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8.570446 - Guitar Recital: Nirse Gonzalez
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Nirse González: Guitar Recital

Antonio José (1902-1936): Sonata
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
: Thème Varié et Finale
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Sonata No. 2, BWV 1003
Joaquín Clerch (b.1965): En Volos • Estudio de acordes • Estudio de ligados
Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909): Adelita • Mazurca en Sol

 

This recording presents a varied selection from some of the finest composers for guitar, as well as transcriptions from the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The guitar, extraordinarily versatile in its repertoire, is at home with Spanish or Latin American compositions, pieces from the Baroque epoch, or tackling the avant-garde. In the hands of an expert performer the instrument's sonorities seem infinitely adaptable whether presenting full length sonatas, suites, sets of variations, expressive miniatures, or brilliant concert studies. Within a single recital a whole gamut of mood and emotion can be presented, from the reflective to the extrovert, from poignancy to the spectacular. The guitar's palette covers a feast of possibilities, romantic melodies, complex contrapuntal effects or the rhythms of the dance, but whatever it does, it remains an intimately expressive medium, both human and personal. It is also profoundly international attracting gifted performers and composers from all five continents, continually extending and consolidating the long historical traditions of fretted instruments.

Antonio José was a composer praised by Maurice Ravel as one who would 'become the greatest Spanish musician of our century', but his arrest and execution near his home city of Burgos in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War cast his music into a subsequent obscurity which has only recently been remedied. A monograph about his life and work has been published by the municipality of Burgos. The discovery of his moving and virtuosic Sonata for Guitar, which has proved most popular in the concert hall, has been augmented by recordings of his orchestral pieces such as Sinfonía castellana (Naxos 8.557634). Considerable interest was aroused by the re-discovery in the late 1980s of the Sonata, which Antonio José finished on 23 August 1933. (One movement was first performed in Burgos by Regino Sáinz de la Maza in November 1934.) The Sonata offers further perspectives on the expansion of the guitar repertoire during the early twentieth century Spanish musical renaissance. The work established Antonio José's reputation beside those of his distinguished contemporaries who respected the guitar as an expressive medium. José's Sonata is a composition of virtuosity as well as great emotional depth and insight.

Manuel Ponce was the founding father of modern Mexican music. His pupil, Carlos Chávez (1899-1978), said of him, 'It was Ponce who created a real consciousness of the richness of Mexican folk art'. Andrés Segovia and Manuel Ponce first met in Mexico in 1923 and for the rest of his life the composer dedicated himself to writing many compositions for guitar, including a concerto and pieces for guitar and harpsichord, as well as solos comprising sonatas, preludes, suites, and variations, nearly all of them dedicated to Segovia. Thème Varié et Finale was given its première by Segovia at Evian-les-Bains in August 1926. Following the unusual opening theme with its reflective modulations, the Variations deploy a series of textures such as repeated chords, dialogue between bass and treble, a study in thirds, an agitato movement in triplets, a burst of scalic passages, and an emotive molto più lento section with a memorable melody and inspired harmonic progressions. The Finale (Vivo scherzando), a dance in 3/8 time with the dynamism of a tarantella, evolves from filigree semiquaver runs to glissando chords, the momentum gathering force as it proceeds to a middle section with snatches of melody, chromatic chords and intricate triplets. After the return of the Finale's opening theme, a vigorous coda moves to a triumphant close.

The tradition of performing the music of J.S. Bach on guitar was first established by the nineteenth-century master Francisco Tárrega, continued by Andrés Segovia and developed by later generations of recitalists. Nowadays Bach's genius is an integral aspect of the guitarist's landscape, incorporating transcriptions from works for violin, cello, and keyboard. In Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003, the Grave (with its subtle embellishments and clearly delineated bass) acts as a prelude, the last bar leading us harmonically directly into the Fugue. This, 288 bars in length (compared with 103 bars for the middle movement of Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998, and 94 bars for the Fugue from Violin Sonata, BWV 1000), is a majestic work requiring a high degree of interpretative stamina on the part of the soloist. Professor Werner Breig, the eminent Bach scholar, has written: 'For three of his works for solo violin, Bach nonetheless ventured into the field of the sonata, with fugal second movements that exploit the violin's capacity for polyphonic effects. Although these fugues include longer episodes in which performer and listener can recover from the rigours of the polyphonic writing, these episodes certainly do not overshadow the fugal sections. On the contrary, the composer seems determined to prove that a violin fugue is not necessarily inferior to a fugue written for an ensemble.' The contrapuntal requirements of this Fugue are of course equally technically demanding for both guitarists and violinists, though it could perhaps be argued that six strings plucked by three fingers and a thumb are more amenable to polyphony than a violinist's bow across four strings. After the busy marathon of the fugal writing comes a gentle Andante, in the key of C major, its insistent underlying harmonies supporting a poignant melodic line. The scintillating finale, marked Allegro (in binary form like the Andante), is characterized by its rapid tempo and more challenging requirements on the part of the player.

Joaquín Clerch, born in 1965 in Havana, studied with several teachers in his early years including Leo Brouwer and Costas Cotsiolis. Later he moved to Salzburg to have lessons with Eliot Fisk, graduating with the highest honours. He is now professor of guitar at the Robert Schumann University in Düsseldorf, and has made several recordings including Leo Brouwer's Concierto de Habana. The first piece, En Volos, pays homage to the picturesque Greek town of Volos, where a famous Guitar Summer School is held. Estudio de Acordes and Estudio de Ligados (dedicated to Nirse González and Michalis Kontaxakis respectively) offer assistance with areas of technical difficulty on the guitar - the smooth progressions of chordal playing, and clear articulation of slurs or ligados. The latter, a characteristic of all stringed instruments (adding interpretative colour to a melodic line), present particular problems to guitarists involving strength and control and require much practice.

Francisco Tárrega, the most influential Spanish maestro of the nineteenth century, developed revolutionary principles of guitar technique while his own compositions exploited the rich tonal qualities of the guitars of Antonio de Torres. Tárrega was profoundly influenced by the stylish cantabile of Chopin's piano music. His miniature masterpieces are performed nowadays wherever guitarists gather. The composer's use of higher positions up the neck of the guitar and sonorous effects achieved by precisely indicated fingerings, created a new concept of the instrument.

Adelita, a mazurka with a Spanish accent, is an affectionate portrait of a girl who was clearly both pretty and sensitive. Mazurka in G admirably demonstrates Tárrega's musical characteristics such as his use of subtle ornamentation, inventive themes, chromatic harmony and diversified tone colour. In the middle section the focus varies from a rich bass line (accompanied by treble chords) to legato phrasing on the treble strings.

Graham Wade

 


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