About this Recording
8.573365 - CASTILLO, M.: Guitar Music - Kasidas del Alcázar / Sonata / Guitar Quintet (Fantoni, Ramelli, Castillo Quartet)
English 

Manuel Castillo (1930–2005)
Guitar Music

 

Manuel Castillo Navarro-Aguilera began lessons in piano and composition in Seville with Norbert Almandoz and Antonio Pantón. Later he moved to Madrid where he studied composition with Conrado del Campo and pianoforte with Antonio Moreno. He went on to become a pupil of Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He eventually returned to Seville where he taught piano and composition at the Seville Conservatory, serving there as its principal between 1964 and 1978. He wrote many pieces for piano and organ, but also composed radio scores, orchestral pieces, symphonies and concertos, chamber works, vocal music, and other instrumental music. In 1992 he was commissioned to contribute the official music of the Universal Exposition of Seville (1992).

Castillo has been described by the Spanish composer and author, Tomás Marco, as ‘a very talented composer with a sure professional touch who achieved an individual language capable of evolving without going so far as the avant-garde or experimental music’. Marco defines him among the Generation of ’51 as ‘a moderate’, who did not pursue ‘advanced aesthetics and techniques’ but preferred ‘more moderate musical idioms’ without displaying an ‘entrenched conservatism’. Castillo’s style has been classified as trans-avant-garde, his music being a merging of traditional and contemporary characteristics without extending too far in one direction or the other.

Up until now, Castillo’s guitar music has been neglected mainly because very little has been published and the rest remains in manuscript. However, his work in this area reveals a close empathy with guitar idioms and an awareness of the virtuosic possibilities of the instrument as well as some profoundly expressive writing.

Sonata for guitar (1986), written in homage to Pedro Aguilera, has three movements. The work begins with an Adagio of intricacy and passion, followed by an Allegro of considerable momentum and energy. The second movement, Adagio, is reflective with subtle embellishments, arpeggiated chords, and linking scale runs. The final movement, Presto, is thoroughly virtuosic with a middle section in octaves before the recapitulation of the first theme. The Sonata was published in 1995 and edited by the Majorcan guitarist Gabriel Estarellas.

Kasidas del Alcazar (Kasidas of the Alcázar) (1984) refers to the Arabic poetic form qaşīdah, which developed in pre-Islamic Arabia and still endures through Islamic literary history. The classic type of this form is an elaborately structured ode of 60 to 100 lines. The Sevillian poet, Joaquín Romero Murube (1904–1969), wrote a number of kasidas, which inspired the composer to write these pieces. In his preface, Manuel Castillo comments that he has not attempted a musical representation of the poetry, but rather, attempted to follow its inspiration in a liberal (but not literal) way. The Alcázar was the old Mudéjar palace in Seville of the Spanish Kings for nearly seven centuries. Over the epochs the buildings have been greatly extended, often mixing Christian with Moorish styles and motifs.

Prologo (Los Jardines) (Prologue, The Gardens) evokes the sounds of flowing water and the scent of perfumed flowers. Kasida del Atardecer (Kasida of Nightfall) refers to the solitude of night in the Alcázar gardens. Kasida del Olvido (Kasida of Forgetfulness) tells of how in the patio of forgetfulness a rosebush flowers. ‘Let me weep’, says the poet, ‘But why, when I can tell you about it?’ Kasida de los Perfumes is a celebration of the perfumed garden with its roses, jasmine, orange blossom, and, above all, the fragrance of the woman the poet loves. La Ultima Kasida (The Last Kasida) depicts the wonder of the stars, and looking up among the silence of the historical centuries the poet savours his life with the triumphant assertion of ‘I live in Andalusia!’ Finally, the Epilogo, subtitled ‘bell’, tells how the ringing of a distant bell recalls the Cantigas of Alfonso X who composed his music within the walls of the Alcázar.

Following Chopin’s supreme example of prelude writing, various composers for the guitar such as Manuel Ponce and Heitor Villa-Lobos distinguished themselves in this form. Manuel Castillo’s Three Preludes (1987) begin with a toccata-like Allegretto, in perpetual motion from start to finish requiring considerable dexterity. The next Prelude, akin to the central movement of a sonata, is marked lento and composed in five/four metre. After the opening theme, short melodic fragments contrasted against solemn chords, a middle episode moves through ingenious dissonant progressions in a two part texture. The opening theme then returns. The third Prelude, marked Allegro, is a brilliant study in velocity.

Vientecillo de Primavera (1996) celebrates the languidness of the Spanish springtime and the aromas of cherry blossom in the dream of a spring night. To be played rubato, the opening theme contrasts with an episode of gentle arpeggios and trumpet-like chords before the recapitulation of the first section.

Quintet with Guitar (1975) is a superb addition to the small body of twentieth-century chamber works for guitar and string quartet. The first movement, Allegretto, is a subtle dialogue between guitar and quartet, each partner being given expressive solo episodes as well as ensemble passages of great clarity and poignancy. The slow movement, Adagio, is mystical in its intensity, its reflective mood developed by sensitive balance between the guitar’s ruminations and the quartet’s range of atmospheric subtleties. The last movement, Variaciones, provides a kaleidoscope of techniques and colour, a variety of contrasting moods being deployed throughout the sequence, with occasional moments of humour.

Finally Cancion de cuna (Cradle Song) (1954) is in traditional style. The first verse calls for a bright star and a belt of silver to make a tambourine to soothe the child’s dreaming. The next stanza bids the infant to dry his tears in the sea of his mother’s bosom so that he may be kissed by the angel of dreams.


Graham Wade


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