammer?
I think the audiences in these places are more open to the classical guitar, and more open to foreign musicians. The culture there is just very different. In Norway when you have classical concerts, there are very few people who come. In other countries it’s different. I’ve mostly played in classical guitar festivals and in two music festivals, one in Mersin in Turkey and the other one in Sweden, in Stockholm.
Have you played in the States yet?
Not yet, but I will play there in April.
You play the instrument which archetypically bridges styles, but I’ve noticed that you always talk about “classical guitar”—is that a deliberate emphasis?
Yes, I am very precise about this. Classical guitar is so close to my heart and I am proud to say I play it. Classical guitar doesn’t get the attention and the praise it deserves and I want to contribute to change that in every way I can. That is why I am so strict and stubborn when it comes to the way I talk about "classical guitar". It is a completely deliberate emphasis. So I like to keep it purely classical. There are many classical guitarists who only play The Beatles and that kind of repertoire. I’m very proud of the classical guitar and I want to be truthful to my instrument, so that’s why I stick to the classical-guitar repertoire.
It works both ways, of course—if you play pop music in a classical manner, you can make it rather too domestic, too well behaved.
Absolutely—although it can be an open door for people to come to the classical guitar. But still I feel it’s important to play at least mostly classical-guitar pieces.
Your new CD is a refreshing mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar, but Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba is far and away the best piece on it.
I agree. I don’t remember the first time I heard it, but I do remember that I started to cry when I heard it—the first 50 or 100 times! It’s so emotional and so powerful and so atmospheric and so dramatic. Even when I talk about it now, I feel all these emotions for this piece. It’s very sensitive and quiet and very expressive, with big chords and rasgueado , and everything in between as well. It gives you the chance to be philosophical and in a trance, and it has a freedom which allows you to play more on the feelings; you don’t have to stick to a rhythm, since it’s more free.
You mentioned before that you had played in Turkey, and Koyunbaba is a piece inspired by Turkish music. Is that just a coincidence, or are the two connected?
No, it’s just a big coincidence. I started to play Koyunbaba before I went to Turkey, and it was just very good that I could play that piece in Turkey. And Turkish people are proud of their music and their culture, so when I play Koyunbaba , they can feel and hear the Turkish melodies, the Turkish sound, and they are very happy.
Of course, audiences are different in different places, too. The rule for Western audiences listening to classical music is complete silence, but the normal audience for Indian classical music is expected to make little noises of appreciation; complete silence would be an indication of disapproval. Where do Turkish audiences—geographically in the middle—fit in here?
Turkish people are more like Indian people, making noises of appreciation, and they’re more expressive of what they think.
Do you feel the classical guitar is still something of an outsider?
Yes. I’m not satisfied with the way things are. It should be better known; I don’t feel it is getting the attention it deserves.
That was Segovia’s problem a century ago, of course, but even after players like him, and then Julian Bream and John Williams, you still think the classical guitar is misunderstood?
They did a very important job, of course. They brought classical guitar up to the light, and they managed to make it kind of famous, that’s true. But in time things changed again, for the negative, and even though the guitar was known and accepted in the classical world, interest in it fell away a little bit again. We’ve always had good players, of course, but now there are players such as Miloš Karadaglić making the guitar more famous again. Times change and there are ups and downs, but all in all, it’s up.
But you seem to intend to stick to a clear image of the classical guitar—you don’t think a blurring of the boundaries is going to win new audiences?
It depends what kind of blurring. As I said earlier, sometimes I take some of the metal inspiration into my playing, but that’s different from playing only Beatles in a classical style in a concert. It’s important to be true to our instrument and repertoire and not go so far from what it actually is. We can try new ways, but we should be proud and not try to hide or cover up the true core of the beauty we are engaged in.
Is the new CD your first recording?
It’s my first recording on classical guitar, but I’ve made two EPs with metal bands.
And what took you to Odradek among the various umbrella labels out there?
Odradek is a unique label since it is collectively owned and operated by the artists who record for it. It’s a non-profit, democratic, co-operative structure, and they make top-quality products. I heard about them from a Facebook friend and checked it out and it seemed very good. I sent in an application, because with Odradek you must send in your demo which gets evaluated on by all the other artists on the roster anonymously through an Internet platform they built called Anonymuze; they don’t know your identity and they vote on your program and musicality. They voted for me, so I felt very lucky; I’m very happy about that and how the album turned out. Now I also vote on the new applications as they come in.
This interview is naturally part of the promotional effort for the CD. What else are you doing?
Right now I’ve just made a video for the album. It’s the first movement of the [Barrios Mangoré] La catedral . We were very lucky to be able to shoot it in the Vigelandsmuseum in Oslo. It’s one of Oslo’s secret pearls—almost nobody knows about it. This one [Emanuel] is the little brother of the sculptor [Gustav]. He made a mausoleum where his ashes are kept, and it’s incredible beautiful art and atmosphere, and a very, very nice acoustic, so I made the video there.”
“When the spirited Iberian guitar tradition meets Scandinavian coolness, the resulting music is full of contrasts… performed by Christina Sandsengen with great sensitivity”.
hr2-kultur - Elke Ottenschzläger / 27 January 2015
“Iberian guitar tradition meets Scandinavian coolness
When the spirited Iberian guitar tradition meets Scandinavian coolness, the resulting music is full of contrasts. "Shades and Contrasts" is the fitting name of the debut album by the young Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen.
On this album we can listen to some of the most famous compositions for the instrument, as well as some lesser known repertoire. Sandsengen’s album is released on the small label Odradek, which has established itself as a non-profit classical music label.
Anyone who has ever heard of classical guitar knows "Asturias" from the "Suite Espanola" by Isaac Albéniz. Originally, the composer wrote the piece for piano - but the version for guitar is far better known in this day and age. The 27-year old Norwegian guitarist Christina Sandsengen presents this piece on her debut album "Shades & Contrasts“, as well as more of these well-known guitar staples. These include the Spanish Romance, which, despite its unknown authorship, belongs to the cornerstones of the guitar repertoire since it first appeared in the 19th century.
An album for guitar beginners
Long melodies, performed by Christina Sandsengen with great sensitivity - the Norwegian guitarist indulges in the surges of emotion found in the compositions presented on this CD.
Those feelings are also what fascinates her about guitar music:
“Classical guitar is the key to my unconscious world of emotions” explains Sandsengen in her statement accompanying the CD.
With the help of these emotions she ventures forth on her own emotional journey through dreamy, mystical moods and colorful soundscapes. It's a very romantic approach to music that is luckily saved from slipping into kitsch by a pleasant touch of Scandinavian aloofness. This can be heard clearly in "La Catedral" by Agustín Barrios, the "Chopin of the guitar", whose evocative works are stylistically influenced by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The contemporary piece “Late at night” is, while romantic in its appearance, something different. In stark contrast to the heat of Spanish/Latin-American guitar music, “Late at Night” exerts an aura of harmonically rich Scandinavian coolness combined with jazz elements. The composer Sven Lundestad is professor for guitar at the Norwegian Academy of Music - the school where Christina Sandsengen studied.
Only at the age of 15 - very late for a professional musician - did Christina Sandsengen discover her love for the classical guitar. Her studies in in Norway, Spain and France were followed by concert tours around the whole world, as well as her founding a school for classical guitar in Oslo. These are the cornerstones of her biography - which you actually don’t have to know, because:
“In hearing this album, you know me" Christina Sandsengen explains. "It is my sincere statement".
A successful, albeit a romanticized statement. The compilation of many short pieces of music, including some guitar staples, and the delicate, soft guitar playing makes the CD also interesting for people who do not yet consider themselves hardcore guitar lovers.”
“… a svelte style that releases the strength of this unpretentious, timeless instrument.”
Amazon Customer Review - DDH / 2 October 2015
“Guitarist Christina Sandsengen elicits crystalline notes each of which seems to linger in my mind, allowing me to savor it before spiriting away as the next alights in a new part of that space. Such is the effect attracting me to a svelte style that releases the strength of this unpretentious, timeless instrument.”
“All I can say is simply amazing, every day listening music. Beautiful.”
Amazon Customer Review - Thomas Miccio / 4 October 2014
“All I can say is simply amazing, every day listening music. Beautiful.”
Amazon Customer Review - Erik S. / 26 January 2015