About this Recording
8.554832 - Guitar Recital: Ricardo Gallen

Guitar Recital - Ricardo Gallén

Like so many musicians of his generation, Ricardo Gallén has a keen interest in new and contemporary music for his instrument. In this mainly twentieth-century recital, he presents some works which are well known, such as the Rodrigo and Tárrega, some which are less often heard but are significant contributions to the guitar repertoire, and others, written by close associates of the artist, which are recorded here for the first time. Gallén approaches this rich and varied program with a mixture of panache and sensitivity that brings forth all of the interest, colour, and texture of these works.

After a bright, enunciatory opening, Joaquin Rodrigo's En Los Trigales (In the Wheatfields), gives way to a gentle dance suggestive of the swaying grasses. Written in 1939, it is part of a set of 3 short pieces entitled “Por los Campos de España” - brief musical sketches of the Spanish countryside.

Guitarresca by Joaquin Clerch was written in 1989­-90, as a 'test piece' for the Havana Guitar Festival Competition Clerch, himself an accomplished guitarist and composer born in Cuba, employs short repeated motivic figures to great effect in this demanding work, such as are ubiquitous in the music of Brouwer, Fariñas, Orbón, and other Cuban guitarist-composers.

Darius Milhaud belongs to a surprisingly large group of composers who each wrote but one piece for the solo guitar, along with de Falla, Ibert, Britten, Ginastera, and many others. It seems that Andrès Segovia, the dedicatee of Segviana, never played the piece, judging by the lack of any fingerings or editorial markings in the score. Rapid melismatic flourishes punctuated by powerful chords suggest the guitar’s flamenco heritage, presented in the musical language of the composer of Saudads and Scaramouche.

Just as many earlier guitarist-composers such as Giuliani, Sor, Tarrega and Villa-Lobos, Cuban born Leo Brouwer has played a significant role in the development of his instrument’s repertoire, technique, and compositional potential. Throughout his nearly half century of composition, Brouwer has exhibited a wide variety of styles and influences, however all of his music is imbued with aspects of Afro-Cuban folkloric origin.

The Sonata (1990) is dedicated to Julian Bream and is Brouwer's only work with this title. Each of its three movements pays homage to past composers. The first, "Fandangos y Boleros" contains a quote from Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, and bears a note in the score from Brouwer Beethoven visita al Padre Soler. Unlike traditional sonata form, with its two themes and restatement, this movement features several brief motifs with very distinct dramatic ‘personalities’. A short, improvisatory Preámbulo is followed by a more measured Danza, in which all of the motivic characters reappear in continual argument. The performer’s challenge here is to balance and juggle all of these, (much as a puppeteer), through the strings of his guitar. The second movement, “Sarabanda de Scriabin” is built on a three note ostinato stated in the opening measures. Two thematic elements are introduced: the first, a four note fragment which is repeated and extended, reappears in various registers of the guitar. The second is a slow, meandering arpeggio, also traversing nearly all of the guitar's fingerboard. The movement spins a hypnotic, somewhat eerie web, reminiscent of Scriabin's Piano Sonata No. 9, or Ravel's Le Gibet.

The ebullient “La Toccala de Pasquini” ends the work in a brilliant display of virtuosity - a clear nod to the vigorous style of the seventeenth-century harpsichord composers. Pasquini's Cuckoo makes several appearances, as do themes from earlier movements of this Sonata.

Hika {1996), an elegy “In Memoriam” to friend and colleague, Tōru Takemitsu, bears the same title as a 1966 violin and piano piece by Takemitsu. Brouwer describes Takemitsu as “one of the geniuses of the twentieth century… a great friend whose talent I cannot stop admiring”. After a delicate, sparsely written opening, a scurrying velocissimo section forms the central part of the piece. Here Brouwer inserts a favourite Bulgarian folk theme, that he had used in other works, such as his Très Apuntes, and the Estudios Sencills.

Regarded as Japans’ leading composer, and the first to have made a major compositional impact on the West, Tōru Takemitsu was largely self-trained. His music displays numerous Western influences at the same time as Japanese elements. One senses, however, that Takemitsu keeps East and West somewhat distinct, rather than trying to merge them.

Takemitsu’s unique treatment of the guitar’s sonority is evident from his earliest piece, Folios (1974). His use of the subtle colour effects of harmonics pitted against natural notes of the same pitch, as well as specified fingering positions for exact timbre effects, demonstrate an infinitely inward view of the guitar. The author explains, “The title was chosen while thinking of the piece of paper that one folds to make two pages. The work itself is thus a series of several pieces written on these pages… Folio I manifests an obvious melodic will; Folio II evoke, the rain and is based on a rhythmic structure of 3 + 4 units; Folio III is an elegy that includes a quotation from The Passion According to Saint Matthew.”

Equinox (1993) shares some of the tonal and motivic language of Toward the Sea for flute and guitar. Dark, haunting, and full of premonition, Equinox may serve as the composer’s own elegy.

Cuban-born guitarist, composer, and conductor Flores Chaviano has lived in Spain since 1981, where he is a professor at the Conservatorio Superior de Madrid. The three pieces heard here offer brief glimpses of Chaviano’s Cubau heritage. The Sonata is a “Guajira” with its alternating 3/4 and 6/8 meter; Evocación is a seductive tango or habañera; and Boceto, a whimsical sketch, full of angular rhythms, strumming and drumming effects.

The CD concludes with two gentle preludes by the romantic master of the guitar, Francisco Tárrega, after whom is named the renowned guitar competition in the Spanish city of Benicásim. Ricardo Gallén was the competition’s winner in 1999.

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