|About this Recording
8.550296 - Romantic Guitar Favourites
Niccolo Paganini (1782 - 1840)
The present programme is pervaded by the spirit of Franz Liszt although his music is not actually represented. As a Romantic virtuoso, he took the astonishing Paganini as his model; he knew Mendelssohn in Paris in the 1830s and arranged six of his songs for solo piano; as a boy, he was introduced to Schubert and in later life transcribed many of Schubert's songs. The other figure whose shadowy influence is felt in this recording is the Bohemian composer and guitar virtuoso, Johann Kaspar Mertz. Mertz is the epitome of that cliched figure, the Romantic guitarist. He treated the guitar as a miniature piano and had a rare understanding of its potential for expression. It is unfortunate that he did not arrange more of the music of his greater contemporaries.
Like Liszt, Mendelssohn did not have much contact with the guitarists of his day and did not write for the instrument. This is a great loss for the guitar, as his cultured, classical approach would have suited it admirably. I have tried to redress the balance by transcribing some of his simpler Songs without Words. which, even though they are mere charming miniatures in comparison with his great chamber works, are musically more rewarding than most of the guitar music of his day. The great founder of modern guitar technique, Francisco Tarrega (1852- 1909), was one of the first to transcribe Mendelssohn in his search for repertoire, and these arrangements are dedicated to his memory.
Paganini was no stranger to the guitar and is reported to have said of it, "I love it for its harmony, it is my constant companion in all my travels". He even stopped playing the violin for three years, from 1801 until 1804, and studied and performed on the guitar to great acclaim. This was no doubt due in part to his association at the time with a certain Tuscan lady of rank, whose favourite instrument it was.
Paganini was also closely associated with the guitarist Legnani, and travelled and performed with him in 1836 and 1837. It was probably on one of these occasions that the Grand Sonata was written, originally for guitar with violin accompaniment. There is a story that Legnani complained that the guitar was always accompanying the violin and asked Paganini to write a piece where they would exchange instruments. The result was the Grand Sonata, and Legnani found that he was accompanist once again. I have absorbed the violin part into the guitar writing in my transcription and have also written my own variation No.5 in the Andantino Variato in the tradition of most guitarists who play this piece. In my arrangements of the two Caprices from Op. 1 for violin solo, I cast a distant but envious eye in the direction of Liszt's piano transcription of these pieces.
Franz Schubert is known to have played the guitar and one was always to be seen hanging over his bed. Many of his songs were originally written with guitar accompaniments (until he could afford a piano!) and arrangements of them were made by, amongst others, his contemporaries Diabelli and Mertz. Liszt also arranged many of Schubert's songs for piano solo. The transcriptions for solo guitar on this recording, originally by Mertz, are clearly inspired by those of Liszt, but also show an original approach to transcription, demanding that the guitar be taken on its own terms. However Mertz's true aspirations, however, are betrayed by the titles of some of his own works - "Gondola Song", "Song without Words" and "Standchen". These are titles used by Mendelssohn, Schubert and Liszt and their use indicates the general 'piano-envy' of the Romantic guitarist, both then and now.
G. Garcia 1992
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