About this Recording
8.573506 - Guitar Recital: Arango, Alí Jorge - BROUWER, L. / CLERCH, J. / PUERTO, D. del / ARANGO, A.J. / LUCIA, P. de

Alí Arango: Guitar Recital


This selection presents a wide variety of music from eminent guitarists who are also distinguished composers. Historically the acknowledged great guitarists of history prior to the twentieth century were players who invariably performed their own works. This tradition has not been lost even if an important aspect of Andrés Segovia’s mission in the twentieth century was to encourage composers who were not guitarists to write for the instrument (a movement continued by Julian Bream and John Williams, among others). From such activities a quantity of high quality music was created.

But the advantage of music composed by the practitioners of a specific instrument is that the harvest of what they produce is totally idiomatic and stylistically appropriate. Moreover the works on this recording originate from Spain and Latin America where the guitar is the accepted national instrument. In such an environment, nourished by long folkloric traditions, the indigenous tonal colours and varied sonorities of the six plucked strings flourish in the context of vibrant new compositions.

Leo Brouwer, from Havana, Cuba, has long been acclaimed as one of the most challenging and innovative of contemporary composers. His output ranges from solo guitar pieces to symphonic works, including concertos, chamber music, and many film scores. His prolific contribution to the guitar has developed through various styles embracing the avant-garde and the experimental, as well as neo-romanticism.

Danzas Rituales y Festivas (2012–2014) shows Brouwer’s mastery of composing for guitar with its rich impressionism and superb understanding of the instrument’s natural tonal resources. Danza de los Altos Cerros (Dance of the High Hills), Habanera Trunca (Truncated Habanera), and Guajira form a unified structure of images in homage to the concept of dance. (Alí Arango gave the first performance of this work in December 2014 in Barcelona during a celebration of Brouwer’s seventy-fifth birthday.)

Brouwer explained the suite as follows: ‘At the age of eighteen I wrote Danza Característica around Cuban themes. I have always felt a desire to transcend the mere repetition of popular dances…Where do we see the transcendence of the dance? In Ravel’s marvellously ostentatious fantasy La Valse. This is my concept in the Ritual and Festive Dances without intending to dilute the popular feeling inherent in the folklore heritage.’

El Decamerón Negro (The Black Decameron) (1981) refers to a collection of African stories by Leo Frobenius (1873–1938), German ethnologist, archaeologist, and traveller. Brouwer’s representation of one of the legends through the expressiveness of the guitar, shows his imaginative approach in an Afro-Cuban fusion of influences.

(Leo Brouwer has recommended that ‘the order of the ballads is free’; therefore listeners may be interested to hear the movements performed in a different order from some previously recorded versions.)

Balada de la Doncella Enamorada (Ballad of the Damsel in Love) consists of a romantic, lyrical theme and passages of rhythmical complexity.

La Huida de los Amantes por el Valle de los Ecos (The Flight of the Lovers through the Valley of Echoes) begins with declamato (declamation) and presage (foreboding) before the galloping horses of the lovers are heard and they enter the Valley of Echoes.

El Arpa del Guerrero (The Warrior’s Harp), with its running quavers and dramatic pauses (and short tranquillo section), establishes the mood of the work combining both traditional and atonal devices. A slow Epílogo concludes the movement.

Joaquín Clerch, born in Havana in 1965, studied with several teachers in his early years, including Leo Brouwer and Costas Costiolis. Later he moved to Salzburg to have lessons with Eliot Fisk, graduating with the highest honours. Clerch has performed recitals and engagements with orchestras world-wide and won many international guitar competitions. He is now professor of guitar at the Robert Schumann University in Düsseldorf and has made a number of recordings including Brouwer’s Concierto de Havana.

Clerch’s Estudios have become well known among guitarists not only for their technical aspects but also as appropriate concert studies. Estudio No. 4, dedicated to Alí Arango, is specifically an exercise for the anular or ring finger of the right hand.

David del Puerto is a concert guitarist and composer who has given recitals in many countries and is currently professor at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía, in Madrid. His works have reached an international audience and he has been awarded several prestigious composition prizes in Spain.

Fantasía y Rondó was commissioned in 2013 by the 12th Alhambra International Guitar Competition. The composer has explained that he has ‘not attempted to create a work of formidable virtuosity but rather a couple of pieces in which clarity of form and content allows us to concentrate on musicality and expression’. He has described the Fantasía as ‘a three-part form with a lively middle section in arpeggios which uses the whole range of the instrument. The final sections develop a little mosaic of elements characterised by alternating textures and moods’.

The Rondó is written ‘with the feel of an energetic toccata, with a clear vigorous theme’. The episodes ‘explore various homophonic and polyphonic textures, including a canon, but always within that perpetuum mobile style which characterises the theme itself’. The ending ‘gently slackens the rhythmic pulse in a rallentando and diminuendo, culminating in a soft arpeggio’.

Alí Arango, born in Havana, combines the rigorous profession of international concert artist with a profound interest in extending the guitar repertoire with his own compositions. He also performs with the Traza Quartet (two guitars, violin, and cello), which explores the fusion between Cuban, jazz and contemporary styles.

Opfergabe (Offering) was written just before the composer moved to Germany where he resided for several months. The second part makes reference to the thematic motif of Brouwer’s Pieza sin título, No. 1.

The composer designates the title Paralelepípedo Isócrono sobre un Panáculo Helicoidal as being ‘complicated, recherché, and meaningless’, which reflects the work’s conceptual content, and refers also to maieutics, denoting the Socratic mode of enquiry which aims to bring a person’s latent ideas into clear consciousness, a great conflict with no satisfactory resolution. The title of the second movement Aporía, means an ‘irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument or theory’, from the Greek aporos (meaning ‘impassable’).

Escenas del Des-Equinoccio (Scenes of the Diminished Equinox) portrays the period when the composer lived in Cordoba. Spain. He found a church where the bells made an irregular rhythm of seven beats, similar to a rhythmic cell of Afro-Cuban music. In the score there are often three simultaneous lines (left hand tapping, right hand articulation, and the artist’s foot marking the beat on a wooden box).

Lúa is a lullaby to the composer’s daughter. Alí Arango has added his own comments to introduce the work: ‘One day I discovered a beautiful coincidence. Spelling her name in Spanish (ele-u-a), sounds like Elegua, one of the gods of the Afro-Cuban religion. This piece therefore begins with an exact quotation from the song to Elegua and then I use another fragment. Also, I imitate the rhythmic cells of the drums, percussive effects of the tambores batá, the ritual drums of Afro-Cuban religion, with harmonics on the guitar. ’

Paco de Lucía (1947–2014) was one the greatest guitarists of the instrument’s long history. He revolutionised the art of flamenco and with flamenco-jazz fusion he brought a new sound and style into the world of music. His extraordinary technical ability and his intense artistic imagination elevated him to the front rank of international musicians.

Guajiras de Lucía represents the guitarist’s earlier, traditional flamenco contribution. It is a brilliantly inventive work first recorded during the 1960s before Paco de Lucía moved on to his more experimental improvised collaborations with jazz musicians. It is a piece which has fascinated performers since its first appearance on long playing records. Many classical players have been drawn to this composition, playing it with transcriptions taken from the original recording.

The guajira in this instance is a flamenco dance, introduced into Spain from Cuba. The style is performed alternating six/eight and three/four rhythm in a similar manner to the siguriya, but mostly in a major mode. Of the many guajiras featured by flamenco artists over the last century, from the great Ramón Montoya (1880–1949) onwards, Guajiras de Lucía has surely commanded the most admiration. Its dazzling arpeggios, rapid scale passages, and moments of sheer lyricism conjure up a romantic vision of an elegant perfection of form and substance.

Graham Wade

Grateful acknowledgements are due to Thérèse Wassily Saba for permission to quote from her conversation with Leo Brouwer.

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