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8.557351 - LLOBET: Guitar Works (Complete)
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Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)

Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)

Complete Guitar Music

 

The opening of the twentieth century ushered in a new era for the classical guitar. With a new face-lift and some structural changes, as well as the performances and compositions of Francisco Tárrega, the guitar was launched and firmly established on a course that has seen it develop into one of the most widespread string instruments today. Two guitarists, Miguel Llobet and Andrés Segovia (1893-1987), are largely responsible for this increased popularity. Segovia did not study with Tárrega;  he admits, however,  to an indirect influence through Llobet. Llobet took the necessary steps to continue what Tárrega had started: create new music, make transcriptions of contemporary composers, develop and expand pedagogical practices for the guitar. Tárrega never toured outside Western Europe, whereas Llobet moved into the life of an international concert artist at the opening of the twentieth century by travelling to venues on other continents.

 

Miguel Llobet Soles was born on 18th October 1878, and died on 22nd February 1938 in Barcelona. In 1889 he began studying the instrument with Magín Alegre who in that same year took him to hear the blind Spanish virtuoso of the guitar Antonio Jimenez Manjón (1866-1919). It was after this concert that Llobet decided upon the guitar as his life’s ambition; he stated that Manjón had left an indelible impression upon him. At the age of sixteen Llobet attended the Municipal Conservatory of Music where he continued his studies with Tárrega. Some of the students and friends at this music institute were Pablo Casals, Emilio Pujol, Ricardo Viñes, Gaspar Cassadó and other Catalonian notables. Llobet’s first public appearance took place in 1901 at the Conservatory of Valencia. In 1904 his friend and compatriot Ricardo Viñes, the noted pianist and interpreter of Debussy keyboard works, presented him in his first concert outside Spain, in Paris. While living in Paris from 1905 to 1910 Llobet gave concerts throughout continental Europe and the British Isles. His first concert in South America was given in 1910. In Buenos Aires Llobet made a temporary home, periodically leaving on concert tours that took him north through Brazil and into Central America and the Caribbean. By 1912 his tours had brought him to the United States. At the outbreak of World War I, Llobet returned to Buenos Aires, where he gave concerts and taught some students. The concerts given during the war years continued to reach as far north as the United States. After 1930 he settled in Barcelona to teach and give occasional concerts. In 1934 he offered concerts in Vienna, Germany and other parts of Western Europe. By 1937 he was back in Barcelona during one of the most difficult sieges upon his hometown at the time of the Spanish Civil War. Jaime Pahissa (in his book, Manuel de Falla) says that when he saw Llobet at this time, “he was wandering through the streets of Barcelona and he seemed absolutely crushed, overwhelmed by circumstances and completely apathetic”. Soon after, his health began to fail,whereupon he contracted pleurisy and died the following year.

 

Llobet’s publications number approximately 75. Of this number there are thirteen known original compositions and a group of folk-song settings. All others are either arrangements of works by noted composers for either solo or two guitars or revised editions of the repertoire, some originally edited by Tárrega.

 

The earlier original works demonstrate a prejudice towards Chopin, as can be heard in the Mazurka, Romanza and Scherzo-Vals, where even the unusual (for the guitar) choice of the keys is somehow “chopinian”: B flat major and C minor for the Mazurka and the Romanza, whereas the Scherzo-Vals has a central section in D flat major.

 

Wagner and Richard Strauss also left their mark on him as heard in the Preludes in E and A, each breathing chromatic freedom (Jaime Pahissa mentions that Llobet was a travelling companion of not only Falla but also Strauss and that while travelling much of the conversations focused on various modern composers: Wagner, Bizet and Debussy were major topics).  Yet he is attuned to the Impressionists and this is heard in his harmonizations of the Catalonian folk-songs. While attending the Municipal Conservatory of Music in Barcelona, Llobet fell under the influence of Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922), distinguished composer and musicologist (among Pedrell’s pupils were Manuel de Falla, Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Roberto Gerhard). Pedrell wrote and lectured on the preservation and use of Spain’s National Treasury, the folk-song. The arrangements by Llobet of Catalan folk-songs are his contribution to the plea made by Pedrell, each an impressionistic jewel displaying a fantastic richness of harmony and tone. Some of these ballads from Catalonia became favourites in Europe through his performances.

 

With Respuesta, Llobet almost exceeds the technical limits of the guitar, using a special effect, bariolage, where the right hand arpeggiates across lower strings that are sounding higher than the open strings. This work really pushes the boundary line on idiomatic writing for the instrument.

 

A favourite for centuries among European composers, the ancient theme of the folia inspired a number of works, including Fernando Sor’s Variations. Op. 15. Borrowing from this theme and the first two variations, Llobet adds eight more variations and a romantic Intermezzo that display an ingenuity in modern harmonic technique with devices exploiting several technical aspects of the guitar, including left-hand only variation, harmonics and quick slurs.

 

To Miguel Llobet is given the credit for bringing the classic guitar into the modern musical world of international concert tours, for contributing new works to the repertoire, for presenting to the public in performance the new works of such composers as Falla, Villa Lobos, Ponce and others, for teaching, organizing and expanding the pedagogical principles of Tárrega, and, of utmost importance, for having made the first electric recordings of the classic guitar.

 

Ronald Purcell


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