About this Recording

50th Anniversary
Michele Pittaluga Guitar Competition, Alessandria
Laureates 2006–2015


Nikita KOSHKIN (b. 1956)
The Prince’s Toys
(Toy Soldiers, The Prince’s Coach)

Nikita Koshkin first appeared on the International concert scene in 1980 with the performance of The Prince’s Toys Suite by Vladimir Mikulka at the Cannington Festival in England, organised and directed by John W. Duarte. Without question it was Duarte’s indefatigable efforts in the promotion of this remarkable piece that brought it to the attention of guitarists. First published in the Soviet Union in 1981, it has been subsequently published anew in Japan, and more recently in France. The story line, obviously based on an old nursery rhyme, is clearly annunciated in the titles of the several segments.

This is programmatic music at its best, drawing its inspiration, one suspects, from earlier Russian masterpieces such as Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Swan Lake ballets and other Russian compositions dealing with children’s fantasies. The musical language itself, though, is unique and unprecedented in the guitar repertoire, particularly through the means of revolutionary technical devices invented by the composer.

Note by Matanya Ophee

Joaquín RODRIGO (1901–1999)
Elogio de la guitarra

Joaquín Rodrigo’s contribution to the guitar is now appreciated as one of the central pillars of the modern concert repertoire. Though his compositions for the solo instrument comprise no more than some 25 titles, the significance of his output is greater than the sum of its parts because of his extraordinary insight into the nature of the guitar. Moreover, his seminal masterpiece, the Concierto de Aranjuez, has proved to be one of the most popular classical works created in the twentieth century.

Elogio de la guitarra (In Praise of the Guitar) (1971), is an extended work of great charm and momentum in three intense movements. Rodrigo delighted in writing introductions and his comments on this composition are of particular interest: “My intention was to demand a precise and infallible technique of the guitarist, as well as a profound sensitivity to the framework and thematics of the music. I have composed my ‘challenge’ to the guitarist, starting rather comfortably with the ‘sonata’ form. The first movement, Allegro, is made up of two parts: the first is a chordal progression embellished by scale triplets. This leads to a melodic theme which combines at the end of the movement with chordal writing.”

Rodrigo’s wife, Victoria Kamhi explained that in this work Rodrigo ‘managed to encompass the brilliant possibilities of classical guitar music, as well as the diabolical requirements made of its player, due to the characteristics of this instrument’. Elogio de la guitarra remains one of the most technically demanding works in the contemporary repertoire and a thrilling experience for the listener.

J.S. BACH (1685–1750)
Sonata II, BWV 1003

Aspects of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin have attracted guitarists since the nineteenth century when Francisco Tárrega made arrangements of the Fugue (Sonata I, BWV 1001) and Bourrée (Partita I, BWV 1002). Andrés Segovia’s transcription of the mighty Chaconne (Partita II, BWV 1004), received worldwide attention following its première in Paris in 1935, but it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that entire suites were adapted for guitar and performed in recitals.

The third movement of the Sonata II, BWV 1003, in A minor, Andante, has been described by the violinist, Jaap Schröder, as ‘one of the most remarkable movements in the baroque literature for unaccompanied violin’. He compares this aria to a duet between a singer and the lute. A straightforward ‘walking’ bass supports the beautiful melody, once again ideally suited to a plucked instrument.

Manuel PONCE (1882–1948)
Sonatina meridional

Manuel Ponce was the founding father of twentieth century Mexican music. His pupil, Carlos Chávez (1899–1978) said of him: ‘It was Ponce who created a real consciousness of the richness of Mexican folk art.’ Segovia and Ponce first met in Mexico in 1923, and from that time onwards the composer devoted himself to writing many pieces for the guitar, nearly all of them dedicated to Segovia. Of these compositions, which include preludes, suites, a concerto, variations, several sonatas, and works for guitar and harpsichord, Segovia has written: ‘Large or small, they are, all of them, pure and beautiful.’

Ponce’s Sonatina meridional (Sonatina of the South) was completed in Paris in December 1930. Segovia had requested the composer to write ‘a Sonatina—not Sonatina—of a purely Spanish character…something as gracious as the one by Torroba and with much more musical substance’. In a further letter written in May 1932, Segovia announced that he intended to give the première of the work at the Salle Gaveau, Paris. It was published in 1939 in the Schotts Segovia Guitar Archives under the title of Sonatina Meridional with subtitles for each movement. Segovia first recorded the work for HMV in June 1949. The first movement, Campo, suggests the atmosphere of the Iberian countryside.

Antonio JOSÉ (1902–1936)

Antonio José was praised by Maurice Ravel as a composer who would ‘become the greatest Spanish musician of our century’. But his arrest and execution near his home city of Burgos in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War cast his music into a subsequent obscurity which has only recently been remedied. A monograph about his life and work has been published by the municipality of Burgos.Considerable interest was aroused by the discovery in the late 1980s of the Sonata, which Antonio José finished on 23 August 1933. One movement was given its première in Burgos by Regino Sáinz de la Maza in November 1934.

The Sonata offers further perspectives on the expansion of the guitar repertoire during the early twentieth-century Spanish musical renaissance. The work established Antonio José’s reputation beside those of his distinguished contemporaries who respected the guitar as an expressive medium. José’s Sonata is a composition requiring virtuosity as well as emotional depth and insight.

Lute Partita in E major, BWV 1006a

In 1921 Dr Hans Dagobert Bruger published his edition of Bach’s ‘lute suites’, allotting numbers to each suite, thus bringing in the slightly inaccurate concept as if Bach himself had organised the composition of these suites in a deliberate order. In Bruger’s scheme of things, the Partita in E major was designated as Lute Suite IV, and for various reasons has long been regarded by guitarists as perhaps the most technically challenging of the so-called ‘lute suites’.

The instrumentation of the autograph copy, now in Tokyo, is not explicitly stated. Wolfgang Schmieder, the eminent scholar and author of the Bach catalogue, the Bach-Werke- Verzeichnis (BWV), even wondered if it was intended for harp, though it could be for keyboard, baroque lute or even luteharpsichord, a keyboard instrument strung with gut to imitate lute timbres.

In the Staatsbibliothek Berlin-Dahlem are two eighteenth century copies and an autograph copy in a violin version. J. S. Bach twice orchestrated the Prelude as part of Cantatas, BWV 120A and BWV 29. It is clear that in the eighteenth century composers were accustomed to making arrangements of specific pieces for a wide range of instruments. For that reason it is not surprising that this particular suite is very idiomatic to the technical and expressive qualities of the modern classical guitar.

The Prélude, consists of broken chords and bariolage (lit. ‘medley of colours’) string passages in perpetual motion, creating textures reminiscent of the lute preludes of Sylvius Leopold Weiss, the great eighteenth-century master of the baroque lute, personally well acquainted with Bach himself.

Enrique GRANADOS (1867–1916)
Valses poéticos

Enrique Granados, like Isaac Albéniz, was one of the great Spanish romantic composers. Though neither Granados nor Albéniz wrote directly for the guitar, their art constantly evoked, as Manuel de Falla expressed it, ‘certain guitaristic values’.

Valses poéticos were part of a collection for piano under the title of Valses de amor from which Granados selected seven pieces and added an introduction, dedicating the work to Joaquín Malats, like himself a distinguished pianist. The composition opens not with a poetic waltz but with a vivace molto introduction in duple time. The succeeding dances create various moods associated with the waltz, such as the melodic, the nostalgic, the humorous, the elegant, and the sentimental. The penultimate movement is a vigorous presto in six-eight time reminiscent of the style brillant of Chopin, and then the first waltz returns to provide a serene coda.

Manuel PONCE
Tres Canciones populares mexicanas
(La Pajarera, Por tí mi corazón, La Valentina)

Manuel Ponce’s output included five arrangements of wellknown Mexican songs and in 1928 three of these were published by Schott in Segovia’s guitar editions under the title of Tres Canciones populares mexicanas (Three Popular Mexican Songs).

The first of these, La Pajarera (The Aviary) tells the story of the beloved Rosita, whose lover wishes to capture singing wild birds for her, including goldfinches and sparrows. But the little aviary full of singing birds is really the lover’s heart. Por tí mi corazón (For you my heart), is a beautiful love-song in which the poet declares his devotion.

Finally Valentina, one of the popular songs from the Mexican Revolution, includes the sentiments, ‘If I have to die tomorrow, better to die today…But only if I can see you!’

Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683–1764)
Le rappel des oiseaux • La Dauphine

These two pieces were transcribed from the harpsichord repertoire. Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the greatest names in the history of French music, is renowned as a composer of operas, cantatas, motets, and harpsichord music and also as one of the eminent theorists of the eighteenth century. In the early part of his career he was appointed organist for a number of influential posts at cathedrals in Avignon, Clermont, Dijon, and Lyon. In 1722 he moved permanently to Paris where the first of his theoretical works, a 450 page Traité de l’harmonie (Treatise of Harmony), was published, followed four years later by his Nouveau système de musique théorique (New System of Musical Theory).

After 1733, Rameau embarked on the composition of a great amount of dramatic music, operas and opera-ballets, some of which has since been lost. This area of his output amounted to more than a hundred separate acts and include the famous tragédies, Hippolyte et Aricie and Castor et Pollux as well as the opera-ballets Les Indes galantes and Les fêtes d’Hebé. In 1706, 1724 and 1729, he published his first collections of keyboard works. Le rappel de oiseaux (The Call of the Birds), was printed in Pièces de clavecin avec une méthode pour la méchanique des doigts (Pieces for Keyboard with a Method for the Mechanism of the Fingers) (1724). La Dauphine is a late example of Rameau’s harpsichord pieces and was composed in celebration of the marriage of the Dauphin to Maria-Josepha of Saxony in 1747.

Both of these transcriptions from Rameau’s keyboard music represent baroque imagistic or early ‘impressionistic’ writing rather than falling into the category of dance movements within a suite. Le rappel des oiseaux, in two-four time, uses a number of effects to mimic birdsong such as imitative moments between left and right hands on the harpsichord, passages played by both hands together in intervals of sixths, and the subtle use of appropriate ornamentation.

La Dauphine is naturally a more stately composition, based on three beats in the bar. After an initial flourish of embellishment, flowing semiquavers take over in the first section of the work. At times the pealing of wedding bells is strongly implicit. The first half is contrasted against the characteristically French dotted rhythms and intricate ornamentation at the beginning of the second section, until once again the fluent semiquavers return, this time in a lower register. At the end, there is a dignified quasi cadenza to round off the composition.

Invocación y Danza

Joaquín Rodrigo, composer of the renowned Concierto de Aranjuez, is one of the great Spanish composers of the twentieth century. He extended the romantic impressionist tradition of Albéniz, Granados and Falla, but was deeply influenced by French music, having studied from 1927 to 1932 with Paul Dukas in Paris. Though blind from childhood Rodrigo wrote almost two hundred works, including orchestral, choral and ballet music, many concertos, a host of songs, and a quantity of instrumental solos.

The composer’s contribution to the guitar is now one of the central pillars of the modern concert repertoire. Over the years Rodrigo explored the Spanish nature of the guitar, responding to the distinguished history of plucked instruments going back to the sixteenth century. Rodrigo’s compositions for solo guitar comprise no more than some 25 titles. Yet the significance of his output is far greater than the sum of its parts because of his extraordinary insight into the nature of the guitar, developed over many years.

Invocación y Danza (Homenaje a Manuel de Falla) dedicated to the Venezuelan guitarist, Alirio Díaz, won first prize in the 1961 Coupe International de Guitare, held in Paris. The French magazine Combat described the work as ‘a page full of song, poetry, Mediterranean finesse, and elegant writing’.

From a subtle opening of harmonics and fragments of arpeggios, the Invocación flowers into an intricate pattern of melody and broken chords in which delicacy of effect is matched by clarity and complexity. The Danza is the Andalusian polo, a reminder of the last of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs. After the rhythmic opening bars, the music develops into passages of tremolo and brilliant showers of demisemiquavers, the tremolo returning eventually in an extended section. The piece closes with sparse harmonics, a fleeting but expressive reference to a theme from Falla’s ballet, El Amor Brujo, and a final murmuring arpeggio.

Turgay ERDENER (b. 1957): 5 Grotesques (Quasi una marca, Allegro energico)
Leo BROUWER (b. 1939): Sonata (Fandangos y Boleros)

Turgay Erdener (b. 1957) has taught analysis, composition and harmony at the Ankara State Conservatoire since 1979. As a contemporary Turkish composer he has written a considerable amount of incidental scores for stage presentations, operetta and ballet, a number of works for orchestra, as well as chamber and vocal music, and instrumental pieces.

Five Grotesques are full of musical surprises, twists and turns, hence the ‘grotesque’ element. Quasi una marcia, for example, is a light parody of a march, the gestures being jerky and humorous rather than martial. Allegro energico is similarly witty with unexpected textures following quickly one after the other. A middle section offers a contrasting song-like aspect before the reprise of the first section.

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) from Cuba is acknowledged as one of the most challenging and innovative of contemporary musicians. His compositions range from solo guitar pieces to symphonic works, including concertos, chamber music, and many film scores. His prolific output for guitar has developed through various styles embracing the avant-garde and the experimental, as well as neo-romanticism. Sonata, composed in 1990, is dedicated to Julian Bream who gave the première of the work on 27 January 1991, at the Wigmore Hall, London.

The following comments are based on Julian Bream’s note about the piece. The three movements take their unity from a thematic idea introduced at the beginning of the composition, a motif of eight notes with the interval of a major second and minor third. Fandangos y Boleros begins with a short preamble which leads on to the first subject. The second subject is in dotted rhythm accompanied by a double octave pedal. Following the development section, the coda quotes fragments from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral.

William WALTON (1902–1983)
Five Bagatelles
(Allegro, Alla cubana, Con slancio)

Sir William Walton’s Five Bagatelles were written for Julian Bream and dedicated to Malcolm Arnold ‘with admiration and affection for his 50th birthday’. Given their première by Julian Bream at the 1972 Bath Festival they were immediately acknowledged as masterpieces of the contemporary guitar repertoire.

The first Bagatelle is a virtuosic, mercurial piece with an espressivo middle section while Alla cubana is a lyrically effervescent movement with rhythms evoking Latin-American music. The final movement, Con slancio (leaping forward) is full of vivid scalic passages and incisive chords, involving the full range of the fingerboard in a brilliant climax.

Walton also arranged Five Bagatelles for orchestra under the title of Varii Capricci. The music inspired Sir Frederick Ashton to choreograph a ballet performed at Covent Garden as a memorial to the composer in March 1983.

Graham Wade

The ‘Michele Pittaluga’ International Guitar Competition

The “Michele Pittaluga” International Guitar Competition was first held in 1968, on the occasion of the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the city of Alessandria, and in 2017 celebrates its 50th continuous year. Founded and inspired by Michele Pittaluga, it was acknowledged by Andres Segovia and Alirio Diaz (who became its artistic director), and is still one of only a handful of guitar competitions to have achieved genuine international prestige.

The Competition is now organized by a permanent committee chaired by the three children of Michele Pittaluga, with the prime goal of promoting young artists, spreading knowledge of the guitar repertoire, and supporting the guitar in the music world. Throughout its 50 years, many of the Pittaluga Competition’s winners have gone on to significant concert careers. From among these the committee elected Cuban born Marco Tamayo, as artistic director after Alirio Diaz.

The winner is given 25–30 concerts throughout Italy and abroad, in concert halls including Carnegie Hall of New York (supported by the d’Addario foundation), Hermitage theatre of St. Petersburg, (Festival Musical Olympus), Tchaikovsky Hall of Moscow (Guitar virtuosos festival). The Alessandria competition is the only member at the WFIMC (World Federation of International Music Competitions) representing the guitar. In addition, prizes include guitars from famous makers: Sakurai- Kohno, Ramirez, Gallinotti, and Gropp, as well as a CD recording by Naxos International, Dot.guitar scholarships and masterclasses, and sponsorship by Savarez strings. Pittaluga also founded a junior competition to award very young guitarists.

Since 1995 the Pittaluga Competition has been placed under the High Patronage of the Italian President and under Unesco patronage. Many important musicians have taken part as members of the jury or as special guests: Alexandre Tansman, Joaquin Rodrigo, Antonio Lauro, Leo Brouwer, Eliot Fisk, Kazuhito Yamashita, Assad Brothers, Roland Dyens, Norbert Kraft, Ruggero Chiesa, Colin Cooper, Matanya Ophee, Andrea Morricone, Anton Garcia Abril, Luciano Chailly,to name but a few.

Michele Pittaluga died in 1995, from which time his daughter, Micaela Pittaluga took directorship of the competition, along with her brother Marcello and sister Maria Luisa, to mount this important annual event.

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