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8.555850 - GIULIANI: Guitar Music, Vol. 2
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Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
Guitar Music, Vol. 2

Born in Bisceglie in what is now Italy but was then part of the Kingdom of Naples, Mauro Giuliani was 25 when he went to Vienna to learn more about music and, with luck, to earn a living by it. Although the guitar was appreciated in his native land as an accompanying instrument, Vienna offered more opportunities for a talented and ambitious young musician.

The instrument had reached one of its many turning-points. A low sixth string had recently been added to the five-string model; during the ensuing two hundred years, further strings were added at various times and for various reasons, but six is still the norm. Despite its limitations in volume, the guitar had become enormously popular in Vienna. Giuliani found himself on the crest of that wave of enthusiasm. He was also an accomplished cellist who took part in the first performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

His biographer Thomas Heck’s description of Giuliani’s musical substance as “Viennese classicism ... nourished by Italian lyricism” is a neat one. No doubt the lyricism had something to do with his success; allied to his good looks, a gift for composition and his virtuosity on the guitar in that dawn of romanticism, it made him a celebrity. One of his most significant achievements was to perform a three-movement guitar concerto with orchestra (presumably Op. 30) to the astonished Viennese public. It may have brought a few complaints about audibility along with the high praise, but it established an important precedent. For all his success, Giuliani led an unsettled life, never having as much money as he needed, and eventually moving to Rome in order to escape his creditors. There he met Rossini and Paganini, and enjoyed a professional association with them. Then came the final move to Naples, and a decline in health. Towards the end of 1828, he did not appear at a recital given by his fourteen-year-old daughter Emilia, though the Queen, two princesses and a prince did. On a previous occasion he had joined Emilia on stage, like a good father, for a duet. The circumstances of his absence at the later concert can only be guessed at. He was only 47 years and ten months old when he died in 1829.

The one-movement Sonata Eroica, Op. 150, is one of only three sonatas composed by Giuliani, the others being Op. 15 and Op. 61. Living in Vienna had given him plenty of opportunity to study the work of classical masters such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, but whether because he felt that the variations form suited the guitar better than the sonata form, or whether he simply preferred, like Sor, to adapt the sonata form to his own musical needs, he chose not to emulate the great classical masters. Sonata Eroica was published posthumously by Ricordi in 1840. Its dedicatee was Giuliani’s old friend Filippo Isnardi. It could well be the “Gran Sonata Eroica” that Giuliani described to Ricordi in 1821 as a piece “of large volume and never before heard”. Analysts, however, have found stylistic inconsistencies in the work. One explanation could be that Ricordi found someone to finish the work after Giuliani’s death in 1829. On the other hand, Giuliani did refer in his letter to Ricordi to “a style never before known”. Beethoven had composed his Eroica Symphony seventeen years earlier, in 1804. The story of how it was originally dedicated to Napoleon is well known: Beethoven indignantly tore out the title-page when he learned that the Corsican soldier had proclaimed himself emperor. There is nothing particularly heroic about Giuliani’s sonata, though the scale of the single movement entitles it to an honoured place among other essays in the form.

Variations on “Nume perdonami”, Op. 102, use a theme from Generali’s 1816 opera I Baccanali di Roma. Pietro Generali (1773-1832) was older than Rossini by nine years, and had anticipated some of his illustrious compatriot’s use of orchestral dynamics in his own operas, of which I Baccanali di Roma was held to be the best. There was a vogue for variations in Vienna in the early years of the nineteenth century, and Giuliani made a substantial contribution to it. This example is dedicated to Anna Wranitzky, an active singer in Vienna at the time. The theme, marked Allegretto innocente, follows a slow introduction, after which come three variations: the first, in triplets, is followed by a version of the melody in the minor over repeated chords in the bass. It concludes with a return to the major in which the main interest is contained in strong fortissimo-pianissimo dynamic contrasts.

Giuliani wrote five potpourris, Opp. 18, 26, 28, 31 and 41, of which all but Op. 26 were published by Artaria. In his list Artaria chose not to include a potpourri published by a rival, with the result that the fourth in the series, Op. 31, was printed under the misleading title “3rd Grand Pot Pourri”. The potpourri as a musical form was a useful way of combining popular melodies of the day in a publication intended for the large body of amateurs who keep music publishers in business. Operatic arias, folk-songs, street-songs, Viennese Ländler, Giuliani used them all, ingeniously linking them together and weaving a playable, if somewhat shapeless, tapestry of melody and harmony. Some of the tunes are immediately identifiable - Mozart’s “Non più andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro, for instance, and many of Rossini’s melodies. Others, less well known and from seldomperformed operas, are not, but are none the worse for that.

Giuliani’s Fughetta, Op. 113, was sold in 1824 for ten scudi, at a time when fifty scudi would have bought you a fortepiano. It was first sent to Diabelli, but composer and publisher fell out and Diabelli was asked to forward it to another publisher, Giuliani’s friend Domenico Artaria. It seems that this request was not carried out. Composers have always been fascinated by the fugue. Mozart was one who found beauty in its logical working out, though his skill in counterpoint found its profoundest expression in long and formal works such as the Jupiter Symphony. Giuliani, with different musical aspirations, used his skill only on rare occasions, as in this well-formed “little fugue”.

The Six Variations on “I bin a Kohlbauern Bub”, Op. 49, a folk-song roughly translated as “I am a cabbage-farm boy”, includes the minor variation that custom demanded. Multiple voices, triplets, a study in small figures, a free instrumental texture, a fashionable polonaise, together make a fairly typical example of the form. Published in 1814, it is dedicated to Mme de Rittersburg, an amateur singer of the time who is reported to have sung “very pleasantly”.

Colin Cooper


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