About this Recording
8.573670 - Guitar Recital: Victor, João Carlos - DOWLAND, J. / RODRIGO, J. / TÁRREGA, F. / RIOS FILHO, P. / CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.
English  Spanish 

João Carlos Victor: Música Oscura
John Dowland • Joaquín Rodrigo • Francisco Tárrega • Paulo Rios Filho • Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco


At the heart of this album is the music of English composer and lutenist John Dowland (1563–1626). Guitarist Andrés Segovia’s transcriptions of Dowland’s works stand as one of his most important contributions to the repertoire, but it was his younger colleague Julian Bream, as part of the early music revival, who played the key rôle in reintroducing the galliards and other great works of this master musician, whose catalogue is predated only by those of the Spanish vihuela composer-players. Although Bream played Dowland ’s music on the lute, guitarists have always delighted in exploring the instrumental idiom of the transitional period between the Renaissance and the Baroque via one of its most sophisticated and original exponents.

Three of Dowland’s chromatic fantasias, all transcribed by João Carlos Victor, provide moments of reflection at the start, centre and end of this album: the Fantasia, P71, whose authorship has recently been called into question; Forlorn Hope Fancy (Fantasia No. 2), one of the composer ’s best-known works; and Farewell Fancy (Fantasia No. 3), perhaps Dowland’s darkest and most mysterious composition, a work of stunningly solemn grandeur. All three are serious and melancholy in nature, their sombre hues reflecting the darker shades of the chromatic spectrum and largely setting the tone for the album as a whole.

The Invocación y Danza by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901–1999), for example, has much the same depth, complexity and crepuscular quality as Dowland’s fantasias, although it also contains other, more theatrical elements, because it was written as a homage to Manuel de Falla and therefore includes various quotations from his music. Possibly written not long after Falla’s death in 1946, the Invocación y Danza lay forgotten in a drawer for years until Rodrigo decided to enter it in a competition organised in 1961 by the French national broadcaster ORTF: the work was awarded the first prize—the “Coupe de la Guitare”—and was premiered the following year by Alirio Díaz. We may well ask why Rodrigo kept this, one of the masterpieces of the mid-twentieth century, out of sight for so long—the answer, almost certainly, is that he suspected that its enormous technical demands were beyond any living guitarist.

Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909) was a leading figure of Spanish Romanticism, among whose most impassioned and moving works are a series of mazurkas, two of which are performed here—Marieta and the Mazurka in G, his most Chopinesque piece. They are balanced in mood by the luminosity of the gavotte Maria, one of Tárrega’s most delightful compositions, and by the dreamy, timeless atmosphere conjured by his masterful guitar arrangement of the “Venetian Gondola Song” from Mendelssohn’s first set of Lieder ohne Worte (Op. 19, No. 6).

Répéter is the third solo guitar work by Brazilian composer Paulo Rios Filho (b. Salvador de Bahia, 1985). Written in 2014, it was awarded an Honourable Mention at the Boston GuitarFest X in 2015. It is dedicated to João Carlos Victor, who gave its world première in Basle in June 2014. Répéter was inspired by the ideas of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in particular his concept of difference—the work consists of a set of small gestures linked together by percussive comments and vocal interventions. These gestures are constantly and imperfectly repeated, with the addition of brief, new comments, some elongated, others abbreviated, with internal repetitions, variations and elision. The phrase “Ne me demandez pas pourquoi répéter” (Don’t ask me why repeating) appears three times throughout the piece, always in the same, recitative-like style, and at the same whispered/ half-whispered volume, flagging up key moments within its structure: the end of the first section, the arrival of a contrasting central section, and the very end of the work. Also worthy of note is the inclusion of techniques such as the use of the left thumb, the play between percussive and harmonic sounds, and the addition of the spoken word as part of the performance. The last of these is something Filho has used in other works as well—it acts as an extension of the technical and tonal possibilities of the instrument itself, with the result that the guitar and musician in a way become one.

Along with the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce and Spaniard Federico Moreno Torroba, the Italian-born Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968) was one of the key figures behind the contemporary guitar repertoire commissioned and disseminated by Andrés Segovia. He and Castelnuovo-Tedesco first met in Venice in 1932, and soon established a productive working relationship, of which the Sonata, Op. 77 (1934) was one of the early fruits. Segovia gave its première at Seville’s Teatro de la Exposición in January 1935, programming the work in the first half of the concert, between a set of variations by Fernando Sor and Joaquín Turina’s Sevillana. Despite its subtitle, “Omaggio a Boccherini”, as critics of the day noted, there is little or no Boccherini in the sonata, although it is very much part of the Neo-classical trend of the 1930s. Its second movement includes a clear reference to the first of the dances in Falla’s La vida breve, while the work as a whole met Segovia’s need to commission major new works to fill the gaps in the existing guitar repertoire: cast in four movements—Allegro con spirito, Andantino quasi canzone, Tempo di minuetto and Vivo ed energico—the Sonata has more in common stylistically with the Viennese Classical symphony than it does with the quartets or sonatas of Boccherini. A work brimming with imagination, grace and skill, it has a character of bright objectivity, creating the most striking (but in no way strident) contrast with the prevailing mood of the music on this album, just before we return to sombre profundity with Dowland’s Farewell Fancy.

Javier Suárez Pajares
Translated by Susannah Howe

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