About this Recording
8.573591 - Guitar Recital: Doneyan, Armen - DUBEZ, J. / LEGNANI, L. / TANSMAN, A. / TÁRREGA, F. / TURINA, J. / BROUWER, L. / VILLA-LOBOS, H.

Armen Doneyan: Guitar Recital
Johann Dubez • Luigi Legnani • Alexandre Tansman • Francisco Tárrega • Joaquín Turina • Leo Brouwer • Heitor Villa-Lobos


The rich variety of the guitar repertoire in terms of historical period and national colour is represented in this selection of music by composers from several countries. The power of the instrument to create a sense of place and atmosphere is also fully brought into focus here with musical flavours from Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Cuba and Brazil. The sheer diversity is an integral aspect of the guitar’s allure over several centuries. Along with the pianoforte, the guitar is one of the most versatile instruments known to humanity. But when performance on the guitar is taken to the point of virtuosity, as in these compositions, it also becomes a profound art which has flourished for several centuries, establishing an enduring instrumental tradition in the salon and concert hall.

Johann Dubez, born in Vienna, is one of the less well known guitarists of the nineteenth century, perhaps because he composed fewer pieces than players such as Regondi and Mertz, both of whom may well have taught him at some point. Dubez became an accomplished performer on various instruments including violin, mandolin, harp and zither, as well as guitar. He began his musical career as a violinist in the local theatre and for a while was ‘harpist and chamber virtuoso’ in the service of Countess Jeanne Esterházy. He also played the melophone, a kind of accordion and until 1873 led the Dubez String Quartet. The guitar pieces in manuscript form are now to be found in the collection of the Swedish mathematician Carl Oskar Boije af Genäs. Dubez became president of the Vienna Zither Union founded in 1875 and was made an honorary member of the Prague Zither Society.

Fantaisie on Hungarian Themes opens with a declamatory Allegretto section of brisk flourishes leading to a cadenza covering the gamut of the guitar’s range. This leads to the first theme, Csárdás; Hontalan, originally a piano work by Benjamin Egressy which appeared in 1848 titled Hontalan (The Man without a Fatherland). The Hunyadi- March (from the opera Hunyady László (1844) by Ferenc Erkel), follows with its poignant melody, complemented by a technically challenging Allegretto episode with rapid passages in the guitar’s highest register played con fuoco (with fire). The next theme, marked Vivace, is Friska from; Csárdás; Hontalan. The csárdás, a Hungarian dance originating in the first part of the nineteenth century, had slow sections (lassan or lassú) and fast ones (friska). An Allegretto comes now, a two-part working of the Hunyadi March. After this there is the famous Rákóci March, which served as the Hungarian national anthem until 1844. An Allegro section follows using the tremolo technique to create a flowing melody. After a further hearing of the Csárdás; Hontalan, in a different key, the composer includes another interpretation of the Hunyadi March with the melody on the lower strings. A recapitulation of the fast Csárdás provides a coda complete with guitaristic fireworks in the climactic bars.

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.

Fantasia, 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 virtuosi pianists such as Liszt at their most extrovert, as Legnani displays the technical dexterities within his characteristic musical vocabulary.

The Polish composer, Alexandre Tansman, having been introduced to Andrés Segovia during his stay in Paris in 1921, was soon persuaded to write for the guitar. His compositions include operas, ballets, nine symphonies, concertos, film scores, vocal and chamber music and works for piano and other solo instruments. In the 1920s and 1930s he toured the United States, Europe, the Middle East and India, appearing as the soloist in his own piano concertos. He became a French citizen in 1938 but the war forced him to move to America, where he established close friendships with composers such as Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Milhaud. He returned to France in 1946.

The manuscript for Tansman’s Passacaille is dated September 1953 and bears the dedication à Andrés Segovia, l’unique. This music was among the documents discovered by Angelo Gilardino in the Segovia Archives in Linares, Spain, written for Segovia but never performed in public concerts by him. The composition, originally titled Pièce en forme de passacaille, opens with a simple statement of the ostinato on which the work is founded followed by ten variations. These comprise a variety of textures and techniques with increasing harmonic and technical complexity including tremolo. The inspiration behind the piece is predominantly that of J.S. Bach in an intricate web of fugal ingenuity. In an introduction to the posthumous works of Tansman, Frédéric Zigante observes that it is ‘a majestic composition in which the solemn baroque style is combined perfectly with the flexible, subtle, sometimes mobile and sometimes static harmony of Tansman’s music’.

Francisco Tárrega was a personality of immense significance in the guitar’s development in terms of technical innovations, compositions, and the art of arrangement. His advocacy of new concepts of guitar construction in the work of Antonio de Torres (1817–1892), the great Spanish luthier, has proved influential right up to the present time. Tárrega established new playing methods and also composed some of the finest music for the instrument. In many exquisite miniatures, often influenced by Chopin, he established a unique Spanish romantic voice for the guitar which has enchanted public and players ever since.

La traviata (The Fallen Woman), an opera by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), based on Alexandre Dumas’s play La Dame aux Camélias, is the tragic story of Violetta Valery, a courtesan, and her love for Alfredo Germont. Violetta forsakes her former way of life to be with Alfredo. But Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, persuades Violetta to give up her lover. The rejected Alfredo, unaware of Violetta’s sacrifice of her own happiness, humiliates her in public, throwing his gambling winnings in her face as if in payment for her services. In Act III Alfredo is told of Violetta’s true situation. He hurries to Violetta’s side but she is suffering from tuberculosis and dies in his arms.

Tárrega follows Mauro Giuliani’s penchant earlier in the nineteenth century for arranging operatic themes for guitar. The instrument’s best cantabile attributes are exploited here in a rich assortment of Verdi’s remarkable melodies. Plucked strings can never achieve the range of passion of such an opera, but here the guitar becomes a small orchestra in a virtuosic display of romantic intensity.

Joaquín Turina (1882–1949), pianist and conductor as well as composer, was born in Seville, one of the great Andalusian cities. In 1905 he went to Paris and studied with d’Indy and Moszkowski, forming friendships with both Falla and Albéniz. On returning to Madrid he spent the rest of his life in the creation of music deeply representative of Spanish culture. Among his prolific compositions, including symphonies, piano pieces, operas, chamber works and incidental theatre music, he wrote several solos for guitar inspired by the art of Andrés Segovia.

The first movement of Sonata (1931) combines several guitar textures characteristic of southern Iberia—rapid scale passages, arpeggios in the bass contrasted against a sequence of melodic fragments, and a catchy Allegretto tranquillo. These elements establish the lyrical nature of the work. The slow movement is evocative of flamenco song, the cante jondo, and also includes shifting chordal patterns along the fingerboard, reminiscent of Andalusian harmonies. The last movement, Allegro vivo, begins with a vivid three-eight rhythm and a combination of scale runs and strummed chords. A second theme, Allegro moderato, in two-four, introduces more angular rhythmic patterns. After the repetition of the opening motif, the composer recalls the second theme of the first movement with its dotted rhythms. An exciting coda concludes the piece with strummed chords and contrasting scale passages.

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 well 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’.

The vast musical output of Heitor Villa-Lobos covers a huge canvas of symphonies, concertos, choral and chamber music, as well as many instrumental works. Through his art the vitality of Brazilian culture found full twentieth-century expression. Yet it is his guitar music which still attracts fervent popularity. His deep understanding of the instrument enabled the composer to write in a truly distinctive personal style creating beautiful melodies as well as the effects of tonal colours of open strings against fretted notes to develop fascinating patterns of shifting chords.

Twelve Études, written in Paris in the late 1920s and dedicated to Andrés Segovia, are a true landmark in twentieth-century guitar development, though not published until the 1950s. Segovia commented that these studies ‘consist of formulas of surprising efficiency for the technical development of each hand, and at the same time have a ‘disinterested’ musical beauty, without an educational aim, but with a permanent aesthetic value as concert pieces… Villa-Lobos has made a gift to the guitar’s history of the fruits of his talent as vigorous and delightful as that of Scarlatti and Chopin’.

Etude No. 1 is one of the guitar’s most famous right hand studies. Turibio Santos has described the work as ‘a small Bachianas brasileiras, an ingenious miniature. While the use of open strings and chromatic harmonies in a single pattern allows the guitar its maximum dynamic capacity, The Well-Tempered Clavier is always present’.

Etude No. 12 is a study of glissando applied throughout the fingerboard to parallel chords. A middle contrasting episode presents an exciting repeated bass effect before the return of the first section. This is acknowledged as one of the most technically challenging of the twelve, requiring pinpoint precision and perfect control to achieve the necessary articulation.

Graham Wade

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