About this Recording
8.573432 - Guitar Recital: Kuang, Junhong - CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M. / MANGORÉ, A.B. / BACH, J.S. / GRANADOS, E. / ALBÉNIZ, I. / LEGNANI, L. / MERTZ, J.K.

Junhong Kuang: Guitar Recital


Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968): Capriccio diabolico, ‘Omaggio a Paganini’, Op. 85

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was successful as a composer and performer in his native Italy until anti-Semitic laws resulted in his music being banned. In the summer of 1939, he left Italy for the United States and finally settled in California. Here he became a sought after composer of film scores in Hollywood As well as film music, he wrote orchestral and chamber works and nearly a hundred compositions for guitar.

Capriccio diabolico, Op. 85 was composed in 1935 for Andrés Segovia. Subtitled Homage to Paganini, the work pays tribute to the virtuosity of Niccolò Paganini. The diabolic reference in the title recalls the story of Paganini selling his soul to the Devil in return for transcendental violinistic virtuosity. The one movement work depicts his wish for absolution, but the Devil wins in the end with a quotation from the finale of Paganini’s Second Violin Concerto (the famous ‘Campanella’ theme).

Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885–1944): Un sueño en la floresta • Chôro da Saudade

Born in Paraguay, Barrios began to develop a love for music and literature as a small child and would eventually speak two languages (Spanish and Guarani), and read three more (English, French and German). He became interested in music and, in particular the guitar, in his teens and concluded his musical studies in the country’s capital, Asunción. He travelled throughout Latin America as a guitar virtuoso, and with the support of the diplomat Tomás Salomini, he travelled to Europe in 1934, giving recitals in Belgium, Germany and Spain. Two years later he returned to South America and from 1939 until his death, he taught in the National Musical Conservatory in El Salvador. Besides composing over 100 works for the guitar, he was revered as a poet.

Proud of his Guarani Indian origins, Barrios would occasionally appear in typical indigenous costume, advertising himself as the ‘Paganini of the guitar of Paraguay’s jungle’. He adopted the name Mangoré, as a homage to a famous Guarani chief.

Un sueño en la floresta (A Dream in the Forest) and Chôro da Saudade are typical of Barrios’s Romantic style and are technically demanding for the player, requiring exceptional stretches of the left hand, the use of the twentieth fret, and various right-hand techniques including tremolo. The piece reflects the composer’s appreciation of the beautiful scenery of his native Paraguay, while Chôro da Saudade is a Brazilian evocation of nostalgia and longing.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750): Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for Violin, BWV 1004

In 1720 Johann Sesbastian Bach was serving as Court Kapellmeister in the city of Cöthen. In addition to his work as Kappellmeister, he had begun work on his Brandenburg Concertos as well as the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier. During this period he also completed his works for unaccompanied violin, notably the three sonatas and three partitas (suites), BWV 1001–1006. The sonatas contain preludes, fugues and allegros while the partitas are collections of dances. These are typically the allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. Only one of the six works contains a chaconne.

The chaconne was originally a slow dance consisting of variations on a harmonic or a bass progression. It was used frequently at the end of an opera in the French tradition to sum up themes from the rest of the opera. In this Chaconne, Bach does indeed sum up the preceding movements of the partita. The Chaconne has been transcribed for keyboard, lute, viola da gamba and was made famous on the guitar by Segovia. The variations run the gamut of emotion and technique and the work is often abstracted from the rest of the partita as a showcase for the performer.

Enrique Granados (1867–1916): Danza española No. 4 ‘Villanesca’

Granados was born in Lleida, in Spain, and studied the piano in Barcelona, subsequently going to Paris and studying privately with Charles-Wilfrid de Bériot who encouraged his improvisational abilities, and Felip Pedrell, the Catalan musicologist and composer who opened his eyes to the folk-music of his country.

The 12 Danzas Españolas are among his earliest works. Each dance has a very distinctive rhythm and style, and most contain a slow and very expressive middle section. They are all brilliant in capturing the essence of the Spanish character.

Granados himself was an extraordinary virtuoso pianist of subtlety and grace and died at a relatively young age when returning from an extremely successful première of his opera Goyescas, given in New York in 1916. His return was delayed by an invitation of the American president, Woodrow Wilson, to play at the White House and the ship in which he returned to Europe was torpedoed by a German U-Boat while crossing the English Channel.

Before leaving America Granados made live player piano music rolls for the New York-based Aeolian Company’s ‘Duo-Art’ system, all of which survive today and have been reissued on CD.

Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909): Suite española No. 1, Op. 47, No. 3 ‘Sevilla’

The Spanish composer and pianist, Albéniz, performed for the first time in public in the city of Barcelona when he was only four years old. His entire youth was very unsettled, with successive changes of residence, even reaching the point of stowing away on a boat to South America when he was twelve years old, supporting himself by playing. From 1883 on he set up residence in Barcelona and there he met Felip Pedrell, whose influence would be crucial to the creation of his Spanish style. In 1890 he abandoned his concert career to devote his time to composing, and from 1893 onwards, he spent most of his time in Paris.

Isaac Albéniz’s Suite Española, Op. 47, originally for solo piano, is composed mainly of separate works written in 1886 which were grouped together in 1887. Like many of Albéniz’s works for the piano, these pieces depict different regions and musical styles in Spain. Thus Sevilla is a Sevillanas from Seville. Albéniz’s music was transcribed early on by the guitarist Francisco Tárrega and nowadays is most often heard on the guitar, in which form he is said to have preferred it.

Luigi Legnani (1790–1877): Selection from 36 Caprices, Op. 20

Legnani was born in Ferrara and died in Ravenna, where he spent much of his early life. He studied music and the guitar in Ravenna, performed as a tenor with the local opera company, and made his début as a guitarist in Milan in 1819. He was a great success at his début in Vienna, and his concert tours included all the western capitals, from Madrid to St Petersburg. For the next thirty years, Legnani became part of the European musical mainstream, meeting and collaborating with Rossini and Paganini. He not only performed with Paganini, but he also stayed with him at his estate near Parma during one of his friend’s long convalescences. In later life Legnani became interested in guitar construction and, in seeking to improve his instrument, collaborated with the Viennese luthier Johann Anton Staufer, with whom he created the ‘Legnani model’ guitars. Legnani retired to Ravenna, where he himself became a renowned maker of violins and guitars.

Legnani is perhaps best known for his 36 Caprices for the guitar, which cover all the major and minor keys, and which were probably inspired by Paganini’s 24 Caprices for the violin.

Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806–1856): Fantaisie hongroise, Op. 65

Mertz was the son of very poor parents and during childhood received some elementary instruction on the guitar and the flute. In order to be of financial assistance to the family he was giving lessons on these instruments by the time he was twelve years of age.

When he was 34 he moved to Vienna where he appeared as guitar soloist at a concert given in the Court Theatre under the patronage of Empress Carolina Augusta. He made a significant impression on his audience and was appointed Court guitarist to the Empress. During the next two years he made extended concert tours through Moravia, Poland and Russia. Other concerts followed in Dresden, Berlin, Breslau, Leipzig and Prague. The last period of his career saw Mertz repeating his successes of former years, but, always prone to ill health, he died in Vienna in October 1858 after returning from a short concert tour. His Fantaisie hongroise posthumously won a prize offered by a Russian nobleman and guitar fan, M. Makaroff. (The second prize was awarded to the French guitarist Napoléon Coste for his Grande Sérénade.)

In his concerts Mertz used a ten-string guitar, and his wife Josephine Plantin frequently appeared with him in concerts, accompanying him on the piano.

Gerald Garcia

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