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8.570510 - Guitar Recital: Thomas Viloteau
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Thomas Viloteau: Guitar Recital

Miguel Llobet (1878-1938): Variaciónes sobre un tema de Sor, Op. 15
Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986): Cavatina
Leo Brouwer (b. 1939): Rito de los Orishas
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983): Sonata, Op. 47
Roland Dyens (b. 1955): Triaela

 

Miguel Llobet, born in Barcelona, Catalonia, was one of the most influential guitarists of the early twentieth century. A student of Francisco Tárrega and a profound influence on Andrés Segovia in his formative years, Llobet gave recitals in many countries, made recordings and wrote various original compositions. He also became renowned as both teacher and editor. In recent years Llobet's compositions have seen a revival but his lasting monument has been his exquisite harmonizations of Catalan folk-songs, arrangements of Granados's La Maja de Goya and Spanish Dances Nos 5 and 10 and the editing of Manuel de Falla's guitar work, Homenaje, Le Tombeau de Debussy.

Variations on a Theme of Sor, Op. 15, begins with Fernando Sor's arrangement of La Folia de España and his first two variations. Only in Variation 3 does Llobet first show his hand, beginning with brilliant descending triplet arpeggio patterns. Then comes a variation presenting a different kind of arpeggio where a theme in the bass is complemented by harmonic progressions across treble strings. Variation 5 consists of short semiquaver triplet bursts in minor and major thirds in the treble, contrasting with the next variation - a series of rapid ascending triplets from bass to treble, rhythmically and harmonically similar to Variation 5 but giving a quite different effect. An Intermezzo is introduced, a legato melodic line in the major key, the treble accompanied by chromatic chords reminiscent of the technical figurations in Sor's Study Op. 6, No. 2. Variation 7 returns to the key of E minor for a virtuosic exercise in demisemiquaver slurs, supported by subtle chords. Variation 8 is in harmonics, one of the guitar's most sensitive sonorities. This is succeeded by a section where the guitarist uses only the left hand to pluck and finger the notes, ending with a dramatic downward sweep across the strings. The finale, Variation 10, combines many techniques involving chords, slurs, and harmonics in a dazzling coda.

Alexandre Tansman, one of the twentieth-century's leading Polish composers, resided in Paris from 1920 onwards until moving to the United States for the war years. His works include symphonies, concertos, string quartets and a quantity of piano and film music. Tansman and Andrés Segovia first met in 1925 at a musical soirée given in Paris by Henri Prunière. On hearing Segovia play, Tansman was converted to a lifelong love of the guitar and thereafter wrote a number of works for it.

Cavatina, a suite in four movements, was awarded first prize in the International Composers Competition of the Accademia Chigiana and published by Schott (edited Segovia ), in 1952. Preludio sets the mood, being a lively dance of melodic and harmonic complexity. The first part, with its interplay of treble and bass voices, is followed by a lyrical middle section (marked un poco più lento), before a recapitulation of the opening, modified only by the addition of a brief coda. Sarabande reminds us of the music of J.S. Bach in form rather than vocabulary, as it comprises modulations of a contemporary nature through various keys, the poignant melody paramount throughout. This mood changes with Scherzino beginning with a tremolo and progressing to elements from the Preludio, including the return of a pedal bass and intricate passage work. Barcarole brings in a mood of serenity, exploiting the cantabile nature of the guitar supported by inventive harmonies in modulations from the home key of E minor to F sharp major and back again.

Leo Brouwer, from Cuba, one of the most innovative contemporary composers, is also a renowned conductor and recitalist. His prolific output ranges from a multitude of guitar pieces to concertos, chamber music, and scores for over a hundred films. His guitar works have evolved over four decades embracing the avant-garde and the experimental as well as neo-romanticism. Rito de los Orishas (Rite of the Orishas), was given its première by the dedicatee, Alvaro Pieri, at the Festival de Radio France, in October 1993, a few months after its composition. Orishas is the Yoruban word for the gods worshipped by the African slaves.

The first movement, Exordium - conjuro (Introduction - Incantation/Exorcism), in ternary form with an episodic middle section and a modified recapitulation, celebrates a ritual where evil spirits are vanquished. Isabelle Hernández, Brouwer's biographer, points out that this movement is created from three fundamental cells, a repeated sound in groups of three in the manner of an ostinato, an ascending scale in rapid figurations, and a theme characterized by a descending minor third followed by an ascending major second. The second part, Danza de las diosas negras (Dance of the Black Goddesses) comprises three dance elements interspersed by darkly atmospheric episodes named 'evocations'.

Alberto Ginastera, born in Buenos Aires of Catalan-Italian descent, is acknowledged as one of Argentina's greatest composers. His works include operas, ballets, orchestral music, chamber and vocal music, instrumental pieces for piano, organ, cello, flute, guitar and other instruments, and nearly a dozen film scores. Sonata for Guitar, Op. 47, dedicated to Carlos Barbosa-Lima, was composed in Geneva in 1976 and had its première on 27 November of that year at the Lisner Auditorium of George Washington University. The composer's intentions were to write a work of 'sizeable proportions' of four movements as he realized that 'the guitar - in contrast to other solo instruments - relied on a repertoire of almost exclusively short pieces without any unity of form'. Ginastera's own comments on his work are invaluable:

The first movement, Esordio, is a solemn prelude, followed by a song which was inspired by Kecua music and which finds its conclusion in an abbreviated repetition of these two elements. The second movement, Scherzo, which has to be played 'il più presto possibile', is an interplay of shadow and light, of nocturnal and magical ambience, of dynamic contrasts, distant dances, of surrealistic impressions, such as I had used in earlier works. Right through to the end the theme of the lute of Sixtus Beckmesser appears as a phantasmagoria. The third movement, Canto, is lyrical and rhapsodic, expressive and breathless like a love poem. It is connected with the last movement, Finale, a quick spirited rondeau which recalls the strong, bold rhythms of the music of the pampas. Combinations of 'rasgueados' and 'tamboras' percussion effects, varied by other elements of metallic colour or the resounding of strings, gives a special tonality to this rapid, violent movement which thereby gains the overall aspect of a 'toccata'. (Preface to Sonata for Guitar, Op. 47, Boosey & Hawkes 1978)

Roland Dyens, born in Tunisia of French nationality, is a leading guitarist/composer and an eminent teacher at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, Paris. His concerts offer improvisatory pieces as well as an extensive repertoire of original works. His profound knowledge of contemporary harmony co-exists with a vivid mastery of jazz and rock aspects which appear in various manifestations throughout his compositions.

Triaela, in three movements, has been given this enigmatic title by a composer who delights in word play. Tria is Greek for 'three' while ela (come or come on), possesses a hint of the first name of Elena Papandreou, the guitarist to whom this composition is dedicated. All three sections are played with an unusual scordatura (re-tuning) of bass strings providing deep resonances and striking harmonic effects.

The first movement, Light Motif (Takemitsu au Brésil), is a tribute to the Japanese composer, Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996), whose ethereally impressionistic works presented a wholly new landscape in sound. The harmonics beginning Light Motif reflect an integral part of Takemitsu's guitar music as do the elegant harmonies and subtle themes. The Brazilian influence here might be summed up in terms of saudade, that elusive blend of nostalgia, sadness, sentiment, and poignancy characterising so much of the country's music. Black Horn (when Spain meets Jazz) begins with repeated chords and sharp flourishes across the strings. This leads into a slower section where the tension gradually rises through riff-like jazz phrases accompanied by rhythmic triplets. The third movement, Clown Down (Gismonti au cirque) pays homage to Egberto Gismonti (b. 1947), the Brazilian composer, guitarist and pianist, the title recalling his very successful album, Circense (in Spanish 'of the circus'). The work is a remarkable tour de force, and one of the most virtuosic concepts ever composed for guitar. As well as a rapidly repeated pedal bass, there are many wonderful guitaristic colours here, including harmonics, Bartók pizzicatos, rapid demisemiquaver arpeggios, chordal sequences, and, in the coda, a wide variety of percussive devices completing an amazing finale.

Graham Wade

 


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