COSTE: Guitar Works, Vol. 1 (Jeffrey McFadden) (Naxos: 8.554192)
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Guitar Works Opp. 7-9,11-13
Napoleon Coste was France's greatest guitar composer and, together withMertz, the guitar composer most representative of the Romantic style. Coste wasborn in 1805 in the village of Amondans. His father, the village mayor and aformer infantry captain, named his son for the new Emperor and groomed him fora military career. From age six, young Napoleon also began to play guitar,taking his first lessons from his mother. At the age of eleven Coste sufferedan extended and serious illness, and his parents seem to have abandoned theirplans for his military career. The teen?¡aged Coste, living in Valenciennes,gained local fame as a performer and teacher of the guitar, and in 1828 evenplayed duets with the visiting Italian virtuoso Luigi Sagrini (they performedGiuliani's Op. 130). In 1830, the year of the July Revolution, Coste moved toParis to pursue his career. Paris was not only one of the great culturalcentres of the world, it was also, in the 1820s, home to a guitaromanie, arage for the guitar, which probably did not so much abate in the 1830s asbecome less remarkable in a city which saw new fads commencing daily. Costestudied theory and composition in Paris and became the friend and pupil of FernandoSor (1778-1839), the esteemed Spanish composer and guitarist. By the end of the1830s, Coste was immersed in the Parisian musical scene, and his compositionsfrom this period demonstrate both his versatility and the broad variety ofcultural influences on music during the period. Coste published many of hiscompositions, so it is sometimes impossible to assign each work a precise date.
The rage for the waltz dated back at least to the Congress of Vienna,but was given an enormous boost by the sensational tours of Johann Strauss Iand his 28-?¡piece orchestra during the 1830s. Musicologist Simon Wynberg hassuggested that Coste's Seize valses favorites de Johann Strauss, Op. 7,published toward the end of the 1830s by Richault, probably coincided withStrauss' French tour of in 1837.
Coste's Divertissement sur l'opera Lucia di Lammermoor de Donizetti,Op. 9, was a potpourri of themes from the popular opera which had been firstperformed in 1835 in Naples (a French version had appeared in 1839). Coste composeda brief introduction, followed by settings of the arias Sulla tomba cherinserra (Larghetto) and Quando rapita in estasi (Allegro moderato) fromAct I; Ah! Cedi, Cedi (Cantabile); and a finale which is anelaboration of the celebrated cabaletta Spargi d'amaro pianto from ActIII (Allegretto). Such fantasies, based on favourite operas, becamestaples of the guitar repertoire in the mid-nineteenth century, serving assouvenir folios of the best loved tunes. Coste's fantasy, which was publishedin 1841, may even have inspired the opera fantasies of the guitarist JohannKaspar Mertz, who shortly thereafter began to publish his ambitious OperaReview, Op. 8 series with the Viennese firm of Haslinger. This remarkableseries, which continued for years, eventually included fantasies on no fewerthan thirty-six operas, a figure which did not include those fantasies whichMertz composed for other publishers, sometimes on the same operas.
Mertz's fantasy on Lucia di Lammermoor (Op. 8, No. 2) was the second inthe series and followed Coste's by two years.
Coste's Grand Caprice, Op. 11 survives only in the form ofmanuscripts in the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen. It is possible thatprinted versions of the piece have been lost, but it is also possible that Costenever published the work, or at least never undertook the expense of having themusic engraved. Handwritten copies, made and sold on demand, were still aviable publishing strategy in 1844 (the date on one of the copies). One reasonfor choosing this option might have been the technical difficulty of the piece,beyond the ability of most of the amateurs who were the principal purchasers ofguitar music at the time, but most of Coste's works are technically difficult.
The piece also calls for a guitar with an extra bass string, which would havefurther limited the piece's marketability.
The Rondeau de concert avec introduction, Op. 12 seems to be anearly version of the can-can, a sort of galop which becamepopular in the French music halls of the July Monarchy and Second Empire. Thedance, considered scandalous because the high kicking chorines revealed a greatdeal of petticoat, was said to be of Algerian origin, but there is littleevidence of such a dance in North Africa. A French or central European originis more likely. In any case, Coste's brilliant can?¡can (c. 1840-45)preceded Offenbach's celebrated version by almost two decades.
The Caprice sur l'air espagnol 'La Cachucha', Op. 13, exemplifiesthe enormous popularity of Spanish "national" music and dancethroughout Europe in the 1830s-1840s. Ironically, Fernando Sor, who was Coste'smentor in Paris and the greatest Spanish guitarist of the age, wrote virtuallynothing in this genre, and his compatriot Aguado left only a few pieces. TheItalians Carcassi, Carulli, Legnani and Molino, on the other hand, all triedcomposing in the Spanish style. A cachucha was an Andalusian danceresembling the Aragonese jota or a particularly frenetic waltz. It isnot clear why the likes of the pianist Czerny, the cellist Romberg, and theguitarists Legnani and Coste all wrote arrangements or variations on the cachuchain ca. 1840. Perhaps they were inspired by the ballerina Fanny Eissler'sfamous version, or Lola Montez' notorious dance El Oleana, which wassaid to have been a sort of cachucha. Liszt, who had a celebrated affairwith Mlle Montez, later included a cachucha in his Gro?ƒeKonzertfantasie ??ber spanische Weisen; the "waltz" theme ofChabrier's Espana is actually a cachucha, as is the climacticdance melody in the intermedio of Jeronimo Gimenez's celebrated zarzuelaEl baile de Luis Alonso. Coste's version of the dance is energetic andimaginative, demonstrating that anecdotal affinity that French composers aresaid to have for Spanish music.
Jeffrey McFadden is recognized as one of Canada's finest guitarists.
Over the past years, concert engagements have taken him into Canada's West, toQuebec, to the United States and throughout his native Ontario. He has givenworld premi?¿res of works by both Canadian and American composers and has been afeatured performer at Canada's major guitar festivals. In November 1992, he wasawarded a top prize in the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competitionheld in New Orleans. He was also a prizewinner in the 1993 Great Lakes GuitarCompetition held near Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to his activities as a sologuitarist, Jeffrey McFadden is frequently heard in chamber music settings,performing with Toronto's New Music Concerts Ensemble and smaller groups. Healso performed in the premi?¿re of The Enchanted Forest, a music drama byCanada's leading composer, Murray Schafer. He has appeared both as chambermusician and soloist on CBC Radio. McFadden holds a Master's degree from theUniversity of Toronto, where he studied with Norbert Kraft. In addition to hisperforming career he is active in teaching and publishing with teachingpositions at McMaster University and at the Royal Conservatory of Music.