About this Recording
8.572843 - Guitar Recital: Montesinos, Anabel - GRANADOS, E. / FALLA, M. de / LLOBET, M / SOR, F. / RODRIGO, J. / LOPEZ-QUIROGA, M. / PUJOL, E.
English 

Anabel Montesinos: Guitar Recital

 

The ‘Spanish guitar’ retains a central significance in the instrument’s appeal, even after a century when the repertoire was internationalised by the contributions of composers of many countries. In this selection the music ranges from traditional folk-songs to the feast of guitar music produced throughout the twentieth century.

Enrique Granados, like Isaac Albéniz, was one of the great Spanish romantic composers. Though neither Granados nor Albéniz wrote directly for the guitar, their art constantly evoked, as Manuel de Falla expressed it, ‘certain guitaristic values’.

Valses poéticos were part of a collection for piano under the title of Valses de amor from which Granados selected seven pieces and added an introduction, dedicating the work to Joaquín Malats, like himself a distinguished pianist. The composition opens not with a poetic waltz but with a vivace molto introduction in duple time. The succeeding dances create various moods associated with the waltz, such as the melodic, the nostalgic, the humorous, the elegant, and the sentimental. The penultimate movement is a vigorous presto in six-eight time reminiscent of the brillante style of Chopin, and then the first waltz returns to provide a serene coda.

A tonadilla is a tune set to poetry or dance, often with contrasting tempi. Originally it signified a musical intermezzo between acts in the theatre but developed into a style of cantata, with vocal solos, choral and instrumental movements. La maja de Goya from Tonadillas, a song-cycle written in 1912/13, depicting the composer’s admiration for the paintings of Goya. La maja de Goya has the following text:

There is no woman, whether maja or lady, who does not miss Goya now. If I found someone who would love me as he loved me, I would not envy, no, nor ever wish for more fortune or joy.

Manuel de Falla was born in Cádiz. After early piano lessons from his mother, Falla continued his pianistic education under José Tragó and also studied with Felipe Pedrell. In 1907 he went to France where he remained for several years in the circle of Debussy, Dukas, Ravel, and Albéniz. His music includes stage and orchestral pieces, vocal items, piano solos, and chamber and instrumental compositions.

Danza del corregidor (Dance of the Corregidor) is an abridged arrangement of a movement from El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat), a ballet in two scenes. The action centres around the Corregidor (a magistrate) who has designs on the local miller’s beautiful wife. During this theme in the ballet, the magistrate makes foolish gestures like a grand seducer. But as he crosses a bridge the moon is hidden by a cloud and he falls into the water. The miller’s wife sees the bedraggled figure and the Corregidor pursues her, drawing his pistol. The wife escapes. In the confusion the Corregidor takes off his wet clothes and puts on the miller’s long shirt and pointed nightcap, while the miller dons the Corregidor’s uniform, thus preparing the action for a richly comic finale.

Miguel Llobet, born in Catalonia, was one of the leading guitarists of the early twentieth century. A student of Tárrega and a profound influence on Segovia, Llobet gave recitals in many countries, made recordings, and wrote a variety of excellent compositions for the guitar. Llobet’s lasting legacy to the guitar repertoire includes his acclaimed harmonizations of a dozen traditional Catalan folk-songs.

El Nit de Nadal (Christmas Night) and El Noi de la Mare (The Son of Our Lady) celebrate the birth of Jesus. In Canço del lladre (The Robber’s Song), the thief narrates the story of his life. A refrain bids farewell to the carnation and ‘the star of day’, as the bandit confesses deeds of robbing and killing. El Noi de la Mare, in contrast, invites us to offer gifts to the Infant including raisins and figs, honey and cream, a blanket to keep the Baby warm, and a song full of love sung by the Virgin, echoed by the Angels of Heaven.

Tres piezas españolas (Three Spanish Pieces), were composed in 1954, the same year as Rodrigo’s second guitar concerto, Fantasía para un gentilhombre (Fantasia for a Gentleman), both dedicated to Andrés Segovia. Fandango, with its ‘wrong note’ beginning, contains fine moments of lyricism accompanied by colourful chords, as well as many challenging passages of triplets. The composer wrote about this piece:

The fandango was a very popular dance in the eighteenth century; it was the dance both of the nobility and the masses…The fandango is a slow dance and sometimes includes ballads which are sung. Its origin is uncertain though many experts claim the fandango is of Arabian descent. Except in the trio of the central section, this Fandango does not employ popular themes, but it is inspired by the sevillanas, an extremely intricate folkdance. The melodic style reflects the gallantry and pomp of the eighteenth century in Spain and especially in Madrid.

Passacaglia is more introspective in character, revealing how resonant a single line can be on the guitar. Gradually the figurations over the repeated ground become more complex until a chordal rasgueado (strumming) takes us into the atmosphere of the indigenous guitar of Spain, but with slightly altered chords from what might be expected. The harp-like brilliance of the following section precedes a fugato coda in fandango rhythm. The transition from the pensive opening to the vigorous finale is a masterly piece of composing requiring the performer to be a fine judge of pace and shading.

Zapateado is a virtuoso demonstration of the rhythms of the flamenco dance famed for its skilful footwork. Its perpetual motion, inventive modulation and subtle rhythms create not only picturesque images of vigorous choreography but also provide a dramatic climax to the triptych.

Manuel López-Quiroga, born in Seville, Andalusia, was a prolific composer who wrote hundreds of songs as well as 36 zarzuelas (Spanish light operettas), and fifty film scores. Several of his songs were arranged for guitar by Carles Trepat, published by Ediciones Quiroga of Madrid in 1999. At the age of eleven, López-Quiroga became a church organist, and later studied piano, harmony and composition at the Seville Municipal Conservatoire. He moved to Madrid in 1929 and from 1931 collaborated with the poet Rafael de León in the writing of songs and zarzuelas which became popular throughout Spain.

Tatuaje (Tattoo), first published in 1941, is a waltz full of atmosphere and picturesque moods. In the second part it moves from three-four time to two-four to present a slow tango of great melodic beauty. The composition is then repeated. The original poem by Rafael de León includes the lines, ‘Look at my arm tattooed with a woman’s name … she loved me … so I will for ever bear the mark of this woman’s name.’

The second song, María de la O, subtitled, zambracanción (the zambra being a Spanish dance with Moorish influence), was composed in 1935. Its lyrics have been sung in a number of styles and featured in a film of the same title. The central character, María de la O, is a passionate gypsy, similar to the operatic Carmen, whose tempestuous personality brings disturbance and shame. The guitar version of López-Quiroga’s setting is an extended exploration of the zambra with its embellished arabesques in the melody and rhythmic bass patterns reminiscent of a drum.

Another zambra-canción, Ojos verdes (Green Eyes), written in the late 1930s, concludes the trio of songs. The poet observes that the girl’s eyes are ‘as green as basil, as green as wheat, green as lime’. Noticeable in the arrangement once more is the patterned duple time bass over which an ornamented theme sings evoking the oud, the Arabic lute, still an integral part of everyday life from Morocco to Egypt and beyond.

Fernando Sor performed his compositions on a guitar smaller in structure than the instrument as we know it today. Yet he captures the essence of the guitar as a ‘miniature orchestra’, emulating the great composers by writing sonatas, fantasias, sets of variations, and many studies for all levels of ability. Spanish by birth, he emigrated to France after Napoleon’s defeat in Spain, and travelled extensively, giving recitals in Britain, Poland and Russia.

His Variations on ‘O cara armonia’ from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, indicate a great deal about Sor’s approach. Such a brilliant showpiece surely astounded Sor’s audiences as there were few guitaristic precedents for this kind of tour de force in which the instrument’s technical devices were developed with such gusto. Opus 9 is one of those rare compositions which break new ground, uniting lyricism with thrilling virtuosity.

As a pupil of Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909), Emilio Pujol spent a lifetime propagating the principles of his teacher, giving recitals, writing a Guitar Method, editing dozens of transcriptions, and composing solos. Three Spanish Pieces, published by Max Eschig in 1926, are Pujol’s best known compositions.

Tonadilla, marked lively and gracious, is in ternary form. The Tárrega-like lyricism of the first section contrasts with a briefly introspective central episode, this unit being repeated before the reprise of the opening.

Tango, dedicated to Pujol’s wife, Matilde Cuervas, is reminiscent of Albéniz’s Tango in D. Though the tango is primarily a dance of Argentinian derivation, Pujol approaches the genre through a Spanish vocabulary, the result being a satisfying combination of melodic sweetness, rhythmic ingenuity and well blended colourings.

Guajira is dedicated to León Ferré, a dairy farmer of Barcelona, mentioned in Andrés Segovia’s autobiography. Milk was sold at the entrance to his farm while in the barn guitarists gathered. As Segovia described it, the ‘cows lowing and mooing’ echoed ‘in the cavity of the guitar’. Many famous players performed at Ferré’s farm including Llobet, as well as Pujol and Segovia.

The guajira was originally a Cuban narrative song form of rural folk tradition but there is a flamenco version brought back to Spain in the sixteenth century by Spanish soldiers returning from South America. Pujol’s Guajira, alternating between six-eight and three-four, owes much to flamenco examples distilled here into classical purity. The piece begins with extended pizzicato passages concluded by descending scale fragments. The next section proceeds to the upper register with harmonics contributing a varied texture. The pizzicato returns before a further episode of poetic intensity. An ad libitum passage provides a cadenza and change of mood before the guajira rhythms return, after which some new thematic material is introduced. Before the pizzicato finale, a brief passage, marked douloureux (sadly), allows a moment of nostalgic reflection.


Graham Wade


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