About this Recording
8.573797 - Guitar Recital: Jara, Xavier - CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M. / COUPERIN, F. / DOWLAND, J. / RAWSTHORNE, A. / BOGDANOVIĆ, D. / ASSAD, S. / COLLINS, J.D.

Xavier Jara: Guitar Recital
John Dowland • François Couperin • Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco • Alan Rawsthorne • Sergio Assad • Jeremy D. Collins • Dušan Bogdanović


Xavier Jara’s recital is structured in terms of symmetries in works which reflect each other when juxtaposed. Thus Dowland’s Fantasies and Bogdanovic’s Sonata No. 3 mirror the significance of ‘three’. Two compositions by Castelnuovo-Tedesco represent the first piece he wrote for guitar while Capricho de Goya is one of the last. There are two Elegies and two compositions about dreams, providing a centrepiece. Couperin’s Les barricades mystérieuses and Bogdanovic’s Mysterious Habitats use rondo form and are linked by their titles. Thus compositions from different periods can reveal correspondences as well as contrasts.

John Dowland, one of the great Elizabethan musicians, was both composer and lutenist. His music is profound and varied, in his solo lute works, consort writing, and in a uniquely inventive output of songs. He travelled extensively in Europe and became royal lutenist for Christian IV of Denmark in 1598. In 1612 he was appointed as one of the ‘King’s Lutes’ at the court of James I.

The terms fancy, fantasy or fantasia were adopted in the Renaissance as instrumental compositions not related to any dance form with diverse characteristics intended to display the player’s mastery. A Fancy (P5 in the definitive Diana Poulton collection) is only thirty-five bars long. The opening theme consists of ascending and descending scale passages, developed, as Poulton describes it, with ‘fragments of the scale combined in decorative patterns’. A Fantasia (P73), an extended piece of eighty-four bars, begins with a descending chromatic hexachord repeated twenty-seven times throughout. This develops into an intricate contrapuntal scheme followed by episodes for two voices with the chromatic theme repeated in the upper register. The finale is primarily in three-part counterpoint culminating in the last two bars with descending chromatic notes in the highest part. The opening theme of A Fancy (P73) is an anonymous fancy reminiscent of the popular tune, All in a garden green. From this beginning a remarkable demonstration of contrapuntal writing evolves, concluding with rapid repeated notes supported by a complex bass line.

Francois Couperin, composer, harpsichordist and organist, was born into an illustrious family of Parisian musicians. He served in the court of Louis XIV as organiste du roi, being raised to the nobility in 1696. Couperin obtained royal privilege to print his music and his prolific compositions include choral music, secular vocal, chamber music, and harpsichord works.

Les barricades mystérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades), written in 1717 is the fifth piece in Couperin’s Ordre Sixième de clavecin. The title is something of an enigma. Philippe Beaussant, biographer of Couperin, wrote: ‘We will never really know what Couperin had in mind or whether… he was making fun of the world… This solemn piece is concentrated in the register that subdues the characteristic metallic brilliance of the harpsichord while accentuating its profound and serious nature…The lute style, rarely employed so systematically, allows the polyphony to project. There are four voices, without a single note sounding at the same time as another, creating a liquefied polyphony that dissolves and spreads out like a smooth viscous batter.’

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, born in Florence, Italy, studied composition and pianoforte at the Istituto Musicale Cherubini and later at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna. He first wrote for guitar after meeting Andres Segovia at the Venice International Festival in 1932 and subsequently composed over a hundred works for the instrument including concertos, chamber music, and many solo pieces. In 1938 Castelnuovo-Tedesco settled in California where, between 1940 and 1956, he became established as a writer of film music. As a teacher at the Los Angeles Conservatory, his compositional pupils included Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Andre Previn, and John Williams.

Variations à travers les siècles was published under its French title in 1933 by Schott in the Segovia Guitar Archive series. The variations take the forms of Chaconne, Preludio, Walzer I, II & III, and finally Fox-Trot, thus covering the lute style, the romantic era of Schubert, and the jazz age.

After some ten years of service Francisco Goya (1746–1828) was appointed as First Court Painter to Charles IV in 1799. Around this time he began etching his Caprichos (Caprices), satirical comments on Spanish life. Castelnuovo-Tedesco selected twenty-three pictures from Goya’s Caprichos, and a further etching in similar style, as inspiration for an extended sequence of evocative guitar solos, completing the work in 1961.

No. 18, El sueño de la razón produce monstrous (The sleep of reason produces monsters) depicts a sleeping man surrounded by owls, a sinister lynx, and bat-like creatures. The music takes the form of a Chaconne with five variations. Variation 1 deploys rapid arpeggios accompanying the Chaconne theme. Variation 2 moves into triplet passages while Variation 3 uses the Chaconne in the bass against treble scale passages. The next Variation brings the theme back into the treble against a busy accompaniment before Variation 5, marked con fuoco (with fire) offers a chordal exploration in quavers of the insistent theme. The final recapitulation is marked ‘very slow and solemn’.

Alan Rawsthorne’s father, a physician, did not wish his son to take up music as a profession and for this reason Rawsthorne first studied dentistry at Liverpool University. But the call of music was too great and in 1925 he entered the Royal Manchester College of Music. After graduation he studied piano in Poland and Berlin. Following a short time teaching at Dartington Hall, Rawsthorne became a freelance composer writing orchestral works, including symphonies and concertos, string quartets, film scores and instrumental music.

In 1975 Oxford University Press published Julian Bream’s edition of Elegy by Alan Rawsthorne. Bream’s preface observes that the composer finished only parts of the work before he died but had left a few sketches to indicate how to proceed: ‘It seemed sad to me that such distinguished music should languish when there was at least some clue to its completion. So I decided to finish the work by repeating the opening section, slightly varied, and incorporating the fragmentary sketches to form an artistic whole in keeping with the composer’s style.’

The brothers Sergio and Odair Assad, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1952 and 1956 respectively, are one of the top guitar duos but also eminent solo recitalists. They studied in their formative years in Rio de Janeiro with Monina Tavora. Their virtuosity has inspired many composers including Piazzolla, Riley, Gnattali, Nobre, Koshkin, Dyens, Morel, Krieger and Mignone, to dedicate pieces to them. Sergio Assad, acknowledged as one of the finest contemporary composers for guitar, has a long list of works in his catalogue.

Xavier Jara comments: ‘Dreams by Sergio Assad, a solo work from Summer Garden Suite, otherwise written for two guitars, provides an interlude between the Elegies to give space. There is no other symmetrical pairing with this piece so it is on its own between two halves of the programme. Next to the Elegies, it suggests a relationship between death and sleep.’

Jeremy Collins began his guitar education with Rodney Stucky at the University of Cincinnati and later studied with Jason Vieaux and William Kanengiser. Since Collins began composing at the age of fourteen, his solo works and arrangements have become known for their unique tunings, creating a distinctly original compositional voice. He has won many guitar competitions and performed solo and chamber recitals extensively throughout the USA.

Introducing his Elegy Jeremy Collins has written: ‘I composed Elegy in 2010 while a graduate student at the University of Southern California. After experimenting with several new tunings I was struck by this particular tuning which featured both diminished and augmented chords as the open strings. I loved how the augmented triad can modulate so easily and unpredictably by raising or lowering any of the three pitches by a half step or more. I felt that this type of harmony was very hard to explore in standard guitar tuning. The tuning I settled on, from low to high, is C#, A#, E, G#, C, and E. During the piece, I included short quotes of works that have influenced me, such as Intermezzo No. 2 by Brahms, and Pavane for a Dead Princess by Ravel.’

Dušan Bogdanović, born in Yugoslavia, composer and guitarist, studied composition at Geneva Conservatory with Wissmer and Ginastera, and guitar with Maria Livia Sao Marcos. Following his Carnegie Hall debut in 1977 he toured internationally, participating in chamber ensembles as well as solo recitals. He has held teaching posts at Geneva Conservatory and the University of Southern California and is presently engaged by San Francisco Conservatory. His compositions explore diverse musical idioms in a synthesis of classical, jazz and ethnic music.

Mysterious Habitats (1994) represents a considerable contrast in style from Sonata 3 (2010). But both works include the tuning of the lowest string (E) to an F, which imparts a unique colour. Mysterious Habitats in this context offers a kind of prelude to the Sonata but also has a relationship with the rondo form employed by Couperin. Mysterious Habitats, dedicated to the guitarist Sharon Wayne, begins in five/four time with a simple phrase and a steady rhythm. This develops into a dialogue between bass and treble, growing in complexity, modulating through various key changes in a perpetual motion.

Sonata 3, dedicated to the Swiss guitarist Dominique Phillot and Claudio Verdon, was commissioned by the Festival International de la Guitare de Fribourg, and published by Doberman-Yppan in 2010. It is a truly virtuosic work in four movements with immense technical challenges. The sonata is a rich blend of compositional inspiration including the use of Messiaen modes, the opening theme from Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), with influences also from the Renaissance, jazz and Balkan music.

Xavier Lara describes the complexities of the composition: The work opens with voices of ascending and descending modes with a sense of fluidity, the tempo constantly changing. Then the composer switches from rubato quavers to a tempo semiquavers, the resultant virtuoso section recalling the opening but played at twice the speed. After a bridge passage, the music starts again with the original slow tempo. Three efforts for a climactic crescendo follow, the first developing with room to breathe, the second bringing in an inconclusive accelerando. On the third crescendo the tempo is doubled with rapid notes seeming to fly from the guitar in all directions. The same bridge passage now returns in a more developed form. For the last time the music grows from the bass to the top, the tempo being extremely varied. (Stravinsky’s theme can be found in the bass and in the concluding soft notes of the movement.)

The second movement begins with an improvisational introduction, the bass line being reminiscent of the passionate singing of Balkan folk music. Starting quietly the music develops to an impressive fortissimo, all the time with an F natural pedal in the bass, the sixth string of the guitar being tuned up from E to F. As the piece reaches its loudest intensity Stravinsky’s theme comes in the treble, followed by a new ethereal section of lento rubato. Once more Stravinsky’s melody ends the movement.

The third movement is like a scherzo employing complex rhythmic changes where the time signature alters from bar to bar. Though the rhythms evoke eastern music there are also elements of jazz feeling. The final section of this piece has a consistent rhythmic pulse however. At the finale we once again hear Stravinsky’s theme in the treble.

The final movement, which follows classical sonata form, also deploys complex rhythmic patterns. Stravinsky’s theme plays a central role here, constantly recurring along with references to themes from the earlier movements. This development climaxes with passages akin to Rodrigo’s harp techniques, imparting the feeling of spinning and more spinning. After a short bridge section we reprise the beginning of the fourth movement, progressing into a series of fortissimo lines and chords. Finally the lines disappear to leave just the violent chords and a heavy F pedal in the bass.

Graham Wade

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