About this Recording
8.573023 - Guitar Recital: Gorbach, Vladimir - PIAZZOLLA, A. / SCARLATTI, D. / GIULIANI, M. / ASENCIO, V.

Vladimir Gorbach: Guitar Recital


This selection, ranging from the baroque to the twentieth century, features the work of composers of four nationalities in a showcase of guitar artistry and virtuosity. The many voices and moods of the instrument, whether in original music or transcription, are part of the utter versatility of the guitar. Through the brilliance and sonority of the six strings many different cultures are encapsulated in a rainbow of musical colour and compositional imagination.

Astor Piazzolla, born at Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1921, emigrated with his family to New York in 1924. As a child prodigy he learned to play the bandoneón, the square-built button accordion popular in Argentinian tango orchestras. Piazzolla returned to Argentina in 1937, eventually joining Aníbal Troilo’s tango band in Buenos Aires, but he yearned to develop the tango into a more profoundly expressive form where the music was ‘for the ear as well as for the feet’, an attitude at first resented among the leading tango practitioners. On the recommendation of the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Piazzolla began composition lessons with Alberto Ginastera. Following the completion of his Buenos Aires Symphony in the early 1950s, he was awarded a scholarship to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris for four months. This eminent teacher encouraged him to develop artistically through the tango rather than devote himself to progressive European genres of the era.

On Piazzolla’s return to Buenos Aires, he formed various ensembles, including the Octeto Buenos Aires and the Quinteto Nuevo Tango. In 1958 he lived for a while in Manhattan where he assimilated more jazz elements into his music. Piazzolla and his family went back to Argentina in 1960, but his fervent advocacy of a new order of tango continued with constant foreign tours. By the 1980s Piazzolla’s music was famous world-wide and, moreover, began to find acceptance in his native Argentina, where his progressive concepts had at first been vigorously resisted.

Piazzolla died in Buenos Aires in 1992, and was described in The New York Times as ‘the modern master of tango music’. A British periodical commented that ‘Piazzolla’s tangos will live as long as music is appreciated for its ability to convey human emotions.’ Piazzolla’s prolific range of compositions, some 750 in all, incorporate diverse influences such as European traditions, jazz and popular elements, while retaining at their core an essential and unmistakable Argentinian identity. His works include theatre music, film scores, concertos, chamber music, and songs, as well as many instrumental pieces available in a variety of solo arrangements for piano, bandoneón, and guitar.

Verano porteño (Summer in Buenos Aires) was one of four pieces originally written for Alberto Rodríguez Muñoz’s play Melenita de oro (The Golden Mop of Hair), staged in 1965. It became the first of his Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Buenos Aires Seasons), which, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, express the changing moods of the year. The suite was first recorded during a live show by Piazzolla’s Quintet in May 1970. Otoño porteño (Autumn in Buenos Aires), Invierno porteño (Winter in Buenos Aires), and Primavera porteña (Spring in Buenos Aires) provide a vivid sequence, each movement possessing its own colourful themes.

Domenico Scarlatti, born in Naples, spent nearly thirty years of his professional life in the Iberian peninsula. In about 1719 he was appointed as mestre to the Portuguese royal chapel of John V. Among his many duties was responsibility for teaching Princess María Barbara. In 1729, when the princess married Prince Ferdinand, son of Philip V, Scarlatti moved with his pupil to the Spanish court. In 1738 Scarlatti’s fame was enhanced throughout Europe by the publication of thirty of his Essercizi for harpsichord, dedicated to John V who forthwith appointed him as a Knight of the Order of Santiago. The Essercizi were not merely ‘exercises’ but expressive and brilliant sonatas in binary form that would constitute Scarlatti’s greatest legacy.

Scarlatti continued writing them for the rest of his life, ultimately completing a total of 555 such works — an extraordinary achievement. The great Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick saw him as ‘influenced not only by Spanish music but also by the guitar. Though Scarlatti probably never played the guitar… surely no composer ever fell more deeply under its spell’. It is therefore appropriate that the playing of Scarlatti’s sonatas is increasingly popular among guitarists. During recent years guitar arrangements of over 200 sonatas have been published.

Sonata in B flat major, K.441, opens with a repetitive quaver motif which is used throughout the piece. These quaver motifs are deployed in modulations into remote tonalities. The harpsichordist, Scott Ross, commented that Scarlatti treats ‘his accompaniment in very much the same way as jazz players were to do much later’, all the beats being accented while the ‘left hand leaps as far as three octaves’. This sonata was used as a basis for one of the dances in Vincenzo Tommasini’s Les Femmes de Bonne Humeur (The Good-Humoured Ladies) of 1916, the music being comprised of an overture and 22 other episodes each based on a Scarlatti sonata.

Sonata in B minor, K.87, is a deeply expressive piece first arranged for guitar by Julian Bream in the late 1950s and recorded for his album The Art of Julian Bream (1960). The composition illustrates Scarlatti’s skill in polyphony as each voice moves forward in single alternate steps to create a complex four-part counterpoint.

Sonata in B minor, K.27, is one of the thirty sonatas known under the title Essercizi per gravicembalo whose publication was under the direct supervision of the composer himself. One of its features is that the first half of the sonata ends in the key of the relative major and not in the dominant as is common with so many others. Sonata in G major, K.431, is one of the shortest of all Scarlatti’s sonatas, its rapid arpeggio patterns being particularly idiomatic on the guitar.

Mauro Giuliani, one of the great masters of the early nineteenth century, wrote a vast quantity of guitar music including variations, sonatas, concertos, duets and studies. An important part of his career was spent in Vienna where he was well acquainted with Beethoven, Moscheles, Hummel and other leading musicians. In Italy he knew both Paganini and Rossini and may have performed concerts in their company. Following the monumental publication of Giuliani’s complete works in 38 volumes (ed. Brian Jeffery, 1984), the composer’s prolific achievements at long last gained rightful appreciation.

Rondoletto is one of Giuliani’s virtuosic solos through which the guitarist can display the full resources of the instrument as they were perceived in the early nineteenth century. These include dazzling arpeggio patterns, intricate ornamentation, and devices such as chains of descending or ascending thirds, always tricky on an instrument tuned in fourths.

Vicente Asencio, born in the city of Valencia in southeast Spain, studied in Barcelona with the great pianist Frank Marshall, before moving to Paris where his mentors were Turina and Halffter. Asencio composed numerous orchestral works and ballets but was particularly attracted to guitar music, his pieces being performed by a variety of instrumentalists including Segovia and Yepes, the latter being his student for several years. He also became a much admired teacher, founding the Castellón de la Plana Conservatory besides teaching for many years at the Valencia Conservatory.

Collectici íntim (Intimate Collection), has been described by Narciso Yepes, the dedicatee of the suite, as ‘something like a collection of separate elements, which before being actually connected already formed a unity of some kind with invisible ties’. This work has been interpreted as a latter day attempt to write according to the Theory of the Affects or the Doctrine of Affections. This was a baroque concept in which the ‘affects’ were rationalised emotional states or passions, covering such conditions of feeling as sadness, anger, hate, joy, love and jealousy. Composers attempted to express in music the intensity of these specific moods or emotions. Asencio’s chosen ‘affects’ feature La Serenor (Serenity), La Joia (Joy), La Calma (Calm), La Gaubança (Delight), and La Frisança (Haste). Thus in La Serenor the melody develops over a pulsing pedal bass, with a central contrasting episode. La Joia, marked Allegretto, is full of vitality and rapid scale passages as well as strummed chords of a very Spanish nature. La Calma uses delightful harmonic effects with chordal patterns in the treble and unobtrusive melodic embellishment. La Gaubança is another energetic Spanish dance of subtle virtuosity. The final movement, La Frisança uses the guitar’s arpeggio capabilities to evoke impressions of tumultuous momentum and frenetic energy.

Graham Wade

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