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?


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.

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