Several great romantic composers were fulsome in their praise of the guitar but sadly failed to write anything of substance for it. Paganini's contemporary reputation as a guitarist was scarcely less than that as a violinist; he alone put his pen where his 'verbals' were in filling many pages with guitar music, albeit of less than Olympian quality. Some of the more pleasing items appear in Kerstens's programme.
What the guitar did not receive directly it adopted by arrangement: Paganini's version of a Mozart aria is a simple example; Mertz's settings of six songs of Schubert (why, o why, didn't he write for the guitar?) are on another, higher plane, as also are Tarrega's of piano pieces by Chopin and Schubert. Not all nineteenth-century guitar music of course consisted of transcriptions: a great deal (in line with salon-musical tastes) was written by those who played the instrument. Regondi's Introduction and Caprice is of the virtuosic quality expected of the exploited child prodigy that he was, whilst Tarrega's winsome miniatures were (and still are) accessible to competent amateurs.
In the march toward authenticity the guitar has not been left behind. Kerstens plays the music on three period instruments, tuned to A=435 (''an average of the wildly varying tunings current in the 19th century''); their sound is softer and gentler than that of the guitars of this century. Kerstens's approach to the music is respectful and avoids the 'romantic' excesses to which others have occasionally resorted, and he has been recorded with commendable fidelity. As a 'mini-history' of the nineteenth-century guitar, played on period instruments, skilfully programmed and executed, this is a unique recording.'