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Zane Turner
MusicWeb International, April 2009

Mauro Giuliani is most famous for his prodigious abilities as a classical guitarist; he was also an accomplished player of cello and flute. As a composer his output includes not only numerous works for solo guitar but also guitar in combination with orchestra, voice, flute, violin and piano.

With respect to the intrinsic worth of Giuliani’s compositions, opinion varies.  Although faced with a dearth of guitar repertory, the great Francisco Tarrega (1852–1909) appears to have totally ignored the works of Giuliani and his contemporaries, Sor and Aguado. A review of some twenty original Tarrega concert programmes reveals no original works for guitar except those from his own pen. He sometimes resorted to transcriptions and arrangements of music by rather obscure and insignificant composers of the time. However in the case of Enrique Granados, a personal friend, he neither arranged any of his music, nor performed any on guitar in the aforementioned programmes.

Giuliani and his contemporaries fared no better in the hands of Andrés Segovia. Except for some minor works, Segovia totally ignored the work of Giuliani. He was ambivalent and not particularly complimentary about the compositions of Fernando Sor.  With regard to the latter, his work is capable of standing on its own merit, independent of Segovia’s acerbic remarks.

The review disc presents three original works by Giuliani for guitar and violin. In contrast to Paganini whose duets for violin and guitar invariably found the violin with the dominant part, in two of these three works Giuliani gives primacy to the violin.  The balance is more even in op. 63. If Tarrega and Segovia were uninspired by Giuliani’s solo works, the music presented here would probably not have changed their dispositions.

The original edition of op. 25, published around 1812, has a rather ornate and elaborate title page. In the liner-notes musicologist Brian Jeffrey suggests that this was intended to connote an important and major work. Regardless of the publisher’s mooted intentions, it does not compare with some of Giuliani’s better efforts. One example is op. 85 for flute and guitar.  Both Tarrega and Segovia may have had a ‘Giuliani epiphany’ had they been able to audition the version of this composition played by James Galway and Kazuhito Yamashita (RCA 5879-2-RC). This is one of Giuliani’s better compositions for two instruments and interpretively, Giuliani at his very best. The virtuosity that both instrumentalists display would likely make most compositions sound special.

Kim Sjøgren and Lars Hannibal, the ‘Duo Concertante’, have been playing together for almost three decades. They have performed more than one thousand concerts and made ten CDs. Interestingly Lars Hannibal is married to the outstanding recorder-player Michala Petri with whom he often performs as a duo. The ‘Our’ part of the label on which the review disc was released, refers to Lars Hannibal and Michala Petri. A visit to the website for Our Recordings reveals a number of releases either with Petri and Hannibal together, or in combination with our musicians.

The music presented here, despite the fact that it is not particularly memorable, is nonetheless well played by the Duo Concertante; in fact it would be difficult to imagine a better execution of any of the three works presented on this disc. On the basis of their performance one is tempted to explore other items of their recorded repertory: Paganini, Sarasate, Grieg and Nielsen. The OUR Recordings website provides unusually generous samples for audition.

The Musician Danish Music Magazine, May 2008

Kim Sjøgren and Lars Hannibal, two of Danish music “heavies”, recorded this excellent CD back in 1988 (at that time probably on tape!) of music by Italian composer and guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani.

Charming, wonderful, early Italian romantic, in an interplay between the two musicians that is almost indescribable. The interplay is of course a result of a thorough acquaintance with each other, through numerous concerts and CD activities together over many years.

Uncle Dave Lewis, February 2008

Guitar players love the work of Mauro Giuliani—it is so well voiced within the instrument’s capabilities, and the music itself of an echt-classic kind that is bestowed with more prodigality to instruments like the violin, piano and the like. That doesn’t mean that a large listening public is likewise attendant to Giuliani; many find his music rather featureless and dull, fully belonging to the transition between classicism and the romantic and not truly worthy of serious consideration. Overexposure of Giuliani on American classical public radio has not helped his cause much either—presentation within the context of repeated, ingratiating pledges for support and “happy talk” newsbreaks is liable to exhaust the appeal of even a composer as sunny and easy on the ears as Giuliani tends to be.

Lars Hannibal—a guitarist so earnest and dedicated he can spin a mere technical exercise into gold—has come to Giuliani’s rescue on OUR Recordings’ splendid Mauro Giuliani: Works for Violin and Guitar. Recorded in 1988 with violinist Kim Sjøgren for EMI, this disc is making its reentry on Hannibal’s own Our Recordings imprint, which he co-founded with recorder virtuoso Michala Petri. Sjøgren and Hannibal’s rendering of these three works—the Duo Concertante, Op. 25 (1812), Six Variations, Op. 63 (1814) and the Gran Duetto Concertante, Op. 52 (1814)—are anything but dull and demonstrate a true understanding of Giuliani’s idiom, which more than anything else is distinctively Italian in flavor. Sjøgren and Hannibal’s have a sincere grasp of the variability to which Giuliani adopted romantic ideas—in the Duo Concertante of 1812; they employ a buoyant classical tempo with only a slight tug of expressiveness, whereas in the 1814 works they are considerably more flexible. This is the result of considerable study invested in the fine details of expression within each piece; the absorption of romantically derived concepts of Giuliani is inconsistent from one work to the next and vexingly rather anti-chronological as well. It makes a difference from just picking up one of Giuliani’s works and playing it off the page. The sense of symbiosis of the two players—as necessary here as in the more famous compositions for violin and guitar by Paganini—is clearly apparent in these warm and generous performances of Giuliani.

Jakob Holm
Kristeligt Dagblad, January 2008

Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829) is currently mainly known to lovers of classical guitar music.  When he lived he was an unavoidable Italian guitar virtuoso and one of the last great classical spokesmen for his instrument until its resurgence at the beginning of the 20th century. 

After a successful European Tour, he settled down in Vienna in 1806.  Despite the fact that Italians preferred opera over classical guitar, he soon became part of the Viennese establishment.  Apart from performing others’ music, he also composed, and three of his works for violin and guitar are recorded by Duo Concertante (Kim Sjøgren on violin and Lars Hannibal on guitar). 

As mentioned, although the guitar was Giuliani’s preferred instrument, it is interesting that the focus on this cd is on the violin, where the guitar has more of an accompaniment function.  The music is sweet, languorous, seductive, and particularly romantic!  The comparison could be made with today’s informal and artistically unambitious easy listening, that do not move the listener but rather acts as a delicious background sound.  But being played so cleverly, one can only nod one’s head in appreciation of two such great musicians as Sjøgren and Hannibal. 

The three works are rhythmically well modulated and melodically inspired, and it is great that those recordings from 1988 are released on a CD perfect for lazy Sundays!

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