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8.557596 - Guitar Recital: Pablo Sainz Villegas
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Pablo Sáinz - Guitar Recital

Pablo Sáinz - Guitar Recital

Turina · Moreno Torroba · Rodrigo · Segovia · Falla · Gerhard · Tárrega


The composers included here represent the interaction of modernism and romantic nationalism current in Spain during the first half of the twentieth century. How Spanish composers dealt with integrating the inherited musical wealth of their country’s popular tradition with the infusion of new concepts of musical thought in Europe at the time is in itself revealing, contributing, in part, to the power of the music.


Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) contributed a small but significant body of pieces to the guitar repertoire. A friend of Manuel de Falla and student of Vincent d’Indy in Paris, he began his career with a Piano Quintet (1907) influenced by his Parisian studies. The style of that work soon gave way to an exploration of the potentialities of Spanish folk-music, especially flamenco. This re-invigorated the harmony and rhythm of his music even as he maintained an affinity for cyclical and classical forms. The two works here included are Sevillana (Fantasia), Op. 29, (1923) and Homenaje a Tárrega, Op. 69, (1932). These are the first and last pieces written for guitar by Turina, both directly inspired by flamenco music. Sevillana begins with a strong, dramatic gesture, somewhat rough and crude, as if a field worker applied his dirty, calloused hands to the guitar. His fingers, tense from work, are incapable of independent movement, so he slides his gnarled fist around the fingerboard creating striking, expressive dissonances. The music soon evokes flamenco singing. The Homenaje a Tárrega consists of two movements, a garrotin and soleares. The work is nominally a hommage to the great Spanish guitarist Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), but is, perhaps, an unwitting acknowledgment of Tárrega’s teacher, Julian Arcas.


The Sonata-Fantasía by Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982) was found among Segovia’s manuscripts in May, 2001, by the great Italian musician, Angelo Gilardino, and has been published by Berben Edizioni Musicali. Torroba’s many solo guitar works consist mainly of short, descriptive pieces, often published in collections. This piece, a full- fledged sonata, is among Torroba’s most ambitious and masterful works. We can only venture to guess why Segovia never performed it, as it is clearly to his taste. Be that as it may, we are fortunate to have available a major contribution to guitar repertoire and to twentieth-century Spanish guitar sonatas in general, a collection that includes sonatas by Turina, José, Manén, and Esplá. Torroba’s music is firmly rooted in Spanish nationalism with elements of impressionism occasionally present, such as the use of modes, parallelism, extended chords and a general appreciation of colour. Those who know Torroba’s work will be struck by the opening sonorities of the introduction, sonorities which lead, by way of an arpeggiated altered chord, to a passage of fourths and fifths, horns and trumpets signaling to the listener the sonata’s first theme. Throughout the course of the piece, Pablo Sáinz Villegas chooses to finger many passages of this sonata campanelas, in imitation of the piano’s sustaining pedal, thus allowing for the blurring effect of the French Impressionists. The second movement, a short intermezzo, is followed by the finale, a conventional Rondo. Also included are two movements from Torroba’s Castillos de España, the lullaby, Sigüenza (La infantina duerma) and Torija (Elegía). The Suite Castellana consists of three movements, Fandanguillo, a setting of a Spanish popular song, the expressive Arada with its colourful harmony and indecisive melodic turns, and Danza. This last movement of the suite was the first piece that Torroba ever wrote for the guitar in 1920 .


Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) lived a long, productive life and holds a place in the cultural life of Spain alongside Manuel de Falla. His music was influenced by the neo-classicism of Stravinsky and the colourful orchestration of Ravel. In addition, Rodrigo had a penchant for sharp dissonances that can be explained as bi-tonal, but this was often a colouristic device, sometimes used for humorous or sardonic effect. The two pieces here are among the best solo guitar works of Rodrigo. The first is the brief En los trigales (In the Wheat Fields), the outer sections of which have a most infectious rhythmic lilt. The middle section is a strange, quizzical march interrupted by syncopated harmonics and quartal harmonies. Invocación y Danza is a great work, a hommage to Manuel de Falla. Rodrigo cleverly quotes El amor brujo in the opening measures by simply placing the pitches of Falla’s tune on the first and last notes of each measure and interpolating four notes in between. The tune is so stretched out as to be barely recognisable. Rodrigo quotes other works of Falla as well in loving tribute to his mentor.


Along with performers such as Artur Schnabel and Pablo Casals, Andrés Segovia, too, composed music, Segovia, perhaps, more modestly. His work 5 Anecdotas, published by Guitar Review in New York in 1947, is almost unknown, even though guitarists have taken up several Segovia compositions, most notably, the beautiful Estudio sin luz. This collection of little pieces is highly successful. If one takes the title as seriously as all titles should be, there is more here than meets the ear. In fact, Segovia uses the direction humoristico a few times and the music vaguely recalls, at least to the author of these notes, Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche. This music is quintessentially that of a great performer, one who composes on the side, his music full of familiar musical gestures set expertly on his instrument, in this case, with enough originality to invite investigation.


The Homenaje, pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy of Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) stands unequivocally among the masterpieces of the twentieth century. Written in 1920, it also stands squarely among Falla’s neo-classical works, evoking the dedicatory tombeau genre as practiced by Baroque lutenists and guitarists. A concise work of just about three minutes duration, the work was written for an issue of the Paris Revue dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased Claude Debussy (1863-1918). In this work Falla combines a habanera dance rhythm with a sighing, plaintive F-E pitch motif demonstrating the duality of the corporal and the spiritual. Falla quotes Debussy’s piano piece Soirée dans Grenade near the end, the pitches of which transubstantiate into Debussy’s final breaths.


Spiritual tension is nowhere more apparent than in the figure of Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970). Born in Spain of Alsatian and German-Swiss parentage, Gerhard identified himself as Catalan. A student of Granados and Felipe Pedrell, he later became a student of, and an assistant to, Arnold Schoenberg. Among Gerhard’s early activities was transcribing folk-songs from gramophone records, following the example of Bartók. Later he embraced twelve-tone techniques and wrote pioneering electronic music. His Fantasia (1957) is a small masterpiece, written as an interlude for his set of songs, Cantares. In the Fantasia, Gerhard adroitly uses the symmetrical octatonic scale, exploiting the scale’s potential to mimic that most Spanish of scales, the Phrygian mode. In addition, he mines the scale’s bi-tonal possibilities. The music juxtaposes two contrasting sections, one lyrical and melodic, featuring arpeggiated chords supporting diaphanous harmonics, the other, enormously rhythmic and propulsive. The transitions to and from the sections are gauged with utter mastery of form.


The final work included is the miniature Maria - gavota by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), who is often described as the father of the modern classical guitar, thus bringing the short anthology full circle.


Mark Delpriora

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