From the November/December 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY PAT MORAN

Chopin on steel-string guitar? Why not?

With Adam Palma Meets Chopin, Poland’s greatest composer (1810-1849), who revolutionized harmonic content and textures for piano, finds the perfect interpreter in guitarist and fellow Pole Palma (who now lives in England). In transposing a selection of the composer’s waltzes, preludes, and nocturnes to his steel-string Fylde Falstaff, Palma employs an approach no less radical than his inspiration. Who knew Frédéric Chopin could be so funky?


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An insistent groove is present on most pieces, including “Polonaise in A major.” Changing the meter from 3/4 to 4/4, Palma augments the folk dance’s triumphant mood with a strutting rhythm that entwines with bright, coiling picking. “Mazurka in F major” also makes the 3/4 to 4/4 time signature switch, with stuttering rhythms threading through a winding, spun-silver melody. In contrast, the meter is unchanged amid the harp-like glissandos and filigree ornamentation of “Nocturne in E flat.”

Throughout the collection, Palma accentuates the structural complexity and emotional feel of Chopin’s pieces, while counterintuitively following self-imposed guidelines. Playing primarily with a pick in standard tuning, he rarely employs a hybrid pick-and-third-finger technique. One outlier is the duet “Waltz in A minor,” where circuitous hybrid picking ascends as percussive strumming spirals downward.  

By employing a modern rhythmic approach to these classics, Palma seems to be striving to introduce Chopin to a wider audience. Yet, by stretching the limits of these sprightly yet profound pieces, the guitarist honors the spirit of one of the most daring innovators of the Romantic era.

Here’s a performance video of one of the pieces on the album, followed by one in which Palma talks about his approach to the project:

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.