About this Recording
8.573362 - Guitar Recital: Buono, Emanuele - MILANO, F. da / AGUADO, D. / RODRIGO, J. / CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M. / JOSÉ, A.

Emanuele Buono: Guitar Recital
Francesco Canova Da Milano • Dionisio Aguado • Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco • Joaquín Rodrigo • Antonio José


The history of plucked instruments encompasses a great variety of styles, relating both to historical period and fashionable taste. The three instruments drawn upon here are the Italian Renaissance lute, the early nineteenth century guitar, and the modern classical guitar. But there is no incongruity in juxtaposing music of very different cultures. In terms of unity we have here two Italian composers and three Spanish composers, each lyrical and profound in their own way.

Francesco Canova Da Milano came from a musical family and spent most of his career in the employment of the papal court. With his father, Benedetto, he was among the private musicians of Pope Leo X around 1518. There exists also a historical reference to his performance before Pope Clement VII in 1526 and it is known that Da Milano was in the service of Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici during the early 1530s. In 1536 five volumes of his lute music were printed in Milan. In June 1538 he took part as papal musician in the meeting at Nice between Paul III, Charles V, and François III of France. A month later Francesco married Clara Tizzoni, a wealthy woman from the Milanese nobility. The last few years of his life are obscure.

The charismatic nature of Francesco’s performances at a sumptuous banquet were described by Pontus de Tyard who tells the story told to him by Jacques Descartes de Ventemille: The tables being cleared, Francesco da Milano, as if tuning his strings, sat on the end of a table seeking out a fantasia. He had hardly disturbed the air with three strummed chords when he interrupted the conversation which had begun among the guest… [sic] He continued with such ravishing skill that little by little, he made the strings languish under his fingers in his sublime way and transported all the listeners into such delightful melancholy that they remained deprived of all senses save that of hearing, as if the spirit, having abandoned all the senses, had retired to the ears to enjoy even more such ravishing harmony. I believe, said M. de Ventemille, that we would still be there if Francesco had not changed his style of playing with a gentle emphasis and returned our spirit and senses to the place from which he had stolen them, leaving us all amazed as if transformed by an ecstatic transport of divine frenzy.’

The enigmatic title, Mon per si ma marie, is best understood under its full title Mon père aussi ma mère m’a voulu marier [sic] (My father as well as my mother wished me to marry). A setting of this song in Italian lute tablature is to be found in Francesco Da Milano’s Intabolatura di Liuto of 1536, published in Venice by Francesco Marcolini. Another version of the song, intabulated for the vihuela, comes in Diego Pisador’s Libro de Música de Vihuela, Book VII, of 1552, published in Salamanca. This is a very animated song carrying with it, even in an instrumental arrangement, a sense of humour and movement.

The genre of the fantasia signifies an instrumental composition which comes ‘solely from the fantasy and skill of the composer who created it’, (Luis de Milán, 1535–6). The listener can therefore expect elements of display and a thorough demonstration of the capabilities of the instrument concerned. Fantasias also explore extended developments of thematic ideas or contrapuntal ingenuity.

Fantasia No. 33 fulfils a number of such expectations including substantial length and variety, dexterity, contrapuntal brilliance, and a sense of onward momentum. There are moments of sustained chordal passages between the more intricate scalic episodes, as well as sections of two part counterpoint, and delicate filigree towards the end in terms of descending, bell-like scale passages. This is a sixteenth-century tour de force of enjoyable substance and quality.

The ricercare (derived from ricercar, to search for), is often a kind of technical exercise, a piece exploring some compositional device. The term was also used for a preludial work but could indicate an imitative ricercare, akin to the fugue. The term ricercare occurs first in Spinacino’s Intabulatura de lauto, Books 1 & 2 (Venice, 1507) and further examples exist in J.A. Dalza’s lute publication of the following year as well as in subsequent sixteenth-century collections.

Da Milano’s Ricercare No. 34 is a perfect example of the imitative ricercare, the imitations sometimes following at the interval of an octave and on other occasions extending throughout the gamut of the scale. Once more, poignant chordal episodes provide moments of introspection before the return of the contrapuntal textures. This is a highly sophisticated and subtle composition, a worthy miniature masterpiece of the Renaissance lute.

Dionisio Aguado y García, considered as one of the most eminent guitar composers of the early nineteenth century, was a colleague of Fernando Sor, who dedicated several compositions to him. For decades Aguado was seen as primarily a pedagogic musician of exercises and studies but this perception changed in the 1980s when Julian Bream recorded some of the Spaniard’s finest virtuosic pieces.

The Andante and Rondo moderato movements performed here, attacca, are majestic compositions written in the grand style imitating both orchestral and pianoforte effects. The Andante develops many characteristic features of nineteenth-century guitar writing such as passages in thirds, melodies in the bass with accompanying treble chords, and short episodes of Alberti basses supporting a melodic line. The Rondo in contrast is a showcase of brilliance with fast, catchy melodies, sections of intricate triples and arpeggio patterns, miniature cadenzas, and an accelerating momentum concluding with a dramatic coda.

In 1932 Andrés Segovia travelled with Manuel de Falla to the International Festival of Music in Venice. At the Festival, Segovia was introduced to Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the great Italian composer from Florence, who became enchanted and fascinated by the guitar and decided to explore its possibilities. Between 1932 and his death in 1968 he wrote over a hundred works for the instrument, including sets of variations, concertos, duos, impressionistic pieces of various kinds, and, among his finest solo compositions, the Sonata, Op. 77, ‘Omaggio a Boccherini’, written at Segovia’s request in 1934 for ‘a Sonata in four movements’.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco described this work as follows: ‘The Sonata is in four movements, but it is mainly in the first movement, Allegro con spirito, and in the Minuetto, that one can find the graciousness which was so characteristic of Boccherini. The Andantino, quasi canzone, on the other hand, refers to Boccherini’s ‘romantic’ mood, while the Finale: Vivo ed energico, highlights the bravura elements always present in his music.’

Joaquín Rodrigo, composer of the renowned Concierto de Aranjuez, is one of the great Spanish composers of the twentieth century. He extended the romantic impressionist tradition of Albéniz, Granados and Falla, but was deeply influenced by French music, having studied from 1927 to 1932 with Paul Dukas in Paris. Though blind from childhood Rodrigo wrote almost two hundred works, including orchestral, choral and ballet music, many concertos, a host of songs, and a quantity of instrumental solos.

The composer’s contribution to the guitar is now one of the central pillars of the modern 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. Rodrigo’s compositions for solo guitar comprise no more than some 25 titles. Yet 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 many years.

Invocación y Danza (Homenaje a Manuel de Falla) dedicated to the Venezuelan guitarist, Alirio Díaz, won first prize in the 1961 Coupe International de Guitare, held in Paris. The French magazine Combat described the work as ‘a page full of song, poetry, Mediterranean finesse, and elegant writing’.

From a subtle opening of harmonics and fragments of arpeggios, the Invocación flowers into an intricate pattern of melody and broken chords in which delicacy of effect is matched by clarity and complexity. The Danza is the Andalusian polo, a reminder of the last of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs. After the rhythmic opening bars, the music develops into passages of tremolo and brilliant showers of demisemiquavers, the tremolo returning eventually in an extended section. The piece closes with sparse harmonics, a fleeting but expressive reference to a theme from Falla’s ballet, El Amor Brujo, and a final murmuring arpeggio.

Antonio José was praised by Maurice Ravel as a composer who would ‘become the greatest Spanish musician of our century’. But his arrest and execution near his home city of Burgos in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War cast his music into a subsequent obscurity which has only recently been remedied.

Considerable interest was aroused by the discovery in the late 1980s of the Sonata, which Antonio José finished on 23 August 1933. One movement was given its première in Burgos by Regino Sáinz de la Maza in November 1934. The work established Antonio José’s reputation beside those of his distinguished contemporaries who respected the guitar as an expressive medium. José’s Sonata is a composition requiring virtuosity as well as emotional depth and insight.

Graham Wade

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