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8.554555 - Guitar Recital: Denis Azabagic
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Guitar Recital - Denis Azabagic

Federico Moreno Torroba was the first composer to respond to Segovia's appeal for new, original repertory for the guitar, something he wisely regarded as essential to the instrument's revival in the twentieth century. This was to have long-range effect: One day when I (the present writer) was with Segovia in his hotel room he showed me a pile of scores on which he was to work; holding the manuscript of Torroba's Castles of Spain, he said that though he had just received it he was giving it priority: "He put me first all those years ago and I will always put him first" and so he did for the rest of his life. The Sonatina was first performed by Segovia in Paris (1925) to an invited audience that included Maurice Ravel, who was much impressed by it. A seductively lyrical Andante is framed by two quicker movements with lively Spanish dance rhythms. In Spain Torroba is famous for his many zarzuelas but in the outside world he is best known for his many works for the guitar, an instrument he did not play.

The Paraguayan guitarist Agustín Barrios Mangoré had great respect for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach; he is said to have been the first guitarist to playa whole suite of Bach in concert. La catedral originally consisted of two movements: the Andante religioso was his response to the experience of hearing Bach's organ music in Montevideo Cathedral; the Allegro solemne represents the contrasting bustle of activity in the streets outside the Cathedral. The Preludio was added in El Salvador about nineteen years later, subtitled Saudade (yearning). The work as a whole represents an amalgam of Barrios' Chopinesque romanticism, his veneration of Bach's music and, in the Allegro solemne, guitar virtuosity. His own recording of La Catedral in its two­-movement form was made in 1925, but his first recording pre-dates 1910, nineteen years before Segovia's first session with EMI.

Between 1923 and 1932 Manuel Ponce wrote five sonata-form works for Andrès Segovia, of which the Sonatina Meridional (1932) was the last, but none was added in the last sixteen years of his life. Ponce was Mexican but the Campo (countryside) is that of Spain, as the Copla (couplet) clearly shows in its evocation of the cante hondo of Andalusia. Its melody has characteristic melismatic flourishes. It pauses briefly on a 'Dorian' dominant before giving way to the Fiesta, a kaleidoscope of moods and colours, the perfect complement to the other two movements. As the end approaches a solo 'voice' enters, apasionado, with further echoes of Andalusia, and is punctuated by a guitar whose chords add another hemiola (3/4 versus 6/8 time) to those in the Copla. It is a work that encapsulates the three principal elements of Ponce's style: the classical the romantic and, in spirit only, the folkloric.

Antonio José was born in Burgos and died in a nearby village, shot by Franco's Falangist militia, by whom he had been captured two months earlier. During his short life he occupied only two modest posts, as music teacher in a Jesuit school and conductor of the city choir in Burgos, but his friends included liberal artists such as García Lorca (who was also shot two months earlier) and Salvador Dali, and was championed by the musicologist José Subirá. Even this distinguished support was insufficient to keep his music in the public consciousness and it was not until 1980 that interest was aroused by a monograph "Antonio José, Musician of Castile" by three distinguished writers. The Sonata was completed on 23rd August 1933 and though the first movement was performed on 23rd November 1934 by Regino Sainz de la Maza it appears to have had few performances in its entirety until after its first publication in 1990. The Sonata was originally conceived as a three-movement work, to which José later added the Pavana triste, originally written as an independent piece. It is arguably the most important sonata-form work for the guitar by any Spanish composer of the pre-war years, not least since it is free from Spanishry.

The virtuoso pianist and composer Antonio Ruiz Pipó was born in Granada. He studied the piano with Alicia de Larrocha and composition with Salvador Bacarisse and others. The latter part of his productive life was spent in France where, in addition to pursuing his performing career, he taught at the École Normale de Musique and the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris. In his youth he played the guitar a little and this provided him with a working knowledge of the instrument, for which he wrote numerous works. His music is consistently tonal, his treatment and harmonization of his thematic material (often deceptively simple-sounding) is sophisticated, and he revels in sharp contrasts of mood and colour. These characteristics of his temperament are also evident in the three Estancias (dwelling places or sojourns in South America, ranches). They are dedicated respectively to Karl Scheit, Alberto Ponce and Angelo Gilardino.

After the death of Claude Debussy in 1918 Manuel de Falla was asked to write an article for the memorial issue of Revue musicale. He did so and added apiece of music, the Homenaje, pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy, simultaneously satisfying Miguel Llobet's earlier request for a work. It was first printed as a supplement to the December 1920 issue of the Revue musicale. Falla had no detailed knowledge of the workings of the guitar but he borrowed one and, after two weeks, he produced the Homenaje, a remarkable achievement for a composer who polished and agonized over his works at great length. The published score carried some left-hand fingering (barré positions) which were most probably his own. The first commercial edition was published in England, together with Falla's immediately-made adaptation for the piano which is worthy of study, since it contains articulations that are easily possible on the guitar but which were absent from the guitar edition of Llobet. It is a brief work, an habanera (not a funeral march), which, as Julian Bream has said, gives the feeling of being much longer than it is, such is the spell it casts. Near the end Falla inserts a quotation from Debussy's Soirée dans Grenade, a memory of his evening meeting with its composer in that city.

Carlos Rafael Rivera has already acquired a substantial reputation as a composer of folkloric-­influenced music such as his Motet for twelve singers, based on Tibetan Buddhist chants, and his guitar quartet Cumba-Quin with its infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms. His works have been widely performed and recorded, and he has received awards from ASCAP (the American royalty-protection society) and the Guitar Foundation of America. He is at present studying for a Masters Degree in Composition as Graduate Assistant at the Thornton Music School, part of the University of Southern California.

Rivera writes: "Whirler of the dance was inspired by the name given to Terpsichore (the Greco-Roman Muse of Dance) by the Greek poet Hesiod. The Prelude is fanfare-like and reminiscent of Spanish folk-music. The Evocation is of dignified character, a solemn, personal prayer. The Dance which closes the work is based on African tribal rhythms. Through tense contrasts between pizzicato and ordinario passages, the familiar harmonic world of the Prelude returns, bringing the work to an exhilarating close". To this should be added that, throughout, it reveals an intimate technical knowledge of the guitar's capabilities.

John W. Duarte


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