About this Recording
8.557597 - Guitar Recital: Jeremy Jouve
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Jérémy Jouve - Guitar Recital
Rodrigo • Turina • da Milano • Britten • Arcas

“This admirable instrument, as sober as it is rich, sometimes roughly yet sometimes sweetly masters the soul. Through the centuries it has taken up into itself the values of noble instruments which have passed away, has taken those values into itself without losing its own character which it owes, in its origins, to the people itself.”

Manuel De Falla
(from the preface to Emilio Pujol’s School of Guitar)

The works on this disc are a telling illustration of Manuel de Falla’s astute observations on the nature of the guitar: on the way the instrument has gathered the history and repertoire of earlier plucked instruments, yet has maintained close contact with popular music.

The ricercari and fantasies by the Italian renaissance composer, Francesco da Milano are among the masterpieces of the lute repertoire and, by extension, the guitar repertoire. These pieces are ideally suited for performance on the guitar because the renaissance lute, for which Milano composed his works, closely parallels the guitar’s tuning. In fact, with minor adjustment, a guitarist can play the text of these pieces with no change at all. Thus, a convincing performance relies primarily on the guitarist’s ability to enter the sound world of the lute and demonstrate sensitivity for the aesthetics of renaissance music. Of course, this does not preclude the possibility of an altogether different approach, one that is equally convincing if the spirit and imagination is bold and right, as demonstrated by the forays into renaissance music by such figures as Segovia and Respighi. Francesco da Milano was in the employ of several popes and was the most published renaissance lutenist. His fame and esteem were such that his music appeared in numerous anthologies, both printed and in manuscript, throughout the 1500s. He was referred to by his contemporaries as Il Divino, a nickname he shared with Michelangelo. The four works presented here are taken from about a hundred or so of Milano’s solo lute works. They are presented by the guitarist to form a kind of suite .

The English composer Benjamin Britten was among the greatest composers of the twentieth century. His Nocturnal, Op.70, for guitar was originally conceived as a lute piece. Fortunately for guitarists, Julian Bream convinced Britten otherwise, explaining to the composer the impracticality of writing for the lute, with its relative dearth of players.

The Nocturnal is a series of seven variations and a passacaglia on the song Come, heavy sleep by John Dowland, a setting of which appears at the end of the cycle. This is a form not unlike Britten’s Lachrymae, Op.48, for viola and piano, also based on a Dowland song. In the Nocturnal, originally entitled Night Fancy, Britten is concerned with depicting in musical terms the various psychological moods and qualities of sleep. The composer of some of the great operas of the twentieth century, he here created a powerful psycho-drama within the intimate, interior voice of the guitar.

Each variation has a descriptive title, Musingly, Very agitated, Restless, Uneasy, March-like, Dreaming and Gently rocking. The passacaglia that follows the variations is the main element in the piece, building impetus with an obsessive reiteration of the bass theme, itself derived from an interior voice of Dowland’s song. The section builds to a series of climaxes and, ultimately, to the theme itself. Written in 1963, this is a seminal work for guitar in many respects: in its dimensions and formal design, high intellectual content, in its notational, textural and formal innovations, and above all, in its dramatic and musical power.

If Benjamin Britten was inspired by the “the values of noble instruments which have passed away” as described by Falla, then Joaquín Turina clearly recognized the values the guitar took ” into itself without losing its own character which it owes, in its origins, to the people itself”. His flamenco inspired Sonata (1931) begins with a strong, powerful gesture followed by a scale passage that makes a chromatic curlicue downward to the low notes of the guitar. The sense of what follows is one of transition as the music surges forward toward the coquettish second theme. The sonata’s two themes share elements, like the eye in the yin/yang symbol. Here, it is the dotted rhythm. Elements of the first theme dominate the development section until the arrival of a straightforward recapitulation. The movement ends with a golpe (a tap on the guitar’s body) and a final chord. Most of the second movement is evocative of cante jondo, its ornamental single lines evoking the flamenco singing style interspersed with short guitar interludes. The final Allegro vivo uses material from the first movement to create exciting flamenco dance music. In this sonata Turina successfully combines French ideas of form derived from César Franck and Spanish folk-music.

The clever wit of the Sonata Giocosa by Joaquín Rodrigo is apparent in its very first chord. This chord is voiced in open position with Rodrigo’s trademark minor second dissonance placed in the lowest register. This unique sonority is followed by a theme made up a of crisp scale passage and a tune in parallel thirds and fourths. By this point, we are fully aware that this piece is in the neo-classical world of Stravinsky and Poulenc, albeit with a Spanish flavour The form of the first movement is as sharp and clear as the contents. The presentation of the movement’s themes and the demarcation of its section are delivered pro forma. The second movement is in great contrast to the first. The neo-classical disposition of the first movement leads us to interpret the stressed second beat of the opening measures as a saraband. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is melancholy processional music. The shifts of mode and texture create a chiaroscuro effect. In the final movement, an Allegro, the composer employs many devices from his bag of tricks: the alternation of 6/8 and 3/4, rasqueados (strumming effects), piquant dissonances, portamenti and scale bursts. These devices are used with such joviality as to call into question the gravity of the second movement: Perhaps it was just a funeral march for a marionette?

The figure of Francisco Tárrega looms large in the annals of the guitar. He was an inspiring teacher to Miguel Llobet (1878-1938), Emilio Pujol (1886-1980) and to many lesser figures. In fact, Tarrega had what could be described as “cult status” among his many admirers, even though he rarely performed in public. He was an excellent transcriber of works by Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann and, above all, Granados and Albéniz. In this endeavour he revealed many of the guitar’s potentialities that would later prove inspiring to composers, particularly in the hands of Andrés Segovia. As a composer, Tárrega was most comfortable with miniatures. His preludes and short dances are little jewels. His Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Capricho arabe are staples of the guitar repertoire. All of his original works fall upon the guitar with great naturalness and sensitivity.

Although often attributed to Tárrega, the Fantasía sobre motivos de la Traviata is actually by the Spanish guitarist Julián Arcas. This incorrect attribution could be traced to a manuscript copy of this work that Tárrega made for a student. At any rate, the style of the Fantasía is more related to the previous generation of guitarist/composers that include José Broca (1805- 1882) and Johann Kasper Mertz (1806-1856) than the Spanish nationalistic style of Tárrega.

Mark Delpriora


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