BRITISH GUITAR MUSIC (Graham Anthony Devine) (Naxos: 8.557040)
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British Guitar Music
Walton Maxwell Davies Rawsthorne Berkeley Rodney Bennett
Julian Bream was the inspiration for many of the worksby British composers for the guitar. Building on thework of the great guitarist Andres Segovia, Breamcommissioned music from a number of composers withinternational reputations, thus creating a whole newrepertoire of guitar music, which had until then belongedlargely to the sound world of Spain and Latin America.
At the same time Julian Bream played an important r??lein the revival of interest in the Elizabethan lute, with hisrecitals of solo lute music, accompaniments for singerssuch as Peter Pears and Robert Tear, concerts with theharpsichordist George Malcolm and the establishment ofhis own consort, bringing early music to a new audience.
The present recording begins with WilliamWalton's only piece for solo guitar, his five Bagatelles.
Dedicated to Malcolm Arnold, these miniatures havewon firm favour among guitarists. They were firstperformed by Julian Bream in 1972. When Bream hadfirst asked him to write a piece for solo guitar, Waltonhad expressed some uncertainty in taking on such a task.
As he later remarked, \never having thought of writingfor the solo guitar I asked Julian for a fingerboard chart,which would explain what the guitar could do. Imanaged to write some rather pretty pieces for himexcept that the first six notes of the first piece all need tobe played on the open strings. So when he begins toplay, the audience will probably think he's tuning thebloody thing up!"Walton need not have worried: with its fanfare-likeopening, the first Bagatelle seizes the attention at once.
The first section is full of charm and wit fused with jazzyharmonies. This leads to a more melancholic midsection,where a beautiful reflective melody is setagainst lush accompanying chords. A return to theopening material is heard before a conclusion intriumphant style. The second Bagatelle is slightlyreminiscent of Satie, with its hypnotic accompanimentset underneath a cool, breezy melody. The third of theset, entitled Alla Cubana, uses the syncopated rhythmsoften found in Latin-American music. The serene fourthBagatelle leads to a virtuoso tour-de-force fifth, anexciting climax to the set.
One of the leading British composers of today, PeterMaxwell Davies has written compositions that cover awide variety of forms and musical styles, includingworks for the guitar. Farewell to Stromness was, in fact,originally a piano solo from a set of cabaret-style piecescalled The Yellow Cake Revue. It is a simple, hauntinglament, such as a Scottish piper or fiddler might haveplayed. The present arrangement is by Timothy Walker.
Alan Rawsthorne abandoned studies of dentistryand of architecture to enter the Royal ManchesterCollege of Music in 1925, at the age of nineteen,studying the piano with Frank Merrick and later, abroad,with Egon Petri. His Elegy for guitar was his lastcomposition, left unfinished at his death in 1971 andcompleted by Julian Bream. It is a moving work, full ofpassion and deep emotion, and from its broody darkopening Rawsthorne creates an atmosphere of sadnessand despair. A hectic toccata-like section follows beforea return to the opening section, in a work that seems apremonition of mortality.
In 1957 Lennox Berkeley wrote his Sonatina,Op. 52, for Julian Bream, who gave the firstperformance the following year. The first movement isin traditional sonata form, its lyrical opening reminiscentof English folk-song. The second movement suggestsFrench influence, a characteristic trait of a composer ofpartly French ancestry and a pupil of Nadia Boulanger.
It begins with a simple motif that twists and turnsthroughout a variety of moods, magically recalling thereflective delicacy of some of Debussy's piano music.
The final movement is in rondo form.
The same composer's Theme and Variations,Op. 77, was written in 1970 for the Italian guitaristAngelo Gilardino who gave the first performance thefollowing year in Italy. Again as in the Sonatina, bothEnglish and French influences can be heard. The themeis followed by six short and finely crafted variations,with a final variation of particular beauty, ending withan air of meditation.
Berkeley's Quatre pi?¿ces pour la guitare werewritten when the composer was a student of NadiaBoulanger in Paris between 1927 and 1932. Berkeleyhad been present at Andres Segovia's Paris debut recitalin 1924, a performance that must have made a strongimpression on the young composer as the Quatre pi?¿ceswere dedicated to the great Spanish guitarist. Although avery early composition, it demonstrates the composer'sunderstanding of writing for the guitar and of itspossibilities, confirmed in his later guitar pieces.
Curiously Segovia never performed the Quatre pi?¿ces,which were found among his papers only in 2001.
Richard Rodney Bennett is one of the most versatileof British composer/performers. His compositions rangefrom solo instrumental pieces to full symphonic works,and from brass band compositions to opera. As if allthese activities were not enough he writes film musicand regularly performs as a jazz pianist, singer andcomposer, touring extensively throughout the world.
The Five Impromptus of 1968 were his firstcompositions for the guitar, and were dedicated to JulianBream. Each one explores a different mood, restless,tranquil, gritty or sensual.Graham Devine