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8.557809 - Guitar Recital: Goran Krivokapic
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Goran Krivokapić - Guitar Recital
Werthmüller • J.S. Bach • D. Scarlatti • Bogdanović

Franz Werthmüller’s music sits comfortably between Joseph Haydn, 37 years older, and Fernando Sor, nine years older. Though closer in time to Sor, he seems to have absorbed more of the older composer’s style, at least in the brisk Allegro that opens his Sonata in A major, Op. 17, in a high-spirited fashion, and in the exhilarating momentum of the Presto that concludes it. Haydn, who liked to finish his symphonies with an uptempo movement, might have approved. The warm and eloquent melody of the Lento, however, is more of Werthmüller’s time, at the beginning of the Romantic movement that was to usher in Weber, Schumann and Chopin. The sonata was transcribed, presumably from a piano version, by the nineteenth-century Austrian guitarist and composer Franz Pfeifer.

‘Good, great and universal music remains the same no matter what instrument sounds the notes’. The opinion of Ferruccio Busoni, composer, piano virtuoso and arranger of formidable skill, is almost universally echoed by modern musicians and musicologists, but the old belief that it is somehow wrong to play violin music on the guitar still persists in some quarters. Bach himself was a habitual transcriber and arranger, and that surely ought to be enough to convince the doubtful. The advantages of a guitar transcription include a great clarity in polyphony while still retaining an essentially string sound. Bach himself arranged movements from his Violin Sonatas, so guitar arrangers and transcribers are not working in the dark. Nevertheless, decisions have to be made - when, or if, to arpeggiate chords, as the violin necessarily must when more than two adjacent strings are involved; whether to expand a violin’s fournote chord with the guitar’s two additional strings, whether to acknowledge that it was originally a violin piece or whether to treat it as a new piece for guitar, and so on. It is known that Bach owned a lute, though whether he could play it with any degree of proficiency is uncertain: in performance he remained a keyboardplayer par excellence. Busoni, among whose students was Sibelius, was an arch-romantic, as his arrangement for piano of Bach’s D minor Chaconne shows. A generation later, Segovia’s Chaconne arrangement for guitar was much less romantic, though nowadays it would not be considered to be in accordance with modern thinking and beliefs. An arrangement invariably echoes the perceptions of its own time, not those of the period in which the work was originally composed. The demanding fugue of the Sonata in C, BWV1005, is known familiarly among English-speaking guitarists as ‘London Bridge’, the melody of which can be recognised in the opening bars, although obviously Bach had no knowledge of traditional English song.

Domenico Scarlatti’s father Alessandro was a significant figure in music, the composer of some six hundred chamber-cantatas. So attractive are the almost equal number of harpsichord sonatas written by his son Domenico, however, that we tend to ignore his father’s great contribution. Graceful, spirited, yet full of technical problems for keyboard-players and guitarists alike, these sonatas by the younger Scarlatti have a universal appeal that shows no sign of diminishing. Together with Handel and J.S. Bach, Domenico Scarlatti was one of the three major composers of the period, all born in 1685 and all giants in Baroque music. He actually competed, in a friendly way, with Handel, in an event organized in Rome, when Handel was judged the better organist and Scarlatti the better harpsichordist. It said that the two composers held each other in some esteem. Domenico Scarlatti was employed at the court of the King of Portugal, where he taught the Infanta Maria Barbara, who became his favourite pupil and whom he followed to Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. Although he wrote operas, cantatas and sacred music, the keyboard sonatas remain his most memorable work, evidence of a deep fascination with the possibilities of a single instrument with its opportunities for melody, counterpoint and polyphony. Bach’s sometimes lengthy working-out of a contrapuntal pattern, as in the fugue of BWV1005, was not for Scarlatti, who was more interested in the brilliant effect of rapid articulation, often in thirds and sixths, and many other technical devices such as hand-crossing, wide leaps and elaborate arpeggiation, though there is poetry and profundity there too. As to his music’s suitability for the guitar, it is sufficient to point to his many years of residence in Spain, where exposure to that instrument must have been a daily occurrence; there are many ‘echoes’ in his music that support the view that the guitar must have made a deep impression. Some of the sonatas are impossible to play adequately on one guitar, for the simple reason that, while a keyboard player has ten independent digits, a guitarist needs both hands to play one note. A great many of the sonatas, however, transcribe very well, and the gradual improvement in guitar technique over the last twenty or thirty years means that more and more of them are falling into the scope of the guitar. Scarlatti’s own introduction to the first published sonatas warns the player against being too critical, to be aware instead of the humanity and thereby to ‘increase by this way your own pleasure’. Certainly this humanity is an important part of his music, and a factor in its continuing popularity. The three sonatas played here are fairly representative of Scarlatti’s vivid style, slow alternating with fast, the deceptively simple technique of K. 208 contrasting with the fireworks of K. 209.

Dušan Bogdanovi´c was born in Belgrade and knows the rhythms of his native Serbia very well. It is interesting, therefore, that his first musical interests were rock, pop, jazz and South American music. His eventual realisation that Balkan music is generously endowed with its own unique rhythms has resulted in a steady flow of compositions that have enriched the contemporary repertoire. The very opening of Sonata No. 2 seems to breathe a Balkan air, and this underlying rhythm pervades the entire work, binding the movements together as strongly as any of the more formal structures of Western music. It is at its most prominent in the concluding Allegro ritmico, where it supports some fingerwork of an almost oriental intricacy, a challenge for any guitarist, but a delight for the listener. The intervening movements, one as slowly expressive as its title indicates, the other with the seemingly contradictory title of ‘melancholy joke’, complete a sonata very much of our time, complex yet as rich in inventiveness as any classical sonata of the past, though perhaps more in terms of rhythm than of harmonic structure.

© 2005 Colin Cooper


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