About this Recording
8.572060 - Guitar Recital: Dylla, Marcin - RODRIGO, J. / TANSMAN, A. / MAW, N. / PONCE, M.
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Marcin Dylla: Guitar Recital

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999): Junto al Generalife
Alexandre Tansman (1897-1988):
Variations on a Theme of Scriabin
Nicholas Maw (b. 1935): Music of Memory
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948):
Sonata romántica ‘Hommage à Fr. Schubert’


This selection brings together guitar works from composers of four nationalities, Spanish, Mexican, Polish and British, covering a span of some sixty years of the instrument’s development. While Rodrigo, however, certainly roots his composition, Junto al Generalife, in an impressionistic portrait of historic Spanish gardens, Manuel Ponce turns for inspiration not to his native Mexico but to Europe to offer homage to Schubert and the romantic tradition. Tansman includes Polish elements in his set of variations but is entranced for the most part by the resonances of Scriabin’s remarkable theme, which could only have been written by a Russian composer. Finally, the English composer, Nicholas Maw, takes as his reference point a string quartet by Mendelssohn.

With the intermingling of so many cosmopolitan aspects in this programme, the only centrally unifying feature is that all these pieces were inspired by the potential of the classical guitar, an instrument which, chameleon-like, attracts composers from many countries and brings out some of their most brilliant characteristics. Thus the guitar appears in terms of its twentieth-century advancement to transcend simple definitions of national identity, offering a blend of style and colour to which, in turn, audiences worldwide whole-heartedly respond.

Joaquín Rodrigo, composer of the renowned guitar concerto, Concierto de Aranjuez, is acknowledged as one of the great Spanish composers of the twentieth century. His contribution to the guitar is now appreciated as one of the central pillars of the concert repertoire. Over the years Rodrigo explored the Spanish nature of the guitar, responding to the distinguished history of plucked instruments going back to the sixteenth century. Though his compositions for solo guitar comprise no more than some 25 titles, the significance of his output is far greater than the sum of its parts because of his extraordinary insight into the nature of the guitar developed over decades.

Junto al Generalife (Close by the Generalife) is dedicated to Siegfried Behrend, who edited the piece for Bote & Bock, Berlin (published 1957). The Generalife was the garden of the palace of the former kings of Granada, its name derived from the Arabic, Gennat-Alarif – ‘the garden of the architect’. Situated on the slopes of the Cerro del Sol, the Generalife overlooks the city of Granada.

Rodrigo offered this comment: Everyone knows of the magical gardens of the Generalife connected to the Alhambra; there can be found the gentle rustle of perfumed breezes, a distant tinkle of bells, and flowers which shelter behind the myrtle bushes. And there, also, the guitar reposes and dreams.

The Generalife thus has powerful aural and visual associations with sounds of water and bird song, impressions evoked within the music. Junto al Generalife is in two sections. The introduction is a gentle lento e cantabile, with scalic passages very much in flamenco quasi-improvisatory style interspersed with full chords. An Allegro follows, reminiscent of Albéniz’s Rumores de la Caleta and the malagueña. The middle section of the Allegro consists of tremolo, an effect rarely used by Rodrigo but here recalling the themes of the granadinas, the flamenco form originating among the gypsies of Granada. The final pages present the recapitulation and a coda which has a passage of fiery descending triplets similar to those in the first movement of the Aranjuez.

The Polish composer, Alexandre Tansman, having been introduced to Andrés Segovia during his stay in Paris in 1921, was persuaded to write for the guitar. His compositions include operas, ballets, nine symphonies, concertos, film scores, vocal and chamber music and works for piano and other solo instruments. In the 1920s and 1930s he toured the United States, Europe, the Middle East and India, appearing as the soloist in his own piano concertos. He became a French citizen in 1938 but the war forced him to move to the United States where he established close friendships with composers such as Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Milhaud. He returned to France in 1946.

Variations on a Theme of Scriabin, dedicated to Segovia, was written in 1972. The theme, Prelude, Op. 16, No. 4, in E flat minor (for piano), was arranged by Segovia in B minor for guitar (publ. Celesta Publishing Co., New York, 1945). This melody has a haunting quality with poignant accompanying chord progressions, though Tansman has at certain points reworked the original harmonization of the theme. The composition has six variations, the first being a transference of the theme to the bass line, with an accompaniment in the treble. Var. II, slightly faster, explores the harmonic potential of Scriabin’s melody, while Var. III is a virtuosic Vivo episode in semiquavers. Var. IV changes the tonality and explores some ingenious harmonic modulations. The fifth variation, Allegretto grazioso (quasi Mazurka), is the composer’s homage to Poland, presenting the national dance with a dash of humour and elements which evoke the music of J.S. Bach. The last variation is fugal, a contrapuntal working out of the melodic implications, which gives way to a final, slightly modified, gentle statement of the theme itself.

Nicholas Maw, born in 1935 in the English town of Grantham, is one of Britain’s most eminent contemporary composers. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, with Paul Steinitz and Lennox Berkeley, and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Max Deutsch, a pupil of Schoenberg. His works comprise orchestral, chamber, vocal and choral music, concertos, comic operas, solo instrumental compositions and music for children.

Music of Memory, dedicated to Eliot Fisk, was written in Washington DC in May-June 1989. The composer provided a programme note: This work is a somewhat freely-organised set of variations – though ‘meditations’ would be a more apt description of some of them – on the Intermezzo from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, Opus 13. Mendelssohn’s theme is a simple song in A-B-A form. I have not presented this theme in toto anywhere in my work, but separated its parts and embedded them throughout, so that the listener is reminded of its haunting presence even though the immediate musical events might seem considerably far-removed.

The overall shape of the work also takes its cue from the tripartite nature of the theme. After a rather dramatic introduction the first phrase of the theme is stated and followed by three variations: Tranquillo ma con movimento; Poco vivace and Andante placido. Then comes the middle phrase of the theme, followed by two further variations, Deliberato ed appassionato and Impetuoso. The reprise of the theme’s opening phrase is then followed by a final five variations... Senza rigore, non troppo lento; Poco presto; Moderato e risoluto; Allegro energico; Tempo giusto. This leads straight into the coda, where the theme is interspersed with short fragments recalled from the preceding variations. The music plays without a break.

The work’s title, Music of Memory, refers to the long-term memory of a golden age (and the corresponding hope that it can continue to nourish our own art), represented by the Mendelssohn...

It is interesting to reflect that Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13, (the Intermezzo of which provides the inspiration for this work), was written in 1827 when the composer, aged eighteen and recently matriculated at the University of Berlin, toured the Harz mountains with two student companions before going on to Heidelberg. Thus the age of Romanticism and the late twentieth century are creatively brought together, expressed through the medium of the guitar.

Manuel Ponce was the founding father of twentieth-century 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.’ Segovia and Ponce first met in Mexico in 1923, and from that time onwards the composer dedicated himself to writing many pieces for the guitar. Of these compositions (which include preludes, suites, a concerto, variations, several sonatas, and works for guitar and harpsichord), Segovia has written: “Large or small, they are, all of them, pure and beautiful.”

Sonata romántica (Hommage à Schubert), Ponce’s fifth sonata for guitar, was written in the summer of 1928 and dedicated to Segovia. This composition, subtitled a ‘homage to Fr. Schubert, who loved the guitar’, is a virtuosic work in four movements some twenty minutes in duration, the longest and most challenging of Ponce’s guitar sonatas. The expression marks for the work depend on whether Segovia’s 1928 version is used or a later urtext version edited by Miguel Alcazar. The first movement (marked Allegro moderato in Segovia’s edition), is in classic sonata form with two contrasting subjects, the development moving adroitly through a number of intricate harmonic progressions, with a vivid recapitulation making effective use of pedal notes. Ponce frequently deploys animated triplets, major-minor contrasts, and (towards the end), a sudden silence, all elements characteristic of Schubert’s own piano sonatas. This brilliant opening is followed by a soulful Andante, described by Segovia as ‘delicious’, evoking the world of Schubertian song. The third movement, given the title Moment Musical by the composer, has two faster outer sections framing a slow expressive middle episode of great intensity. The finale, Allegro non troppo e serioso, begins with a jaunty march-like theme quickly moving to a rapid arpeggio texture. A central Tempo scherzando introduces a two part passage in quavers of increasing harmonic complexity culminating in further arpeggios. Finally a brief coda features harp-like chords until a climactic burst of arpeggio patterns ends the work.

Graham Wade

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