About this Recording
8.572389 - GARCIA ABRIL, A.: Guitar Music (Bernier) - Fantasia Mediterranea / Evocaciones / Sonata del Portico / 3 Preludios Urbanos

Antón García Abril (b. 1933)
Guitar Music


Antón García Abril is a prolific composer whose output covers many musical forms including opera, orchestral works, cantatas, concertos, chamber music, song cycles, and a quantity of guitar solos of great significance for the contemporary repertoire. Between 1974 and 2003 he was Professor of Composition at the Royal Higher Conservatory of Music of Madrid, and over his long and distinguished career he also held eminent academic posts in Cadiz and Galicia. He has been awarded some of the highest national honours and prizes, as well as numerous honorary doctorates and membership of the prestigious Royal Academies of Fine Arts throughout the major Spanish cities.

Fantasía Mediterránea, an impressionistic panorama of diverse Mediterranean moods, ranges from the opening dance rhythms and syncopations, with rapidly changing time signatures, to quieter, more introspective passages. The transitions occur organically, predominant textures setting off the next section in contrast. Following the initial development of progressive episodes, a lyrical Cantabile e flessibile embarks on a serenade of gentle melodic fragments and nocturnal harmonies. The reprise of the opening movement steadily builds into a coda of rhythmic vitality and intriguing chordal colours.

Evocaciones (Evocations), awarded the Andrés Segovia Composition Prize sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Culture at the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance in 1981, was given its first performance by Ernesto Bitetti at the Palau de la Música, Barcelona, on 2 March 1983.

Each movement of this composition presents a quotation from a leading Spanish writer as its inspiration. Evocación I takes its text, Ocho sonoro donde el aire espera (Sonorous eight where the air waits), from Salvador de Madariaga (1886–1978), Spanish diplomat, writer, translator, academic, poet, historian and journalist. The poem, dedicated to Segovia, also translated into English by Madariaga, a superb linguist, begins:

The Guitar Sonorous eight where the air waits as for the awakening of harmony, strings taut and tense, still carrying silently the glory hidden in their secret keep…

Evocación I is a superb representation of Segovia’s characteristic performing style, being meditative, disciplined, and elegant, yet possessed of its own freedom of spirit and exquisite tone quality. Following the sensitive atmospherics of the opening theme, the work develops its own momentum with ingenious modulations passing through various tonalities and the use of familiar guitaristic devices such as melody with bass accompaniment, arpeggio patterns across the strings, and languid chords.

The second Evocación refers to a line by Federico García Lorca (1896–1936) from his poem Las Seis Cuerdas (The Six Strings), where La guitarra hace llorar a los sueños (The guitar weeps in dreams):

Las Seis Cuerdas

La guitarra
hace llorar a los sueños.
El sollozo de las almas perdidas
se escapa por su boca redonda.
Y como la tarántula,
teje una gran estrella
para cazar suspiros,
que flotan en su negro
aljibe de madera.

(The Six Strings

The guitar
Weeps in dreams,
The sobbing of lost souls
Emanates from its round mouth
And like the tarantula
Weaves a great star
To catch sighs
Which waft within its black
Wooden well.)

The music, in three-four time, at first alternates between subtle preparatory patterns and brief declamatory melodic passages. A second section is more reflective, concluding with a meno mosso where at one point treble and bass proceed in a kind of a question and answer sequence. The final lyrical statement leads on to a coda of harp-like chords which subtly imply a waltz impulse without quite breaking into the rhythms of the dance.

Evocación III, a tribute to Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958), quotes above the score the title of one of his books, Canta, pájara lejano (Sing, distant bird). This is the most intimate movement of the five, beginning with a definite waltz lilt. The composer steadily modulates through a variety of tonalities, the work being a subtle weave of sustained notes and rich interlocking harmonies.

The enigmatic statement by Antonio Machado (1875–1939), Hoy es siempre todavía, is a complete stanza among a number of the poet’s Proverbios y Cantares (Proverbs and Songs). Its meaning is not intended to be reducible to a logical or completely satisfying translation but alludes to the sense of eternity existing within the present moment, an ideal concept for a musician. Thus, as might be expected, the score is marked liberamente and for the opening section dispenses with key signature and bar lines, leading into the freedom of quasi-improvisatory melodic inventiveness. Eventually time signatures of six-eight, three-eight, and even four-eight, alternate to offer a semblance of metric shape without destroying the sense of expansive inspiration. Finally a modified version of the opening returns, concluding the symmetry with a reprise of familiar material.

Evocación V celebrates a poem by Miguel de Unamuno (1846–1936), philosopher, essayist, novelist, poet and playwright, about the glories and blessings of water, taking as its text the words Agua que llevas mis sueños en tu regazo a la mar (Water that carries my dreams into the sea’s lap). The poem offers sincere homage to the qualities of water, its creative life-giving powers, sweetness, and pleasant sound. The musical structure is akin to that of a sonatina, setting out two contrasting themes, the implications of which are thoroughly explored through a development section. Evocación V begins lyrically in three-eight, later, after the development, changing briefly to three-four for a more reflective mood before the recapitulation of the opening thematic material.

Sonata del Pórtico, written for the 37th International Course of Spanish Music, ‘Music in Compostela’, was given its first performance in Santiago de Compostela by its dedicatee and editor, José Luis Rodrigo on 17 August 1994. The composer has kindly contributed a short note concerning this composition:

The university summer school ‘Music in Compostela’, which follows a policy of commissioning compositions of a Spanish nature, became my sponsor for this work for the 1994 course at Santiago de Compostela. I have experienced most intensely the cultural history of this monumental city and contemplated countless times the ‘Porch of Glory’, that masterpiece sculptured in stone in one of the cathedral entrances. For this reason I have used the title Sonata del Pórtico (Sonata of the Porch) in order to pay tribute to this masterpiece of religious art.

The first movement pays homage to the Galician muiñeira, a lively traditional dance in six-eight time. After these energetic rhythms, a more reflective episode provides a vivid contrast. But steadily the momentum returns, culminating in a recapitulation of the opening and a colourful coda. The slow movement, marked Contemplativo y con libertad (Contemplative and with freedom) transports the listener into the spacious silences of the cathedral, evocative melodic lines being punctuated by pensive chords. Here, as in Evocación IV, time signatures and bar lines become redundant as the searching phrases, constantly developing in intricacy, explore the resonances and nuances of time and history. Finally the last movement, marked Allegro deciso and following a kind of modified rondo form, is reminiscent of the first movement, its energy shifting through changes of emphasis as time signatures alternate between six-eight, three-four, and eight-eight. In between repetitions of the theme are more sombre moments hinting at darker, subtler moods till a final statement brings the work to its brief but energetic coda.

Tres Preludios Urbanos (Three Urban Preludes) are each dedicated to a particular city and to a person associated with it. Preludio de Paris was written for Robert Vidal (1925–2002), the organizer from 1958 onwards of the ORTF Guitar Competition and Composition Prize, through which many guitarists and composers first came to the attention of an international public. The waltz-like theme, surrounded by filigree guitaristic patterns, displays elements of quirky humour and a vivacious personality, qualities attributable to both Paris and the mercurial Robert Vidal.

Preludio de Atenas (Prelude of Athens), dedicated to the Greek guitarist Costas Cotsiolis (b.1957), begins with a rhapsodically meditative exploration in nine-eight and three-four time, expressing the more introspective aspects of the Greek muse and the ancient city. The music steadily grows in complexity and intensity as the resources of the guitar are skilfully utilised.

The last of the sequence is Preludio de Madrid, dedicated to the Mallorquin guitarist, Gabriel Estarellas (b.1952), who settled in Madrid as a young artist. A sense of Spanish flair and mystery is well defined through the use of expressive effects. Seductive webs of lively arpeggios are contrasted against quieter, more brooding sections. But before long the reassertion of energy and momentum becomes irresistible, characteristic of the vibrancy of Spain’s capital and the passionate performing style of Estarellas himself.

Graham Wade

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