About this Recording
8.578176 - GORGEOUS GUITAR - Best Loved Classical Guitar Music

Gorgeous Guitar
Best loved classical guitar music


The guitar, or in particular the acoustic or classical guitar, is in many ways a perfect instrument. It is very light and portable, and can be used for strumming the chords of a simple song to the kind of technical and expressive heights found in the music in this programme. Like the piano it can function as a melodic instrument in its own right while at the same time providing its own accompaniment, and even though its sound is relatively soft it has sufficient projection to work well in the concert hall, the intimacy of its timbres drawing the listener in and being a large part of its charm.

The very earliest origins of the modern guitar are still the subject of debate, but plucked guitar-like instruments can be seen in artworks from ancient Egyptian and southern Mesopotamian civilisations. Round-backed instruments of the lute family such as the tanbur and setar are more direct descendants of these examples and are still played in this region. The history of the guitar in Europe can be traced to the Renaissance, by which time its familiar curved sidewalls were already taking shape. The 15th and early 16th century saw the development of the vihuela in Spain, which was shaped like a guitar but tuned like a lute, and the 17th century saw a fashion for the Baroque guitar which was made with doublestring courses like a mandolin. It was only by the middle of the 18th century that the character of the guitar developed in its bass range and playing technique to the extent that it began to resemble the instrument that we know today, and the Romantic guitar at the turn of the 19th century saw the earliest examples of the sixstring configuration in use in modern guitars. Much experimentation by guitar makers has resulted in an instrument that hides a good deal of sophisticated design under its simple exterior, with its sound enhanced by a range of struts, brackets and joinery capable of delivering the refined musicality and expressive range available to the modern player.

It is known that Franz Schubert had no piano in his work room, but that he owned at least one guitar. This might seem trivial, but examining this fact a little further reveals some points of interest about a period and place in which the guitar had greater significance than almost any other instrument. The heyday of the guitar in Western Europe was during the early 19th century, with important centres in Paris and Vienna. A guitar was much cheaper than a piano and easier to maintain, and with its gentle sound was ideal for the salons of the upper classes, who in any case were inclined to withdraw into their luxurious homes during the turmoil and unrest of the Napoleonic period. Schubert’s Vienna was fertile ground for virtuoso guitarists, and Viennese instrument maker Johann Georg Stauffer (1778–1853) became renowned for his innovative approach to guitar design. He invented a new mechanical system for tuning the strings, which up to that point had been done with wooden pegs much like a violin. He made the instrument more compact and with a narrower waist and shorter strings, used different woods such as mahogany, experimented with various kinds of varnish and veneer, and searched for improved sound by changing the position of internal strengthening bars and struts. These new instruments took over from old-fashioned models and were of course much sought after by professional virtuosos and amateurs alike. Schubert himself owned a Stauffer instrument made in 1815. Political unrest in the mid-1800s curtailed cultural activity and led to the demise of that particular phase of the guitar’s popularity in Vienna, but these and other moments of technical advance in the history of the guitar have all left their mark, leading to the instruments we see and hear today.

Berlioz was of the opinion that only a good guitar player could write good guitar music, and much of the music in this programme was indeed composed by musicians who were virtuoso guitarists themselves. There are several names that have proven influential in the repertoire and style of performance most commonly seen on the modern concert stage. Fernando Sor (1778–1839) is the earliest represented here; a multi-faceted musician who was considered the greatest guitarist of his day. His studies and lessons are still in print and very much in use by players today. Alongside his contemporary Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829), Sor is one of a number of 18th and early 19th century playercomposers who established a repertory of ambitiously large and easier small-scale works for the guitar both in solo and in chamber music settings. Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909) laid the foundations for the 20th century classical guitar and was responsible for increasing interest and popularity in the instrument through his performing style, original compositions and transcriptions of already existing music. Tárrega agreed to teach the young and self-taught Andrés Segovia (1893–1987) but died before they could meet. Segovia went on to become one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but his musical legacy went far beyond his superb performances. His influence spread to Central and South America, inspiring composers such as Manuel Ponce (1882–1948) and Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) to write for the guitar. Segovia’s transcriptions of Classical and Baroque works also brought the guitar ever further into the mainstream of the concert circuit, and the innumerable works he commissioned from leading composers has created an entire world of new repertoire.

Contemporary composers have a rich tradition on which to build, and plenty of space for innovation and a wealth of virtuoso performers hungry for new music when it comes to writing for the guitar. Numerous international guitar competitions commission new works as part of their requirements for participants, and Cuban composer Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) has created virtually a one-man guitar revolution with innovative solo works and unique projects that include music for large guitar ensembles brought together at festivals, including one festival in his name. The practice of arranging pre-existing music for guitar and making it accessible to ever more players and audiences follows a long tradition that still continues, as can be heard on this album. The expressive range and depth of the guitar gives it a unique musical voice that speaks to people with a charm and directness that has held it in ever greater affection all over the world.

 1  Piazzolla: Libertango (arr. ??? for guitar)

Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992) holds a unique position in the history of the Tango. He transformed it from its traditional roots into Nuevo Tango, a style that incorporates elements of jazz and classical music to deepen the expressive range of this dance form, making it suitable for the concert stage. In one of his most famous compositions, the title Libertango combines Libertad (Spanish for ‘liberty’) and Tango, symbolising this break from those old forms, and this piece is now often taken to represent liberty in general.

 2  Albéniz: Suite española No. 1, Op. 47 – No. 5. Asturias (Leyenda) (arr. N. Kraft for guitar)

The soul of the guitar is often thought of as residing in Spain, and perhaps the most popular Spanish music is that composed by Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909). Albéniz in fact wrote no music for the guitar, but clearly had his national instrument in his ‘mind’s’ ear’ when composing for the piano, and his Suite española is now often played in transcriptions for guitar. Inspired by various regions or cities, these pieces evoke Spain’s haunting and mysterious character. Named after a mountainous northern province, Asturias is subtitled Leyenda or ‘Legend’, suggesting the musical telling of a mountain tale that grows more exaggerated with each phrase.

 3  Morel: Danza brasilera

The long and distinguished career of Argentinian composer and performer Jorge Morel (b. 1931) has made him a legendary figure amongst guitarists. Written in the 1970s, Danza brasilera has become one of Morel’s most popular compositions. Marked Allegro (Tempo di Samba), this piece combines rhythmic chords with dazzling arpeggio patterns and snatches of catchy melody. With its echoes of dances such as sambas and choros, this memorable work captures the essence of Brazilian music.

 4  Tárrega: Capricho árabe

Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909) was a Spanish composer and classical guitarist of the late 19th-century Romantic period. He is considered to have laid the foundations for the guitar’s popularity in the 20th century, and his reputation as one of the greatest guitarists of all time resulting in his being called ‘the father of the classical guitar’. Capricho árabe is a typically colourful Spanish score, packed full of crowd-pleasing virtuosity and vivacity.

 5  Myers: Cavatina (arr. J. Williams for guitar)

Stanley Myers (1930–1993) composed scores for over 60 films and television series, but he is best known for his guitar piece Cavatina, originally composed for the 1970 film The Walking Stick and later more famously used as the theme for The Deer Hunter. The arrangement heard here is by Australian guitarist John Williams, and this gentle, hymn-like setting of the delicate melody beautifully expresses the subtle, inward magic of the guitar.

 6  Villa-Lobos: Choros No. 1

The mother of Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887– 1959) dismissed the guitar as ‘an instrument played by scoundrels’, but despite her displeasure (she wanted him to become a doctor) it was the instrument of his formative years and one to which he returned throughout his life. Choros No. 1 can be heard as a musical double portrait of its two dedicatees: the enigmatic wit of legendary choro guitarist Sátiro Bilhar, combined with a sublime blend of melancholy and disenchantment that characterised the charismatic pianistcomposer Ernesto Nazareth.

 7  Rodrigo: 3 Piezas españolas – No. 1. ‘Fandango’

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901–1999) is probably the most outstanding composer for guitar of the 20th century, being particularly renowned for his Concierto de Aranjuez. Tres piezas españolas, written in 1954 and dedicated to Andrés Segovia, is amongst Rodrigo’s most important contribution to solo guitar repertoire. The first of the set, Fandango, is based on a dance form that is both formal in its construction and also lively and witty as a piece, with plenty of typically Spanish flavour and some unusual resonances from those ‘out of tune’ intervals built into the melody line.

 8  Barrios Mangoré: Un Sueño en la Floresta

Agustin Barrios (1885–1944) was a Paraguayan guitarist and composer who achieved renown in South America and Europe but, like that of several others, his career was overshadowed by that of Andrés Segovia. It was not until the 1970s that more than a few of his many compositions became known. Un sueño en la floresta (‘A Dream in the Magic Garden’) is a spellbinding exercise in tremolo, utterly idiomatic to the guitar, as are all of Barrios’s works.

 9  Domeniconi: Koyunbaba Suite, Op. 9 – IV. Presto

Koyunbaba has become most well-known and best-loved compositions by Carlo Domeniconi (b. 1947). Requiring unusual tuning, Koyunbaba evokes a world of Eastern mystery. The title can be interpreted as ‘shepherd’ (Koyun = sheep, baba = father) or secondly as the name of a 13thcentury holy man who lived in south-west Turkey in an area that now bears his name. The two meanings are brought together by Domeniconi in a truly virtuosic work that builds into an extended meditation on both landscape and humanity.

 10  Tárrega: Gran vals

Gran vals by Francesco Tárrega (1852– 1909) was written in 1902, just before a triumphant tour of Italy in 1903 during which his fame in musical circles became almost legendary. Tárrega’s catalogue of works comprises close to a hundred pieces, but bars 13–16 of the Gran vals must be one of the most frequently heard tunes of our time, as it was used by Nokia to create the first identifiable musical ringtone on a mobile phone.

 11  Brouwer: El Decameron negro – II. La huida de los amantes

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939), a Cuban and a multi-talented musical polymath, places a high value on the quality of imagination in composition, and El Decameron negro demonstrates this belief in its representation of three ballads on African stories. La huida de los amantes or ‘The Flight of the Lovers’ begins boldly and steadily becomes more hurried, its depiction of echoes a central effect in this movement.

 12  Sor: 24 Leçons progressives, Op. 31– No. 12 in D minor

Fernando Sor (1778–1839) was not only one of the great guitarists of his era but was also a major composer for the instrument, described by a contemporary critic as ‘the Beethoven of the guitar’. His desire for the guitar to represent a miniature orchestra in timbre is a distinctive feature of his many compositions. The 24 Leçons progressives offer an entire lexicon for any student, with No. 12 presenting rapid arpeggios interspersed with melodic themes in thirds and other intervals.

 13  Torroba: Aires de La Mancha – No. 1. Jerigonza

An outstanding figure in the history of modern Spanish music, Federico Moreno Torroba (1891–1982) is best known for guitar works with a traditional style that embrace the folklore and character of the country. Aires de La Mancha or ‘Airs of La Mancha’ is evocative of this distinctive region in central Spain, its first movement, Jerigonza, referring to a language game popular among children in both Spain and Latin America.

 14  Falla: El amor brujo – Danza ritual del fuego (arr. C. Gruber and P. Maklar for two guitars)

Manuel de Falla (1876–1946) was one of Spain’s most important musicians in the first half of the 20th century. His ballet music El amor brujo (‘The Bewitched Love’) is about romance between a gypsy couple, and the Danza ritual del fuego (‘Ritual Fire Dance’) is one of its best-known movements; a wild pagan dance that attempts to drive away a jealous ghost.

 15  Ponce: Estrellita

Mexican composer Manuel Ponce (1882– 1948) wrote Estrellita, his most beloved song, in 1912. He claimed later that it was inspired by the clear Mexican sky observed from a night train between Mexico City and his home in Aguascalientes. The song was published in 1914, but Ponce failed to secure the copyright properly and consequently never received the royalties and financial security it certainly would have provided. He arranged the song for guitar in 1925.

 16  Tárrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra

Undoubtedly the most famous composition Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909) is Recuerdos de la Alhambra, a celebration of the Moorish palace called the Alhambra in Granada, one of the world’s finest historical monuments. This superb example of Tárrega’s wistful creation of atmosphere is a concise and delightful melody that is tastefully and memorably harmonised. By exploiting the tremolo technique, a guitarist’s only device for simulating an unbroken legato line, Tárrega demonstrates the poet’s adage that ‘the song of the piano is a discourse, the song of the harp is an elegy, but the song of the guitar is a song’.

 17  J.S. Bach: Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 – VII. Bourrée (arr. V. Hoh for guitar)

The Partita No. 1 in B minor BWV 1002 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) is a piece for solo violin composed some time before 1720. The bourrée was a French dance that became popular in the royal courts around a century before Bach came to use it as one of the dance movements in his suites, appearing here as the lively but refined closing movement to this First Partita.

 18  Barrios Mangoré: La catedral – II. Andante religioso

Agustin Barrios Mangoré was the first guitarist to realise the possibilities of the new art of recording, leaving us more than 50 tracks played for the Atlanta and Odeon record labels between 1910 and 1942. La catedral is acknowledged as one of his finest compositions, and the Andante religioso was inspired by the cathedral of San José, Montevideo, represented by its evocations of bells and the sonorities of the organ performing the music of J.S. Bach.

 19  Paganini: 24 Caprices, Op. 1 – No. 24 in A minor (arr. ??? for guitar)

The career of Nicolò Paganini (1782– 1840) as a supreme virtuoso violinist made him one of music’s first superstars, yet he was also a fine guitarist. Exploiting the violin in daring, exciting and entirely new ways, the 24 Caprices for unaccompanied violin are Paganini’s most celebrated compositions. No. 24 in A minor is probably the most famous of these Caprices, its catchy tune having been taken up by innumerable musicians in versions ranging from orchestra to rock band. This arrangement keeps to the original theme, 11 variations and finale.

Dominy Clements
© Naxos Rights US, Inc.

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