About this Recording
8.573440 - Guitar Duo Recital: Amadeus Guitar Duo - HANDEL, G.F. / VIVALDI, A. / BACH, J.S. / FRANCK, C. (Baroque Moments)

Baroque Moments


Georg Frideric Handel’s Chaconne in G-major, HWV 435 was published in London in 1733 as a part of the collection Suite de pièces pour le Clavecin. The theme is laid out symmetrically in groups of four bars, and is characterised by the typical Chaconne dance rhythm, a dance then in its infancy in Spain. The initial eight-bar theme (G-F#-E-D, B-C-D-G) is followed by twenty one variations of considerable musical expressiveness, a number of which are also virtuosic. The piece lends itself particularly well to transcription as it was not composed for a specific instrument, but rather for any of the three keyboard instruments harpsichord, clavichord or organ. The famous French-Spanish guitar duo Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya described the Chaconne as their favourite piece for two guitars, and this transcription by the Amadeus Guitar Duo is noteworthy for its musical range and expressive tonal spectrum, particularly in the central minor section.

Although Antonio Vivaldi has had his detractors—among them Igor Stravinsky, who infamously queried how one composer could write the same concerto 500 times—his music captivated composers such as J.S. Bach, who admired Vivaldi for his natural expression and Italian lightness. The Concerto in D Major, RV 93 was originally written as a Trio Sonata for lute and basso continuo, but it is best known today in its version for guitar and string orchestra. A typically festive Vivaldi opening precedes a sublime Sarabande-like middle movement before a virtuosic, dramatic and entertaining ending in 12/8. This concerto is one of Vivaldi’s most-played compositions.

The Italian Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach was originally written for harpsichord with the title Concerto after the Italian taste and is perhaps the most challenging work on this recording. It was printed in 1735 as a part of the second Clavierübungen, BWV 971. Bach indicated that the harpsichordist should fulfill not only the rôle of soloist but also that of ripieno, and should show an affinity for Italian music and lifestyle, as indicated by the title. The outer movements are technically demanding, while the central Andante provides a soothing contrast. César Franck’s Prélude, Fugue et Variation, Op 18 was written in 1868. Franz Liszt declared the work a masterpiece worthy of standing next to the great works of J.S. Bach. The work is dedicated to Camille Saint-Saëns and opens with an elegant melody which is later used to create a four-voice fugue in the middle of the final movement. Franck also arranged the work for piano and organ, and the simple registration conveys the composer’s intention to create a simple, tranquil soundworld.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s simple chorale based on a melody of Hans-Leo Hassler became famous through Bach’s use of it in the St Matthew Passion (O, Haupt voll Blut und Wunden) (O Sacred Head, Now Wounded) and the Christmas Oratorio (Befiehl Du Deine Wege) (Entrust Your Days and Burdens). Ferruccio Busoni’s dazzling transcription of Bach’s Violin Chaconne, BWV 1004 is heard here is a terrific arrangement for two guitars. Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once called the Chaconne a piece of tragic magnitude, a ‘triumph of mind over matter’, perhaps referring to its composition so soon after the death of Maria Barbara, Bach’s first wife. It was in this period between 1717–1723 that Bach wrote the cycle of the Six Partitas and Sonatas for violin solo. Ulrich Stracke’s arrangement of this scintillating piece of music definitely belongs in the pantheon of great works for guitar duo.

Thomas Kirchhoff
(English translation by Rachel Schiff)

Close the window