About this Recording
8.573481 - Guitar Recital: Jearakul, Ekachai - WEISS, S.L. / MERTZ, J.K. / BERKELEY, L. / LEGNANI, L. / BROUWER, L. / ADULYADEJ, Bhumibol

Ekachai Jearakul: Guitar Recital
Sylvius Leopold Weiss • Johann Kaspar Mertz • Lennox Berkeley • Luigi Legnani • Leo Brouwer • H. M. King Bhumibol of Thailand


This journey through the many voices of the classical guitar begins with the baroque and concludes with three modern compositions influenced by jazz. On the way we encounter two nineteenth-century masters in Mertz and Legnani, and twentieth-century contrasts in music from England and Cuba. The guitar accommodates many voices and a multitude of styles without incongruity. The sheer variety of the instrument’s repertoire never ceases to amaze and delight.

Silvius Leopold Weiss, born in Breslau, capital of Silesia, (now Wrocław, Poland) in 1686, is now acknowledged as the greatest baroque lutenist of his epoch. Taught by his father, he studied the lute from an early age and eventually entered the service of aristocrats in Germany and Italy as a court musician. In 1718 he was appointed to the Dresden court where he joined the famous orchestra of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. Weiss remained in this post until his death in 1750.

Weiss composed over 600 pieces for solo lute organized into suites or Sonaten. The majority of these are contained in two manuscripts, one located in the British Library, London, and another in the Sachsisches Landesbibliothek, Dresden. Weiss was also a renowned teacher, and among his pupils were the youthful Frederick the Great as well as the renowned lutenists Adam Falckenhagen and Johann Kropfgans.

An Allemande, a dance of German origin, has four beats in a bar which give it stability and dignity. The pace of the dance is quiet and steady. Weiss, like J.S. Bach, often began his suites with an allemande rather than a prelude, and in this instance the Allemande sets the key and mood for what is to follow. In contrast the more vigorous Courante, (the term derived from the French verb ‘to run’), is like an effervescent stream with groups of semiquavers providing lively movement.

The Passagaille in D, one of the most well-known of Weiss’s lute works, has been popular since Julian Bream first recorded it in 1964. Structurally a Passagaille is a series of variations constructed over a repeated bass. Weiss has composed a truly superb example of the genre which develops through degrees of intricacy with increasing excitement and inventiveness.

Johann Kaspar Mertz, a virtuoso performer on both guitar and flute, was born in Pressburg (now Bratislava, Slovakia). He moved to Vienna in 1840 and made his concert debut at the Court Theatre of the Empress Carolina Augusta. In subsequent years, Mertz toured Moravia, Poland and Russia, gave concerts in Berlin and Dresden, and also played at the court of Ludwig of Bavaria. Shortly after his death from a heart ailment at the age of fifty, Mertz was posthumously awarded the first prize for his composition Concertino at the Brussels Competition of 1856. Mertz performed on various types of guitar, including eight- and ten-stringed instruments, from the 1840s onwards.

His prolific compositions include didactic and easy pieces, concert works, arrangements of Schubert, pieces for two guitars or guitar and piano, and fantasies based on famous operatic themes. Nikolai Makaroff (1810–1890), the eminent Russian guitarist, described his playing as ‘marked by force, sweep, sensitivity, precision, expression and assurance’ and praised his skill with ‘every secret and effect of the guitar’.

Despite his output of over one hundred compositions, Mertz was neglected by guitarists for many decades, a revival of interest in his creative activities being achieved with Simon Wynberg’s ten volume edition of his works (Chanterelle, 1985). Since that time his music has become a significant feature of the concert repertoire.

Concertino is one of Mertz’s celebrated virtuoso works. It features brilliant octave patterns, tremolo, and, after the initial Maestoso, Grandioso, and Quasi Andantino piacevolmente sections, concludes with a vigorous Allegro Brillante and Presto finale. The piece was awarded first prize in the 1856 Brussels guitar composition and construction competition organized by Nikola Makaroff (Napoléon Coste came second). It was first published in the west in 1985 in the first volume of Simon Wynberg’s collection of the complete Mertz guitar works, which also provided the relevant information about this piece.

Julian Bream once commented that the music of Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903–1989) evoked ‘natural and pleasing things about life’. Berkeley’s immense range spanned vocal and instrumental compositions, chamber and orchestral works (including four symphonies and eight concertos), five operas, an oratorio, film music and many pieces for keyboard. His other guitar works were Quatre Pièces pour la guitare (written probably between 1927 and 1932 for Segovia but only recently discovered by Angelo Gilardino), Songs of the Half Light (1964), Theme and Variations (1970), and the Guitar Concerto (1974).

Sonatina, Op. 52, No. 1 (1957), dedicated to Julian Bream, is a work that beneath its elegance imposes strenuous technical demands on the performer. The first movement displays the guitar’s cantabile potential while the development’s rapid scales and vibrant climactic strumming momentarily conjure up images of the traditional Spanish guitar. The second movement creates fragments of melody on the lower strings contrasted with expressive chords, its harmonies growing ever more complex but ending poignantly and peacefully. The Rondo has tremendous verve and uses many effects, including tremolo, arpeggios, cantabile, and (in the coda) pedal notes on open strings and a final vigorous strumming.

Luigi Legnani, one of the leading guitarists of the generation following Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani, composed over 250 works and gave recitals throughout Europe. His friendship with Paganini has been well publicised though it seems unlikely that they actually performed concerts together. In his final years Legnani became a guitar maker of considerable renown.

Fantasie, Op 19, published by Arturia of Vienna in 1822, is a virtuosic work admirably demonstrating the spirit of the nineteenth-century guitar. The full panoply of brilliant scale runs, fast chromatic passages, sweeping arpeggio patterns, split octaves, chordal sections, interaction between bass and treble, and so on, are deployed here in profusion. The piece begins with an introductory largo section before the advent of the main Allegro movement with its varied textures and sonata-like structure. Behind the thrust and energy of the music is not only the influence of composers such as Sor but the piano style of Beethoven at its most extrovert, as Legnani displays the technical fireworks within his characteristic musical vocabulary.

Leo Brouwer, from Cuba, one of the most innovative contemporary composers, is also a renowned conductor and recitalist. His prolific output ranges from a multitude of guitar pieces to concertos, chamber music, and scores for over a hundred films. His guitar works have evolved over four decades embracing the avant-garde and the experimental as well as neo-romanticism. Rito de los Orishas (Rite of the Orishas), was given its première by the dedicatee, Álvaro Pierri, at the Festival de Radio France, in October 1993, a few months after its composition. Orishas is the Yoruban word for the gods worshipped by the African slaves.

The first movement, Exordium – conjuro (Introduction – Incantation/Exorcism), in ternary form with an episodic middle section and a modified recapitulation, celebrates a ritual where evil spirits are vanquished. Isabelle Hernández, Brouwer’s biographer, points out that this movement is created from three fundamental cells, a repeated sound in groups of three in the manner of an ostinato, an ascending scale in rapid figurations, and a theme characterized by a descending minor third followed by an ascending major second. The second part, Danza de las diosas negras (Dance of the Black Goddesses) comprises three dance elements interspersed by darkly atmospheric episodes named ‘evocations’.

H. M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, born 5 December 1927, is the King of Thailand. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king is a painter, photographer, author and translator as well as an accomplished saxophonist and composer. His prolific output of compositions includes fox-trots, waltzes and Thai patriotic music. He is an accomplished saxophonist and has performed with leading jazz artists such as Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton and Benny Carter.

The three pieces form a miniature jazz triptych of delightful melody and romantic sentiment. The first of the three is Love Light In My Heart, a sweet, lyrical love song composed in 1950. Next comes a sophisticated piece with a distinct blues influence, Oh I Say, written in 1955. Finally we hear Magic Beams, composed in 1958. This opens with a languidly introspective melody, followed by a brilliant finale.

Graham Wade

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